Music is something that soothes the soul and touches the heart. In 1971, Bangladesh was struggling to gain its independence from Pakistan. During this crucial period in our history, one thing motivated our soldiers the most. As water quenches the thirst of a soul, music is something that fulfills the hole of loneliness and solitude. It was through the songs of freedom that the common people, who fought for the country, were encouraged to continue their battle. So as a country, we hold a high place for those who promote, love and appreciate music.
One of its kind — Mushroom Entertainment is a business that celebrates music. It deals with artists, labels, managements, and fans by providing online tools for independent musicians, labels, and management companies. The business runs internationally following all standards sitting right at home. The organisation is founded by young Bangladeshis Rousseau Mannan, guitarist and producer working in the music industry in the US, Manim Mahmud an Entrepreneur and Armeen Musa, who is a songwriter, singer and composer. The first product of Mushroom Entertain- ME Label (melabel.net) is the all in one tool. It handles all aspects of music business including distributing international digital platforms such as iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay and also collects online royalty from free streaming sites such as YouTube and Spotify. “Adhering to international standards of digital distribution, artists are entitled to majority of the sales and they may retain full control of their copyright,” explains Armeen Musa.
The project began with Rousseau, who started Mushroom Entertainment back in 2008 as a college project. He released his own project called ‘Joloj Khela’ under Mushroom, which is actually the first Bangladeshi album to be on iTunes or any other online platform. Armeen joined soon after the release and started reaching out to more musicians and labels in Bangladesh. The company is run by musicians and businessmen, therefore maintaining artists’ interest to the full, including providing the maximum royalty system in Bangladesh is their main priority. The inspiration behind Mushroom Entertainment was to be able to create an income source for musicians so that they can make a living by doing what they do best ‘music’.
Recently ME launched its free online radio called ME Radio (meradio.fm). Armeen Musa says, “Fans can listen to songs for free at any time using this platform. We are also working on licensing a large catalogue of international music (almost 10 million) to be played in Bangladesh though ME Radio. While it is free for fans, ME will pay the artists for each time a song is played from their advertisement revenue.”
Alongside, last month ‘Songs from Shahbag’, and ‘Otol Joler Gaan’ by the band Joler Gaan was released. They are also planning on releasing their first in-house mixed album featuring Anila Chowdhury, Palbasha, Prithwi Raj, Anushree Gupta. Right now, ME Label is giving a promotional offer till June to register for free digital distribution for up to three albums per artist. This will entitle digital distribution on all major online platforms.
As for the audience, so far the response was great. They are receiving support from musicians in Bangladesh and also those living abroad. “Sumon O Aurthohin, Anusheh Anadil, Bappa Majumdar, Alif Alauddin, Elita Karim, Arnob are some musicians who have been very supportive in creating awareness in digital distribution with us. The band scene and instrumental musicians have also been extremely responsive as well,” states Armeen.
She further adds, “The audiences have contributed significantly to the initial success. Two of our albums Anusheh Anadil’s ‘Rai’ and ‘Joler Gaan’ were released as ‘pay as you wish’ and was available for free. But many listeners paid full amount or more anyway. We are hoping to make the fans aware of problems that musicians face, due to piracy.”
Bangladesh as a nation is slowly and steadily becoming a tech-savvy nation. The ban on YouTube may have caused quite a commotion in our country, as much of the youth relies on this interface for various forms of work. As for ME, by using their service, artists are entitled to receive royalty from YouTube every time a video with their song is played. For Bangladeshi artists, majority of the fans are from Bangladesh and with YouTube being banned in the country, it is certainly having a bad affect on the potential income from this source. In a way, YouTube could bring in a significant amount of foreign currency, if Bangla music is collectively played on it.
The 3G technology will be released all over the country soon and much work has been done to bring this technological development to our country. “We are working on the Android and iPhone apps of ME Radio. The 3G technology will give the listeners the option to listen to any song, anytime, anywhere by just using their smart phone. We have already started working with visuals outside Bangladesh, and hopefully we will soon bring it to Bangladesh,” says Armeen.