Almost a decade ago, a business workshop in Mumbai and another in Chennai had two top classical musicians address corporate honchos on how the Carnatic idiom could aid business management. Vocalists Bombay Jayashree and T.M. Krishna came up with lecture-demonstrations based on a set of seven key principles they believed CEOs, directors, general managers et al can practise for better professional skills.
Months later, delegates at a Coimbatore college workshop were told of an MBA-Carnatic analogy. Prof S. Viswanathan of Singapore’s Nanyang Business School noted that just as students taking rigorous lessons for months on the basic swaras are intermittently taught short songs in popular ragas, management aspirants can ideally be tasked with solving simple business problems, while being trained in the fundamental tools and techniques of their profession.
Musicologist Deepak S. Raja points out that true business and classical arts are not watertight compartments. “It isn’t mundanity versus sublime. Or materialism vis-a-vis spirituality,” says the Hindustani scholar-author, known also for drawing parallels between ‘raga-ness’ and stockmarket behaviour. “In any case, it’s only in one’s twenties that one earns an MBA, while artistic talent exists from childhood. Also, it’s not as if musicians or dancers keep on performing all life. You do it alternately; sometimes focus solely on business affairs for long and then return to the more private world of art.”
Mumbaikar Raja, an MBA from IIM-A, believes big-city artistes have an edge over their small-town counterparts in marketing their profession. “That is where social media has begun to play a leveller,” he points out. “Self-reviews on Facebook with stage photos, YouTube clips and WhatsApp alerts of one’s performance have a global reach in the internet age. Music and dance buffs as well as organisers these days take such audio-visuals as samples to decide the worth of an artiste in their event.”
Chennaiite musician-writer S. Sivaramakrishnan avers that marketing is essential to one’s rise in the arts. “At the end of the day, money counts a lot. Only an artiste from a rich family or with a regular high-paying job can afford to be lax about self-publicity,” shrugs the veena player, who recently retired as a banker. “Moreover, in the new age, artistes need to know a bit about things outside their field. Presenting an item or two from other music or dance genres can help. You must also respond occasionally to contemporary social issues and pull out parallels between your art and, say, cricket, cinema, boardroom moves or travel experiences.”
Sitarist Prateek Choudhari of Delhi believes it’s “tough to hold both forts together” for an MBA artiste, not to speak of maintaining a pleasing relation with sabha heads and fans. “Good memory is a great asset. The timid, the lax and the arrogant are unlikely to flourish anymore, however talented,” Sivaramakrishnan adds.
Educational institutions abroad treat business and art as inter-related. University of Liverpool, for instance, has a year-long course named BCM (Business of Classical Music). The idea is to prepare students “to become the next generation of music industry professionals”, says Peter Garden, executive director (performance and learning), Royal Liverpool Philharmonic.
In India, Ahmedabad University offers a Master’s in heritage management. Chennai’s Dakshin Chitra offers a diploma in art management, while the India Foundation for the Arts is an associate of the country’s first-ever strategic management course for theatre practitioners. In 2014 spring, IIM-B held an arts management conclave to gauge if there was space for the subject to become a full-fledged academic course.
The IIMs have also been hosting classical arts festivals. Not long ago, Assam University’s MBA students even presented Sattriya dance in their Silchar campus. In 2015, IIT-Bhubaneswar became the first in that league of institutes to introduce a classical dance to its students. Odissi thus became an extra-academic subject.
Will the IIMs take the cue?