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Last Updated : Nov 13, 2019 07:11 PM IST | Source:

Here's how Shailendra Singh, driving force behind Sunburn, started Asia's largest music festival

Shailendra Singh, the man who started Sunburn, told Moneycontrol that people are not aware that Sunburn starts with the reciting of the Hanuman Chalisa.

Who hasn’t heard of Sunburn—the biggest dance and music festival in India, nay Asia. Wouldn't you want to know about the man who came up with the germ of the idea and executed it to the tee?

Shailendra Singh, the man who started Sunburn, had a straightforward objective – to unite people through music.

Talking to Moneycontrol, Singh said, “At that time, I had two ideas. One was Metal fest and the other was Sunburn. Both happened simultaneously in 2007 – one in Kolkata and the other in Goa. The reason that Metal fest could not go further was because it was limited by lyrics, while electronic music which is Sunburn succeeded not in 2007 but many years later because it was not limited by music.”


Sunburn has a power to make social difference to music. It socially unites people.” This is the line Singh had used during a press conference in 2007.

And that’s exactly what the festival has been doing in all these years.

According to reports, the 11th edition of Sunburn saw over 1,00,000 people attending the fest, higher from what the 10th season had seen which was around 850,000 attendance.

This year, the expectation is higher in terms of footfall as it is homecoming for Sunburn in Goa. It was in 2016, when Sunburn moved its base to Pune, but its back to Goa this year with a strong line-up including Martin Garrix, Flume, The Chainsmokers, Maceo Plex, Luciano, Jonas Blue, Lost Frequencies, Fedde Le Grand, among others.

While Sunburn’s growth is beneficial for the place it is hosted in, be it Pune or Goa, not much credit is given to the festival. And this has disappointed Singh, who said that “while an Indian cricket World Cup at Wankhede got tourists from 37 countries, Sunburn Goa gets tourists from 72 countries.”

“When you go to a local place, you do not cannibalize the local economy, you enhance it. In Goa, from the first year till now, I kept my ground and kept it on 27, 28 and 29 of December because I did not want to cannibalize Christmas or New Year of the local people. I brought the audience to them. I never took a share from them. It (Sunburn) has always been inclusive in its DNA,” Singh added.

The music festival has not received much support from the government despite the fact that Sunburn boosts employment as well as revenue of the hosting state.

Reports suggest that season 10, which was held in Pune, contributed around Rs 1.4 crore as direct revenue to the government and did a business of about Rs 250 crore for the region through hotel, F&B, transport and other expenses incurred by the festival-goers.

“India has not matured enough to offer tour packages, hospitality, hotels. Internationally, 40 percent revenue comes from hospitality which is hotel booking, transportation, airline packages. In India it has not taken off. Here, only three elements contribute to profits – festival tickets, food and beverage, and sponsorship,” Singh explained.

He also pointed out that India has to mature when it comes to earning more via ticketing. “In the entire world, the ratio of sponsorship versus ticketing is 90:10 but in India it is 70:30 – tilting to 60:40.” However, for Sunburn it is 50:50 for which he gives credit to his brother Harindra Singh and nephew Karan Singh who now handle Sunburn.

While the picture looks bright for Sunburn now, things were not rosy for the festival during the initial years, especially due to competition.

“All my ex-employees launched five festivals but Sunburn stood tall. Supersonic had to shut down,” said Singh.

As for Sunburn, the golden years were between 2012 to 2014, when business peaked for the festival. But Singh went beyond Sunburn because he wanted to keep music alive in the heart of every youth. So, he had started other shows.

“I realized that not everyone has the money, time and power to travel to Goa. So, I started campus shows. It was a tough journey to convince the faculty and Principal because of the perception that electronic music means smoking, drugs and alcohol. I went to colleges to prove people wrong and then campus shows became huge,” Singh said.

He also said that people are not aware that Sunburn starts with the reciting of the Hanuman Chalisa.

After that came Reloads, which are club gigs. “Clubs are where real music composers, singers are born. So, we had to bring back the club life.”

Then came Arenas. “They were driven by artists. So, if you know your artist, then buy the tickets. We started single-artist shows to promote genre-led music," Singh said.

“The last product was to expand to city festivals to address affordability. Goa was starting to become expensive. So, we thought of going to Mumbai or Delhi so that young fans, who can’t afford to go to Goa can experience such festivals in their city,” added Singh.

Despite the success Sunburn has seen, Singh remains unhappy due to less support and appreciation for his work.

“I revolutionized live entertainment for the youth of India. If they do not celebrate me, more promoters will not be born. I have won 12 national awards with my motion pictures and not one for my festival,” Singh resented.

He said that if appreciation had come his way, then he would have launched more shows like classical, rock, pop, folk festivals, et al. “Only when you award and reward me, will I get sponsorships,” he added.

There is no denying that Sunburn is one of the bright spots in Singh’s career but before the festival came in his life, Singh had launched 23 startups in 23 years, had around 72 Bollywood movies to his name and had organized 4,000 events.

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First Published on Nov 13, 2019 07:11 pm
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