Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


Koolmuzone: An Online Success Story – The Interview.

3 Aug 2010

I recently got the chance to talk to Hamad Dar, through TEDxLahore. Hamad Dar, along with Faiz Dar, aged 21 and 16, are Pakistan’s new form of entrepreneurs. The Dars and Faizan Shoaib are the administrators for Koolmuzone, Pakistan’s premier resource for music related news, along with other interesting tidbits now and again. But Koolmuzone is very much about the music, from videos to interviews, from hounding every other news source, getting musicians to submit music and guest posts, and gathering a sizeable following on social networking sites, they have crossed the barriers of publishing costs and bureaucracy and bring unfiltered music to their readers. In an age after the demise of Bandbaja, Pakistan’s music magazine, and the declining standards of music and entertainment journalism over the country, Koolmuzone have been a ray of hope in embracing the power of the blog and getting content to those who want it.

They have been actively raising their voices against record labels when they have begun infringing on artists’ rights, delaying albums and generally messing around. Similarly they are quick to raise responses to certain kinds of anti Pakistan news if and when they can. Their Facebook page is no less entertaining.

I have been a reader for a long time now, and to say I am biased toward them would be, well sort of true. Its because they’re good. As Hamad’s work grows, Faiz has begun to take the reigns at the blog, and things are smooth as ever. Here is our chat:

First off, tell us a bit about Koolmuzone in your own words, what did it set out to be?

We started koolmuzone to do things differently. Music websites in Pakistan had contributed differently earlier which mostly involved uploading free albums for the audiences (which isn’t a bad thing for musicians, bad for labels though). We wanted to play fair since we wanted to take koolmuzone a) as legal b) as an informative music blog.

This was something which wasn’t done before in Pakistani music websites and that’s why we thought we could still grab traffic even after starting the blog couple of years after others did.

It turned out to be huge. The following is massive and we have very strong media presence now.

I know musicians aren’t in too great a situation financially right now, what about you guys?

Music industry is very dry when it comes to revenues and it’s just not musicians who are suffering but blogs too. We have plenty investments, server and editorial costs and the return is very low. Advertisers in Pakistan haven’t really moved on to online advertisement yet, not directly on a blog at least. We had a little support by advertisers like Telenor and Two Five Right but even then the returns are pretty low.

Do you think the war is affecting your work?

The war isn’t really affecting the work. The musicians are pretty active and only a few live acts are affected due to security reasons. However, whenever there is a delayed album launch, labels put it on war.

Surely this can’t be full time can it? You guys are young people. You’re 21, Faiz is 16. What’s the rest of the story?

It’s not full time and it can’t be anytime soon. We try to put as much time into it as we can but even with a very good following we can’t really rely on it for the full time living. The sole reason is that the online ad. industry of Pakistan is so dry. It will take a lot of time for them to realize that they are putting their money into TV while the youth is browsing Facebook.

As perhaps the only channel of news dedicated to Pakistani music, what is your take on where Pakistani music has gone over the past few years, since the boom earlier this decade?

Well, I think the music industry of Pakistan was better a couple years ago with respect to quality of music while it’s better now with respect to opportunities and distribution. Since recently there has been a lot of support to the musicians by blogs like ours and labels like Fire Records and Musik Records have become mainstream labels releasing a lot more acts than before.

Your coverage lacks news of classical and less mainstream music, has that been becuase that genre has found it hard to keep up with modern technology and get in touch with you? Was it simply a case of “they’re not on the internet” or is there more?

We have to get continuous stream of updates from the musicians to cover a news on story on them. Unfortunatly, we are not very much connected to classical musicians and yes, that’s partly because they aren’t keeping up with the modern technology. In general, the musicians should be sending us continuous press releases if they need continous coverage but only a handfull of musicains tend to do that. I think artist managers are responsible for this. Artist management in Pakistan is usually very unprofessional and has no or little experience and education of music management. We however do provide good coverage to upcoming and underground musicians since most of them tend to contact us to do so.

You mentioned that you want this to be a legal operation, so how do you run the music library on your website in those constraints?

The music library mostly consists of old albums and singles released prior to 2008 with labels like Sadaf and others which either don’t exist anymore or don’t have any concerns with their music online. All the content released after wards including but not limited to audios and videos by Fire and Musik records is not uploaded. Only a few singles make it to our blog which are permitted to be shared by either artist or label, whoever has the ownership of the content.

This was a challenge for us because we had competitors with much better online presence who were putting the albums online. I think even with these constraints, we still managed to acquire respectable influence in music industry.