Spotlight on IndiEarth XChange 2017

by Koka Tarini Siddhartha

We attended our favourite Indian trade festival for independent music, film, and media earlier this week, and we obviously had to write about it! IndiEarth XChange needs no introduction, but if you’re hearing about it for the first time, do check out our previous posts here and here.

This was Artistik License’s fifth consecutive year participating in IndiEarth XChange, and this post is a pictorial depiction of our experience at the festival, along with a few excerpts from the discussions we attended, and the films we watched.

The When and Where of XChange 2017

This year, IndiEarth XChange was a three-day affair from November 24–26, 2017 at The Park, Chennai. There was a packed music line-up, and back-to-back films, workshops and conferences on topics ranging from gamification to the sustainability of Carnatic music in the modern world.

While we unfortunately missed the music acts on day one, we heard from some reliable sources and friends that it was magical night with incredible performances from Jyotsna Srikanth, Steak, Gubbi, and Maya Kamaty.

Artistik License at XChange

Business entrepreneur, recording engineer, and music producer, Ashish Manchanda, led a discussion on some of the challenges facing the music industry, moderated by our founder, Manojna Yeluri.

Manchanda was the slightly controversial speaker who bluntly stated that he disliked the word ‘indie’ at an independent trade event. He was of the strong opinion that if indie artists really wanted to succeed, they had to go all in, rather than expend 90% of their efforts and expect the best results.

He emphasized the importance of mentors and gurus (especially to distinguish between good and bad music), pointed out the necessity of hiring an A&R person to help determine the commercial viability of an artist’s music, and advised artists to bridge the gap between themselves and institutions by being surrounded by other creative professionals, and working with a passion and thirst to succeed.


There were also other conferences over the weekend, on festivals in unstable climates, the future of live music venues, and innovations in Carnatic music. A standout discussion we particularly enjoyed was a very honest and practical approach to touring and promoting indie artists. Varun Desai, Nikhil Udupa, Karan Mehta, and Yann Ryk offered four different but interconnected touring strategies, followed by an interesting debate on the importance and need of legal contracts.

(L-R) Nikhil Udupa, Varun Desai, Karan Mehta, Yann Ryk in session > New Trails: Innovations in Touring

We also found the session on the future of live music venues insightful—with Nikhil Warrier, Jeff Cadet, and Siddharth Lulla on the panel. Warrier explained how most music venues double up as restaurants, and business is largely generated through FnB sales. Both Warrier and Cadet were hopeful that this would change through more  music-centric models like those adopted by antiSOCIAL and BISIK.

(L-R) Nikhil Warrier, Jeff Cadet, Siddharth Lulla in session > Live Music Venues: What Lies Ahead?


XChange offered a wide variety of workshops on Ableton Live, songwriting, vocal techniques, and storytelling using VR. While Mr. Bill (and his two sessions on Ableton Live) was a big hit with the music geeks, most of it went right over our lawyerly heads!

Aishwarya Natarajan and Viveick Rajagopalan from Sunoh explained brand identities by associating colours with sounds, and Harold Monfils shared some behind-the-scenes footage and stories about our favourite film from last year’s XChange, A Good Day to Die, Hoka Hey.

Documentary Film Masterclass: In Conversation with Director Harold Monfils

Films & Music

Amidst our conference/workshop-hopping, we managed to catch a few films and live music shows as well. Directed by Leena Manimekalai, Is It Too Much To Ask? was a hard-hitting documentary on the social stigmas that two transgender women face on their journey to rent a house in Chennai. We also enjoyed the Dekate-directed Kapkappi, an eight-minute animated throwback to Indian cinema in the 70s.

IndiEarth XChange 2017 Film Festival Line-Up
Harold Monfils in discussion with Leena Manimekalai, Director of Is It Too Much To Ask?

Black Letters, Prabh Deep, Bjorn Surrao and Band, Dubmatix and Mr. Bill had us grooving to their tunes, but Apache Indian stole the show, making the crowd very nostalgic with his reggae-Punjabi music.

Black Letters
Prabh Deep
Apache Indian
  • • •

We reconnected with old friends and made some new ones, but most importantly, XChange put us in high spirits for the holiday season. We eagerly anticipate IndiEarth XChange 2018, and massive thank-yous and shout-outs go to Sastry Karra, Sonya Mazumdar, EarthSync, and the entire organizing team and volunteers.

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