As Patari turns one, musicians assess role of streaming platforms



KARACHI: It has been more than a year since the online music platform Patari was launched. Revolutionising the industry, it has become one of the most popular music streaming portals in Pakistan.

While the industry suffered a decline for over a decade and musicians lost hope in physical album releases, the digital platforms have provided a glitter of sunshine and proved the business can be reestablished through the cyber world.

Speaking with The Express Tribune, owner Khalid Bajwa discussed its inception and how the music app came to be what it is today. “It’s surely been an incredible journey,” he said. “I think we have really matured since we started last year. Now, with more than a hundred thousand users, Patari has become the golden platform to release music online.”

While the site continues to grow and the future of music distribution goes digital, there remains an argument over its feasibility. According toFuzon frontman Imran Momina, there ought to be a balance. “See, I am a mix of both generations. I have seen the pre-digital era and now we have the internet phenomenon,” he said. “I think there must be a balance between both because nowadays, we don’t have any music coming out on CDs. In fact, CD manufacturing has gone out of business. Yes, there is an advantage as digital has a worldwide reach but we need to maintain physical releases as well.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Coke Studio 9 debutante Ali Khan, who believes the era of physical releases has long gone. “But digital platforms like Patari and Taazi need to step up by facilitating artists as there is no other way for them to sustain themselves,” he suggested. “Of course, digital sound can’t match the quality of old records but it’s the future and we must join the dance.”

Opinions remain divided but one cannot deny that virtual distribution has helped fresh talent be discovered. Up and coming musician Farhan Bogra offers his own experience to support this claim. “Between 2009 and 2015, my band Khumariyaan kept releasing music over Soundcloud where we gained fans but made no profit,” he said. “We would receive tonnes of ‘likes’ but nobody paid us for them. Then, we uploaded one song on Patari and saw financial returns. I think Patari is an amazing platform as it’s generally very expensive to release an album through a record label.”

When asked whether he thought platforms like Patari and Taazi were really needed for the benefits of artists and the music industry, Bogra clarified they should not be too many in number. “You see, Pakistan is not a huge market. Sure, there can be other streaming sites but their quality should not be compromised.”

Unsurprisingly, Bajwa was of the opinion that there is no longer a need for more websites like Patari. “What we actually need is more music being made by more artists. The thing is, if there are more platforms, users will overlap automatically and that will not be profitable for anyone!”

According to Bajwa, it is more important to work on a musical ecosystem, than a website. “The whole cycle of artists producing music, releasing it online, earning a profit and then translating their virtual success into live gigs should be promoted,” he claimed. “But there isn’t much activity and people remain deprived of entertainment. That’s why Patari wants to fix the musical landscape of Pakistan.”