Soumini Sridhar Paul has 20+ years of as a pop artist and an artist manager. She has done several assignments with Channel [V] for Bollywood, independent and International talent, along with album launches, promotions and artist relations at Universal Music.
Hungama Artist Aloud was launched in 2010 and Soumini Sridhara Paul is the Senior Vice President of Hungama’s independent content and talent platform. Soumini has spearheaded the set-up of Hungama Artist Aloud and has since made it South Asia’s premier digital platform for established and new independent talent. She also heads Hungama Kids, a dedicated platform with age appropriate, entertaining and educational content for kids, teachers and parents.
Soumini has been experimenting with writing for the last 5 years and Disha The Challenge is her first ever-published work through Partridge. She started her artistic stint as a singer almost 20 years ago but chose to work in other aspects of the industry to build something that would change the face of talent and independent content space.
In today’s StraightTalk, Soumini Sridhar Paul, Senior Vice President Hungama Digital Media Entertainment Private Limited talks to MediaNews4U on her journey, the music industry and much more.
You started off as a singer 20 years ago, what made you shift to managing talent?
Music has been an integral part of me all through my school and college life. I went about making it my career when I met a job consultant who asked me what my hobbies were and Music was the answer. From 1994 – 1998, several opportunities came my way that kept me moving forward convincing me that I could make it as an Artist. However, reality struck when I decided to move to Mumbai to pursue my career as a Pop Artist and I wasn’t able to sustain myself financially. My album contract got called off and I had no income. I had the option of returning back to my hometown in Bengaluru or stay on in Mumbai and find a way to earn my income. I tried working in a company just for money which had nothing to do with music and I thought that someone had taken away the life out of me. I realised that if I wasn’t around music, I was nothing. An industry colleague made me see the light that if I cannot make it as an Artist myself than I should look at being behind the Artist. Thus the shift.
You have been with Hungama Artist Aloud since its inception, how has the journey been and the challenges?
Before I joined Hungama in 2009 to set up Artist Aloud, I had two children. Hungama Artist Aloud became my third child and I feel like a proud mother seeing this child grow as well along with my two birthed children. These past 12 years have taught me so many things including people management, business, marketing, creative, partnerships, product development and more. And this is for someone who did not know the D of digital or B of business before joining Hungama. I was a content and talent person before this. The parent company and its MD and Founder, Neeraj Roy have been my biggest support. Neeraj has given this brand and me wings to build it the way I deemed fit with a lot of passion, heart and logic and over the years I have been learning the art of monetisation.
The lockdown and crisis have seen a shift in people’s attitude towards entertainment, how did the music industry fare?
The music industry which has largely been built on Bollywood Music had a challenging 18 months due to the pandemic but interestingly the music space saw a new burst of music through Independent Artists who got more and more creative. I guess, with a lot of time in their hands and no physical shows, it was the perfect opportunity for the artists to express themselves.
How does ArtistAloud identify emerging talent?
Hungama Artist Aloud has always been about giving artists the freedom of expression irrespective of the language or genre they want to express in and also with artists across the board whether they are established or absolutely newcomers. While we respect artists who have made a big name for themselves, we also have a soft corner for newcomers because creativity is unpredictable. One never knows where the next hit will come from.
We have recently moved our entire acquisition of content online and so, as an artist uploads their audio or video content, there is an experienced team that reviews the same and only on moderation of the content does it go live. The moderation is not to judge the creativity but more to check if the content is an original and not a cover and if the quality of the mix is good. History has proven that there is an audience for all kinds of creativity and so who are we to say whether something is good or bad. Let the fans decide.
How does it feel as a woman in the leadership role, and why do we see few women on top? Your thoughts?
I have never considered myself as a woman in a leadership role but rather as an individual who knows her job and hence deserves to be in a leadership role. I think we give too much value to a gender. Why does it have to be something unique because it is being done by a woman? We never give so much attention when a man does something. Women or men have to be gauged on their capability and results. More than anything else, I believe women need to be willing to voice themselves and not feel stunted and in return men need to understand that they need to stop feeling like they have to have the upper hand. Equality will come by treating each other as equals not by addition or subtraction.
Who was your first or most significant mentor or teacher in the professional space? What specifically did you learn that has held you in good stead throughout?
I have had several mentors in my life in every job I have done till date and each one of them have left a lesson for me to learn and imbibe from even without realising that they are doing it. I think it will be unfair for me to pick anyone in particularl. I just feel blessed to have some really good people in my life who have always respected me as an individual and as a woman.
What are some other activities or hobbies that excite you? What are your weekends like?
I love listening to music, watch OTT shows, travel, etc. My weekends are largely at home with my kids and family.
What are your plans for the next 3 years? What specifically do you want to achieve? Personally and professionally?
Over the next 3 years I want to see my work creating an impact in the industry I am working in along with building a successful business for my company. Personally, I want to be able to travel around the world over the next 5 years if this pandemic would let up. Professionally, I would like to see myself grow in a stronger role and responsibility beyond what I am already doing.