“We always assume our own powerlessness / but never our own power,” are some of the catchy lyrics in Madame Gandhi’s (MG) latest track ‘Waiting For Me’, an anthem of resistance and diversity. In the spirit of these words, the Los Angeles-based musician has added a visual layer: a protest music video, directed by Misha Ghose.
On an Instagram Live session as part of our ongoing series, #LockdownWithWeekend, MG says her music and video have become more complementary while staying personal to her history (especially as a young schoolgirl). She recalls, “I had Bata shoes with two buckles instead of one [while at St Ann’s in Colaba, Mumbai], and I was sent home! When I went to school in New York, I was the kid who wore red or neon for self-expression. You see that in the video with the uniformed school girls.”
With an MBA from Harvard Business School, MG has a unique knowledge of data, power and business, and feels there is hope for the inherently obstinate major label music industry. She feels the industry is also a contentious one for female artistes. “We [women] have to protect our energy! If there is a business issue, it is hard to deal with directly because we have heart and emotion. That’s why artistes have management and protection — the apparatus around you that protects you, but also balances it with accessibility.”
After graduating, MG worked at Interscope Records in California for two years in 2011. Her time there “was about studying patterns in Spotify Streams and YouTube views so that we could understand our artistes’ marketing strategies better”. According to MG, it was not directly related to money management, “but as we all know, streams do convert to revenue. So understanding how consumers stream your music and how they find it, is critical. I do believe that every artiste should study their own audience, meet them where they’re at, and deliver the content they are seeking so that you continue to build in a consistent and authentic way”.
The ‘Future is Female’ singer admits that seeing record deals come in, and making the move from independent to signed requires an inside track. “For the longest time, the music industry depended on ‘information asymmetry’, which means one party knows more than the other. The label knows what numbers are actually coming in and gives the artiste an advance, but the artiste, who is continually performing, is also in a state of owing the label and other entities money, and not seeing any of it come back. It’s a very uninspiring arrangement,” she says. She also points out that other sources of income — ventures labels cannot touch — are valuable. MG gives speeches at schools, does DJ sets, and has a merch line (which includes a collaboration with NorBlack NorWhite).
Waiting on a message
The daughter of entrepreneur Vikram Gandhi, MG knows she comes from a unique position in terms of resources. “You can’t help where you’re born but you can help what you do with the privilege you’ve been given,” she says, adding, “I believe we must use it to make the changes we wish to see in the world.” Meanwhile, given her penchant for producing catchy global anthems, MG says music videos help market the artiste differently. For ‘Waiting For Me’, which was filmed in February, her goal was to move from what is oppressive to what is liberative. “The current climate of political tension, owing to Black Lives Matter and the upcoming US elections, offers good timing for such a music video, especially with all of us sitting at home with our thoughts,” she concludes.
Watch the new track on YouTube