With the pandemic-led suspension of live shows and concerts adding to the existing challenges faced by the industry, India’s musicians are struggling to survive.

Prior to May this year, artist Sona Mohapatra arrived in the slope town of Darjeeling along the Sikkim-West Bengal line not long before the lockdown was forced considering the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. With a lot of time in her grasp, the vocalist doubled her endeavors and chose to be her own make-up artist, and stylist. And afterward, Mohapatra shot a melody called Aise Na They on her phone with the assistance of a stand that she had carried alongside her.

The do-it-yourself (DIY) video got picked up in July by the Swedish streaming service Spotify as part of its “EQUAL” initiative that aims to provide greater exposure to fresh female voices. Recently, Mohapatra was featured on a billboard at New York’s Times Square as Spotify’s artist of the month, putting her in the company of big names such as Zoe Wees of Germany, Natalia Lafourcade of Mexico, and Duda Beat of Brazil— all of whom have been bestowed a similar honour in the past.

But this recognition on the global stage is in marked contrast to the reality back home. India’s music industry has always been dominated by a handful of powerful labels and the shift towards web streaming has done little to change the status quo. For long, successful musicians have relied on live shows and concerts to pad up their earnings. But the pandemic has brought that segment of the music industry to a grinding halt, with no sign of a revival at least for a year or two.

Musicians’ earnings from audio streaming come out to be 10-15% of the total revenues, after the music label and the platforms take their commissions. Hence, many rely on shows and concert earnings to make a living. While big names in the industry could earlier do about 40-50 shows a year, making anything between Rs 60 lakh to Rs 1 crore per show, this has been shut down due to the pandemic. Releasing music on ad-supported social media platforms is also not a viable solution, since those like YouTube pay only around 1-2 paisa per stream, as compared to the 5 paisa per stream paid by streaming platforms. This had led to the music industry’s projected income to touch Rs 2,320 crore by 2023, compared to the film industry’s Rs 24,400 crore. Music streaming revenues across the globe declined 2% Quarter on Quarter (QoQ) in Q2 2020, reports The Hindu.

The rise of slice-of-life films on OTT platforms has reduced the number of songs required in such content, and has also shuttered music launches and other events that complemented film releases. Piracy remains a big challenge in the industry, with over 95% of Indian users listening to music for free, the industry is estimated to lose about Rs 1,000 crore a year due to piracy, per The Economic Times.