Deep Dive by Joycelyn Longdon

Boxout.fm - The Platform Championing India’s Alternative Music Scene

Located in New Delhi and with the mission of creating community through music, Boxout.fm is a radio station and platform pushing forward the alternative music scene across India.

Conceived only three years ago, the brand filled the urgent need for a community-led platform championing alternative music and culture in India. In that time they have achieved incredible success, supported a plethora of talented artists and creators and inspired a nation. Reaching over 9.3 Million people on social media and streaming over 7.7 Million minutes on Mixcloud, it is safe to say that Boxout.fm are feeding a hunger for alternative music in India and beyond.

With a population of over 1 Billion people and 350+ Radio Stations, India presents itself as a unique frontier for musicians. Unfortunately, of all the FM radio stations live right now the representation of alternative music is dismal, leaving online radio to do the heavy lifting. Prime time radio in the biggest Indian cities is dominated either by popular western acts such as Katy Perry or popular Bollywood artists such as Ankit Tiwari - seldom will the music of local alternative musicians be spotlighted. The largest station, Red FM actually implemented a strict ‘Bollywood only’ policy [correct as of 2015], ruling out indie music completely which has had a knock on effect on the optimism of indie artists who ‘doubt that huge radio stations...will start supporting the indie scene.

Branded as one of the world’s most reliable music discovery platforms and an A&R breeding ground for India’s music industry, Boxout.fm’s ecosystem provides direct access to alternative music communities in India. The organisation creates memorable experiences on and offline producing life-long content that champions human curation over algorithm generation. They are the only Indian community focused on showcasing alternative sounds in culture and are strengthening the community by doing so through their events, shows, workshops, record label and print magazine.

Speaking to co founder Mohammed Abood and Shama Anwar, we learned more about the impact Boxout.fm is having throughout India as well as the challenges they faced in bringing their dream to life.

What has been the process in creating Boxout.fm? Where did it all start?

The blueprint for Boxout.fm was written on a flight I took from Rome to Berlin in 2016. After a particularly terrible gig in Delhi that year, I had been giving serious thought to the problem of how to engage people in India with music outside of club culture and build a genuine community around music. I already had my show, Motellacast, which had given me my first, encouraging taste of success in the independent broadcasting space. I shared the initial blueprint with my friend and co-founder Sahej Bakshi aka Dualist Inquiry and by November 2016, we were hard at work figuring out the inner workings of online radio. Despite multiple major roadblocks like limited upload speeds and major last minute changes to our back-end, and helped in no small part by an inhuman intake of coffee, Boxout.fm launched in April 2017, with our weekly club night in New Delhi, Boxout Wednesdays preceding the launch of the station by a month.

Tell us about the social implications of Boxout.fm in a nation that has as of yet, paid little attention to the alternative music scene

Indian radio is extremely conservative, with stations in the country all playing similar, mainstream music, whether it’s Bollywood or American Top 40 charts. For the young Indian interested in anything beyond that, there’s really not much on offer. While radio has really paid no attention to the alternative music scene, the Internet has been instrumental in causing an explosion of bedroom producers, kids from all over the country, making anything from rap and rock to techno and bass. We want to be the platform for all this music to be heard and to help artists reach and grow new audiences and on the other side, provide listeners with fresh sounds from across India and the rest of the world. The implications of Boxout.fm are potentially vast in a country like India with our massive young population, much of which remains underexposed to diversity in music.

How do you use your platform to support the hosts and musicians within your platform?

Boxout.fm provides a platform for hosts to express themselves in a freeform, ad-free radio format – each host is in full control of what they play. The community that we have built over the last two and a half years of boxout.fm is a source of support and help to many of our hosts and musicians, who are able to connect their peers across the country, as well as our team. A year after the radio launched, we started our record label boxout.fm Recordings, with the mission of providing an infrastructure to enable Indian artists’ music to reach a wider cross section of listeners and extending support to artists who get little or none of it. Our yearly birthday celebration, Boxout Weekender, unusually for a festival in India, always has an all-local lineup, comprising a selection of our show hosts. Our latest project is Boxout Showcase, our first traveling event property which explores new sounds, visuals and mixed-media with the intent of shining a light on varied mediums of creative expression. The first one just took place on July 12 in Kolkata with members of New Delhi’s new-age bass champions, the Sub-Z crew and local production crew Littlei. We are continually looking for new, varied and better ways to support our constantly evolving community.

How can the wider community of alternative music lovers engage with the Boxout platform?

The best way is to tune in to the radio! With over 120+ shows that span the length and breadth of contemporary music, there’s always something new to discover. We are always on the look-out for interesting pitches for new show concepts. You can also get involved by coming down to our weekly night, Boxout Wednesdays, if you’re in New Delhi, or keeping an eye out for the traveling showcases and pop-up events we do in other cities in India. We love to meet people passionate about music and hear feedback about what your favourite shows are and what you’ve discovered on the radio. We’re also open to new ideas and collaborations, so feel free to hit us up if you’ve got any of those brewing. info@boxout.fm always reading.

The number of platforms and spaces for the alternative community is fortunately expanding across the country and Boxout is joined by a grouping of highly successful and culturally refreshing events and publications, all with the aim of giving creatives a platform to share their music and alternative culture. Goa Sunsplash is one of the few and is an annual festival thrown in Goa, celebrating Reggae music in India. Boxout has just recently completed their fourth year with the festival and are currently planning the 5th. Joining the group is online publication Wild City which was set up 8 years ago. Founders, Munbir and Sarah relocated from London to India to embark on this journey and have since moved into a fully functioning office and have assumed position as the only reliable publication in India dedicated to alternative music. Akin to Shoreditch’s ‘Sneakers and Stuff’, VegNonVeg also known as “VNV” is India’s first multi-brand sneaker store, based in Delhi. Along with their sister brand named Bhaane. They are one of the few brands in the city introducing and pioneering streetwear culture in India. Last but not least, Coffee Bond is a brewery based in three locations around Delhi. Inspired mostly by Melbourne, the former home of founder Narendra Sukla, it acts as a great spot for young freelancers to spend the day and work from.

With a growing scene of highly successful independent brands leading the way for alternative scene and carving a path for young musicians, there is hope yet for the diversification of the Indian music scene. The community is gaining independence from the old system and creating its own space with Boxout.fm providing the light through it all.

Check out Boxout.fm's guide to New Delhi

Related:

View all features