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“It should not be about viral reels or TikTok algorithms, but real talent and humility” – Teen music sensation Kiara Chettri

In the second of our series 'ePop Stars', we speak to young singer Kiara Chettri about viral fame and the confluence of social media and the music industry.

This is the second of our series ‘ePop Stars’, where we speak to young women musicians on various aspects of today’s music industry, such as streaming channels, privacy issues and plagiarism as well as the experience of being a woman musician in today’s day and age. Read part one here.

By Neha Kirpal

Gurgaon-based singer-songwriter Kiara Chettri released her first single at the age of 15. When she was 17, she released her 10-track full-length debut album 4AM. That was in November 2020, when India was still recovering from its first Covid-19 wave. Kiara’s song Why reached the number one spot on World Indie Music Charts, making her the youngest Indian to achieve this feat. Her latest bluesy pop single Falling released in September 2021.

Kiara’s perspective on the music industry is informed by her own Gen-Z point of view, as a digital world citizen who was born after the advent of the internet. There is an element of yearning in her for the simpler old days, and a sense of realism about the challenges that social-media fame comes with. Yet, despite her young age, she has learnt from the experiences of those before her.

What are the challenges and benefits of streaming channels (YouTube, Spotify and others) versus the older days when people had to buy records or cassettes? Is there more opportunity for fame and financial reward or less?

With streaming platforms, it is super easy to listen to music. You can listen to music whenever, wherever and with whoever, it is much easier to discover new artists. But getting into the industry was much easier back in the day. If you had real talent, you would get fame and success. Nowadays, it greatly depends on the number of your streams and social-media numbers.

I am super blessed to have streaming channels in my life as a musician but I wish I could go back to the eighties or nineties and experience what the music industry was like. It should not be about viral reels or TikTok algorithms, it should be about real talent and humility.

Kiara Chettri

What are the challenges and benefits of being a woman musician in today’s day and age?

Being a woman in the music industry is complex. I have not experienced a moment where I have felt less than a man in the industry. Yet I know that as female artists, we face a lot of scrutiny in the industry. From getting sexualised to being looked down upon to being categorised as “emotional”, it is not an easy path for us.

I really want to release a powerful song about being a woman very soon. I guess this counts as a benefit: educating the world about how important it is to treat women and men as equals. Through music, you can touch so many people’s hearts. This is why I adore so many artists like Little Mix, Lizzo, Taylor Swift and so many more who really stand up for women and believe in girl power.

From what we wear to who we date to how we act to what we write about, it’s all a crazy journey. Having the ability to power through all the sexist comments, opinions and people, and making yourself stronger, is a benefit of being a woman in the music industry.

What are the sources of income for today’s musicians who primarily put up their music for free online?

We get our income through our streams from various different streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and so on. We have a lot to keep in mind in terms of our photoshoots, music video shoots, graphic designing and equipment. To make paying for these things easier, many musicians take up live gigs at different venues, which help not only in funding themselves but also getting recognition from those watching them live. 

What are some of the privacy issues, plagiarism and other threats that you face personally and professionally?

When you start growing as an artist and more and more people start recognising you, your privacy goes for a toss because people love to know about everything going on in your life. I know that if I need to go through this, I will be prepared because it is a part of what I have wanted in life.

Any technical training required?

There are a number of people getting famous because of social-media platforms like TikTok. I think it is super important to hone your talent and make sure you respect it and religiously practise it every day and then focus on getting listeners and followers on social media. I truly believe that a musician must be well trained in their instrument to better themselves and work harder in this competitive industry that we all are in today. 

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