Another in a 2014 guest column series which builds on the one in 2009 where 50+ had written about how science/tech has evolved their hobby/interest.
This time it is Krishnan Chatterjee, who heads Strategic Marketing for HCL Technologies. He writes about how his band which plays about work/life themes has helped his own work/life balance.
With nearly two decades under my belt as a professional manager, I have realized one thing. It is difficult to find happiness and fulfillment amongst the denizens of the corporate jungle. A rare few manage to break new ground through entrepreneurship and philanthropy – and the happiness quotient is certainly larger in this segment. However for the largest numbers of white collar workers, happiness appears to be ephemeral and if anything, inversely proportional to wealth and position.
My personal experience does suggest a solution and let me narrate my story before sharing this learning. Post a degree in economics, I completed an MBA from IIM Ahmadabad (fairly well recognized in India) and joined ITC Ltd. – one of India’s largest CPG companies. Narrowly close to completing 10 years in ITC, I sought a shift to a sector where India was beginning to experience an “Invisible Hand” and shifted to HCL Technologies (one of the large Indian origin global IT Service Providers). Here, I currently head Strategic Marketing and thoroughly enjoy my work and my life as a whole. I have a job with a sense of purpose and great autonomy, a wonderful family with two delightful daughters…..
And I have a band. And that’s what made the difference. Before I move on with the story – Contraband deserves an introduction. Contraband is a Delhi based band which describes their music as white collar rock. Their songs speak to the white collar career professional (a breed that is the same whether in Mumbai or New York) about how work-life can be raised beyond the desperate quest for the next premium car, or that EMI repayment to actually living a holistic life with happiness as the end goal. The musicians in Contraband are themselves senior professionals covering fields like Marketing, Technology, Finance and Entertainment and their music straddles growing up and work life issues like alienation, work-life balance, the criticality of purpose and the importance of maintaining a True North in life. In the band's music - True North is seen to lie in human self expression, the desire and ability in career professionals to invest time and effort in areas where their true passion and talent lie, whether it be music, photography, film, literature or any form of the performing arts. Contraband's earnest desire is to create a conversation around this subject so that working professionals across the world can come together in a discussion with like minded people that helps them find their true form of self expression. To Create - not (just) Consume.
We were musicians in college. And then we became successful professionals. Most of us did find satisfaction in our careers, happiness with our families – but to rediscover true joy, we had to go back to our music. This is so simple – all of us had talent growing up. And in school and college, our talent got holistic leverage (remember Springsteen’s “Glory Days” ?) If we cannot achieve that same equilibrium in work life – what do you think happens ?
And what’s remarkable is – today, technology makes it possible to do this in spite of our busyness. Let me explain this in the context of Contraband – and I am sure whether you are a photographer, a painter, a writer or a stand up comedian ; you will be able to use the liberating and empowering force of technology to find your own Contraband.
A band needs to do 3 things – to write, to record and to perform. A band is a collaboration and therefore it becomes extremely difficult for 7 people to find the time to collaborate to do these 3 things. If a band can do it, anyone can!
Writing a song is intensely collaborative. Today we can do it individually, and then get into groupthink in a jam pad – no problem. One of us will usually come up with a chord sequence we like – record it on a piece of software and upload to Google drive (just a simple recording through an iOS or Android device). Everyone can then work with this structure and come up with their ideas – lyrics, verse and chorus sections, bridges etc. These go back and forth digitally for feedback. Finally, we’re ready to meet in a jam pad and play the song as a band. By now – just one jam session takes the song to 80% readiness (alternatives are already present in everyone’s head), and we can now take it to nearly 100% without meeting again. Given a metronome setting in the jam pad – either guitar or keys can lay the first track in a Nuendo / Logic project; and now this bounces around band member laptops till we have a track. The song is ready.
Recording is a different ball game though. We recently released our first single (Fisherman and Banker, available in iTunes, Google play and all major channels), and now your talking not just production but distribution as well. This is where a global delivery model enters the picture. F&B is a perfect case – we recorded all tracks in a friends bedroom. These heavy files were FTP’d to London to our producer Miti Adhikari (a man who has produced Nirvana, Eddie Vedder, Radiohead – what more can you ask for ?). Miti mixed the tracks and used Dropbox for the band to keep dipping into for latest versions. We set up global conference call bridges to discuss feedback on the various mixes till all band members were satisfied, and finally got the song mastered in of all places, Dover. But hang on ! This was just a small part of the global delivery model – the real kicker was in the release and distribution. Something which even 10 years ago would have had us running around desperately to record labels was done at my house in 30 minutes over a drink. While there are a number of digital release platforms – we used CD Baby, which cost us the princely sum of $ 15 USD to get the song out to all online stores and streaming sites (see some in CD Baby graph above). People the world over have now heard the story of the Fisherman and the Banker – and we have yet to lift a finger.
And finally we come to the performance. We play at an average of one show a month – and we still need to turn up for sound check, plug into the stage amps and create the voltage for a gig that the entire audience can enjoy. Just like bands have done forever. And when we’re on stage in front of a screaming, head banging audience – it all seems so worth it.
Tech can do wonders, folks. But magic only happens with people in front of you.