In this year of 2021, with the new normal still desperately awaited by many for their own reasons, musicians perhaps stuck to doing what they know best – writing, recording and releasing songs. In a pre-pandemic time, touring, merch and brand deals were also quite sought after, but digital reach remained a constant thorn, pricking artists whenever they had everything else downright – production, collaborations, hell, even solid songwriting.
The ultimate sweet spot and luxury afforded to artists, then, would be to never have to even think about those thorns. Over the last six years or so, Badshah reached that level, arriving to become a darling of major record labels, Bollywood and millions of listeners around the globe. The success of songs such as “DJ Waley Babu” (2015) and “Kar Gayi Chull” (formally released in 2016 for Hindi movie Kapoor & Sons) arrived on the back of honing his skills since 2006 as a musician.
Following a major stint with fellow Punjabi hip-hop artist Yo Yo Honey Singh in Mafia Mundeer, Badshah went solo by 2012. While the success of party-ready anthems like “Kala Chashma” (from Baar Baar Dekho’s soundtrack 2016), “Tareefan” (Veere Di Wedding, 2018) and “Garmi” (Street Dancer 3D, 2019) catapulted Badshah to the top of Indian mainstream music consciousness, he also released his solo album O.N.E. (Original Never Ends) via Sony Music in 2018 and followed up with a self-released record called The Power of Dreams of a Kid in 2020. “When I went to the clubs, I’d only see them playing Akon and international music. I wanted to bring Indian music to the clubs,” he says over a phone call.
Assuming the position of becoming one of India’s most popular, most streamed and certainly highest-paid musician, Badshah did have his fair share of firefighting to do, especially when it came to understanding the prickly digital world. When he released “Paagal” in 2019, he and Sony Music India celebrated what was apparently a global record of accruing 75 million YouTube views in one day, beating out artists like BTS and Ariana Grande. He later had to clarify an industry practice of paid ads were put in place to boost numbers.
THE SHORT VIDEO REVOLUTION
The genesis of every gain lies in a loss; for Indian short-video apps, social media giant TikTok’s departure signalled a massive boom. Since the first wave of app prohibitions on June 29th, 2020, the Government of India went on to ban a total of 220 Chinese apps, following border tensions with the East Asian country. While TikTok’s loss created a vacuum for India’s new wave of social media leaders — the everyday citizens who, equipped with a camera smartphone in 4G India, rose to creator status across diverse societal cross-sections — its exit created an opportunity for homegrown players to set the stage. One such app was Josh.
Launching on September 9th, 2020, a mere two months after the TikTok ban, Josh entered an ecosystem of Indian short-video apps that is only growing more fertile by the minute. (According to a 2021 RedSeer report, time spent by users on short-form video apps has reached 55 percent of the levels in June 2020, indicating a strong market opportunity for Indian platforms as they continue to mature in 2021.) While homegrown apps had previously failed to match or amass TikTok’s gargantuan 200M+ Indian user-base, the country’s social media landscape began to witness a drastic rise in numbers due to the absence of the Chinese app. By July, India’s 504M active Internet users were hungry for an app that could serve their creative and entertainment needs.
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