The story of converSAtions channel by – part 2

Part 2

The idea was set. But what next? (read part 1 here >>)

Most often ideas and plans look great on paper. In the mind, an entrepreneur feels their idea is the best. The reality is usually different once you begin. And things seldom go smooth.

However, it is always the relationships you build over the years with your customers (who most invariably become friends over time, in the music business atleast) that come to your assistance initially. One should keep in mind that it cannot be just taking funds from them all the time in exchange for services/products. It has to be given back too, be it in any form. A healthy business relationship is one which goes beyond being just a buyer/seller. And genuinely so, with or without expectations.

I owned an Apple iMac in 2011, and so learnt how to use iMovie to edit videos. My father, Nikhil Mehta, a constant and avid learner invariably chipped in to help. He learnt to use the Sony Vegas Pro, a professional video editing program, which we purchased, inspite of being their dealers ourselves, simply because that sets our work ethics not only for us but also for the entire staff at Sudeep Audio. We began learning from the basics of this excellent software.

My colleague, Ashish Mankad, in our website design division made a flash movie (using our logo made by Jigna Shah Oza, another colleague), where we simply put out the message depicting “SA” (in Indian notation), as being music’s first note, and “SA” also being the abbreviation for Sudeep Audio. Another friend and loyal customer, Tapas Relia, a highly skilled and accomplished musician helped us by composing the signature tune for this 30 second promo.

Here is the first video that got published on 26th July 2011.

The video equipment

This effort was made to share journeys, experiences, tips & tricks to others within the industry and also for newcomers to act as their beacon. There was no plan of making this effort into some monetization frenzy we see nowadays. So the investment was done with a simple Sony CX-130E HD handycam that cost me about ₹25,000/- and a tripod costing ₹1,000/-. At that point in time, YouTube had only upto a 480p resolution, which now supports 4K videos.

Armed with a basic research about the artist being interviewed, coupled with my own upbringing in a studio environment, i began this fulfilling journey. At this point I’d like to state that no amount of equipment/gear can replace years of practise and experience in any skill whatsoever.

Going door to door

In 2003, when India’s first online store for pro audio equipment, began, the sales happened… OFFLINE.
I literally had to go door to door to demo music software and also studio hardware, for which I must say I felt most welcomed. Today, some young readers may feel odd that couldn’t one just check a product online and simply order it?? No sir. In 2003, the whole online concept was new and so was the world of virtual instruments.

This effort (which many term as struggling) was also a blessing in disguise, as it helped me build personal bonds with several musicians and sound engineers over the years, vis-à-vis, simply think how mechanical and boring shopping on Amazon is. There is no human interaction in there at all. Yes, they do have the financial muscle unlike any other, but even mammoth companies such as Amazon cannot beat human interaction built over time with honesty and trust. “Trust” is the most difficult value to establish and maintain in any relationship, be it in personal life or in business. That being the backbone of, have had it jolted a couple of times, but no regrets.

Documenting Knowledge

When we called our regular clients, many initially found the concept weird. “Who is interested in my story?!” was the most common counter question. So we had to start the channel with a product demo! We being iZotope distributors, we got a talented sound engineer working at Yash Raj Film (YRF) Studios, Dipesh Sharma Batalvi, who wilfully demonstrated how he used the iZotope Ozone 5 Advanced in his mastering process. Here is the first video released on the channel.

Many were, and still are operating from their home studios. So conducting interviews in their own comfort zone helped them open up, and i must mention that every house welcomed me with a cup of tea, and since each converSAtion (the channel brand-name) lasted for a couple of hours, i was honoured by being offered a meal too.

The learnings

Being a novice interviewer, i usually asked questions in the converSAtions more like a student or a curious cat. It didn’t kill me, but some, what I now call “useful” comments initially were: what a stupid question / the interviewer needs to shut up / why is he showing the ceiling of the studio and so on. Thank you also for those who did that because that did help me improve.

Most videos were aimed at being of 20-35 minutes in length. Unfortunately today, viewers are getting distracted in 3 minutes!! Please remember, we are doing these videos to share years of experiences of people who deserve the credit to the songs and music you enjoy. Hence the details in order to get inspired and learn from their journeys is the core concept here. It also takes a little while for them to open up about their own experiences and so on.

Initially, the audio quality was not up to the mark due to many factors such as the camera mic being the audio source, and the ambient noise making it more difficult. Doing these in a studio environment helped as the rooms were quiet by default. Nevertheless, we invested in a Zoom H4n handy recorder and the Sennheiser ClipMic digital microphone that improved the audio recording quality substantially, if we do say so ourselves. The video editing process was simple as it usually involved removing the not so pleasant sounds and some phone calls in between (busy artists, you see).

Structuring the questions into a standard format made it seem much like a template and not personalised. So we put aside that format and went with the flow. Questions were asked more in a directional form as if a parent or student contemplating whether this career choice would be of interest/benefit or not and to learn the whys and hows.

From the feedback we keep getting, these videos have really helped a lot of viewers. And even some not so bright sounding questions have helped many students of audio and music.
Way back when we started in 2011, a 30-minute video took about 4-6 hours to upload on YouTube! My father handled that for me then, and thankfully does to this day. Today, the same video length gets uploaded in 15-20 minutes. Phew.

In 2018, Harman India presented me with a pair of JBL LSR 305 mkII studio monitors, and a Lexicon sound card to assist in producing even better quality audio for these converSAtions.
Thank you once again Team Harman India. Well, the camera is still the same!

The real heroes of converSAtions

A feedback i often get is why don’t i show my face on camera during these interviews, because It becomes static to look at the artist’s face for 30-40 minutes. These comments helped intersperse the video with photographs and other clips to improve the dynamics of the video and keep the viewer’s interest piqued.

Having done that, viewers must also understand that putting film clips (even with due credits mentioned) on which that artist has worked, leads to blocking of that video! Copyrighted material, Video and/or Audio, is not used in our interviews without permission from the owners. This takes time and delays the release of our converSAtions episodes.

I had to get official clearance from the YRF Studios legal department to release this video with Ganesh Gangadharan.

The main objective of this whole effort has been to highlight the people behind a song or a recording. It is these behind-the-scenes artists that are the real heroes of converSAtions and tutoREals (our new educational video series). As long as the content fulfils the purpose of making viewers aware about the life a sound engineer or a musician, then the channel has been successful in doing what it started off to do.

Comments by viewers over time have been positive and encouraging . Many artists now want to come forward and contribute to the channel in their own ways. And i once again take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who has been a part of and continue to be a part of this very fulfilling journey.

Coming up in the last part: the impact of converSAtions in real life, sharing 50% revenue with the artists and the channel’s future plans…

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