These singers from small-town India are on song, and they’ve got YouTube to thank for it

Ganesh Prasad Saurabh Sharma February 20, 2017 5 min

Ruchi Singh, alias ‘Singer Ruchi’, a 26-year-old from Patna district of Bihar is a sensation in the Bhojpuri music industry. All thanks to YouTube.

Singh, who comes from a family of singers, started singing bhajans at the age of six. After completing high school, she decided to pursue a career in singing. Her family offered to help her finance an album, but she couldn’t find a recording company to sign her.

YouTube provides them just the platform they need to build their audience and enhance their market value. And the best part is that the video uploading service is completely free  

“Then a friend of mine suggested that I upload a video on YouTube,” recalls Singh, adding that her first video got just 10-15 views. But, within a short time, she was able build a fanbase that helped her get some stage shows.

“People started approaching my brother, asking me to perform in public, to which I agreed,” says Singh, her eyes sparkling. She has been on YouTube for more than a year now. Today Singh does at least eight-ten shows a month across India. She charges about Rs 40,000 for a full-band performance; this includes conveyance. Most of her fans are from eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

Singh is just one among a breed of young Indians who are being able to translate their musical dreams into reality thanks to YouTube.

These small-town, small-time (when they start out) singers don’t have to chase big music companies anymore. YouTube provides them just the platform they need to build their audience and enhance their market value. And the best part is that the video uploading service is completely free.

If you’re good or are creating music that has a market, upload it on YouTube and fame will find you, seems to be the mantra to these singers’ success.

Take the instance of Bhuvan Bam, who made a name for himself on YouTube with his funny videos which he posts on his channel BB Ki Vines. “YouTube is a platform where people like me can garner both fame and money,” Bam had said while receiving the WebTV Asia award in November 2016. Bam’s YouTube persona may be that of a comedian, but in real life, he says music is his “profession and passion.” Most of Bam’s videos have upwards of 10 million views!

According to a report in The Economic Times, every month some 20,000 active YouTube channels in India upload 3.8 lakh videos and attract 9.48 billion views.

According to a report in The Economic Times, every month some 20,000 active YouTube channels in India upload 3.8 lakh videos and attract 9.48 billion views  

Most of these channels are fed by content generated by singers from India’s small towns. Of course, this has been made possible due to the increasing adoption of smartphones in India and the availability of cheap mobile data plans.

In fact, keeping in view India’s 300 million and counting smartphone userbase and it’s unique data problems, Alphabet (the holding company that controls Google and YouTube) recently launched the YouTube Go app in India. The app allows users to share content across phones just through a locally created wifi hotspot, without any data charges.

Sandeep Sudhakar is another 26-year-old Bhojpuri singer from Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh. A musical celebrity in his own right, he has recorded six songs so far and one of his songs Modi Chaiwala became an instant hit on Youtube. Till date, the song has got over 2.29 lakh views.

Sandeep Sudhakar’s Modi Chaiwala has got over 2.29 lakh views on YouTube

He started his singing career in 2012, but his performance were initially limited to small family functions like birthday parties, weddings etc for which he was paid just Rs 2000 per show. “About six months ago, one of my friends suggested that I get on YouTube to gain popularity. I approached a YouTube channel — Bihariwood — which made me record six songs and uploaded them on the channel,” says Sudhakar.

The Class X passout today owns a recording studio in Gopalganj district of Bihar along with his two cousins. YouTube has made his popularity rise big time and today he charges more than Rs 20,000 for a stage show.

These YouTube stars’ repertoire is not limited to Hindi or vernacular music. There are those like Agnivesh Baghel, a 22-year-old engineering graduate from Balco Township in Chhattisgarh, who play western music forms. Baghel started uploading original trance and electronic dance music on YouTube in 2009.

Agnivesh Baghel’s original trance and electronic dance music on YouTube has struck a chord with music aficionados around the world  

He struck a chord with music aficionados around the world and started amassing views in the thousands, then lakhs. Soon, he started earning in dollars and, by the time he finished school, he had earned enough to pay for most of his college education.

But making music, and least of all trance music on YouTube, is not considered a serious profession in India. So, at his father’s insistence, Baghel enrolled in an engineering course, but he continued to make music. In 2015, an international music label approached him through Facebook, offering to release one of his tracks. The track, Rain Chords, peaked at No 4 in the Top 100 Trance Tracks on YouTube and two of his songs were released worldwide by digital music-making platform FL Studio.

Agnivesh, who now performs with his band Ragasur, says, “If not for the exposure I got from platforms like YouTube and Sound Cloud, my musical aspirations might never have materialised.” His YouTube channel has had 4.9 million views.