The Ira­nian Mu­sic In­dus­try

In an exclusive in­ter­view, award-win­ning Ira­nian mu­si­cian Mehrzad Kha­jeh Amiri dis­cusses his ca­reer and the chal­lenges of break­ing into the mu­sic in­dus­try in Iran.

CEO Magazine North America - - CONTENTS - BY SA­HAR AJDAMSANI

In­ter­view with Mehrzad Kha­jeh Amiri.

ONE OF IRAN’S most suc­cess­ful and ex­cit­ing young mu­si­cians, Mehrzad Kha­jeh Amiri, is break­ing the mold of a tra­di­tion­ally con­ser­va­tive and closed mu­sic in­dus­try with his ven­tures into in­stru­men­tal, New Age, and World Mu­sic. Born Sept. 20, 1987, he stud­ied mu­sic from the age of twelve and chose the pi­ano as his pre­ferred in­stru­ment, win­ning awards while still a teenager and even­tu­ally gain­ing na­tion­wide fame. Since then, Kha­jeh Amiri has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as a gen­uine in­no­va­tor in Ira­nian mu­sic, once say­ing, “I would like my coun­try­men not only to know New Age and World Mu­sic through Yanni, Richard Clay­der­man, and other pioneers of the style; I want to prove that an Ira­nian can also pro­duce such works.”

Af­ter the suc­cess of such ac­claimed works as “Per­sian Gulf,” “Hiber­nal Dream,” and “Spring,” Kha­jeh Amiri recorded the 2009 al­bum Demi­urge with a mix of Ira­nian and for­eign mu­si­cians. He says he hopes to make his next al­bum ex­clu­sively with Ira­nian mu­si­cians, thus chang­ing the per­cep­tion of what Ira­nian artists are ca­pa­ble of. In an exclusive in­ter­view with CEO North Amer­ica, Mehrzad Kha­jeh Amiri talks about the chal­lenges of forg­ing a mu­si­cal ca­reer in his na­tive Iran, his de­sire to broaden the tastes of mu­sic fans in his coun­try, and his hopes for the fu­ture.

How easy or dif­fi­cult is it to make it as a pop singer or group in Iran?

The fact is that no one can say mak­ing it in the in­dus­try is dif­fi­cult or easy. There are many peo­ple I could hold up as an ex­am­ple of those who have had both ex­pe­ri­ences. For ex­am­ple, it’s dif­fi­cult if an artist has nei­ther fi­nan­cial sup­port nor a group or band back­ing him. In this case, he has to fully rely on his own tal­ent and let his art speak for it­self. On the other hand, it shouldn’t be over­looked that there are com­posers break­ing into the charts by mo­men­tum alone who have worked with tal­ented singers with no ex­pec­ta­tion of fi­nan­cial gain, and that this col­lab­o­ra­tion has laid the foun­da­tions for the suc­cess and pop­u­lar­ity of both par­ties. That said, there are also singers with­out such tal­ent who reach the heights of the in­dus­try sim­ply by spend­ing a lot of money or through the act of pa­tron­age.

What does a singer or mu­si­cian in Iran have to do to make the big time? Are there many big record la­bels?

It seems to me that singers do what­ever it takes to be­come well-known, from mak­ing an al­bum and giv­ing con­certs to per­form­ing for or­ga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies, uti­liz­ing so­cial me­dia, and per­form­ing at wed­dings. In re­sponse to the sec­ond part of your ques­tion, I ought to say that there is no such a thing as record la­bel in Iran. This is be­cause, in other parts of the world, when a recorded piece of mu­sic is re­leased, a li­cense will be as­signed to it. This code es­tab­lishes the le­gal rights of the per­former, writer, and pub­lisher. Th­ese rights are pro­tected through­out the world. In Iran, this code is pro­vided by the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Is­lamic Guid­ance, but, un­for­tu­nately, it only ap­plies in Iran, and even then, it isn’t al­ways rec­og­nized at the na­tional level.

How do you as­sess the cul­tural and eco­nomic sta­tus of Ira­nian mu­sic com­pared to mu­sic from other coun­tries?

I per­son­ally think that Ira­nian mu­si­cal cul­ture has im­proved sig­nif­i­cantly over the past few years. We have plenty of singers in Iran, each of whom has pur­sued their own path and adopted a dis­tinc­tive mu­si­cal style. And the ma­jor­ity of au­di­ences, in­so­far as taste, choose to lis­ten to or not lis­ten to a song and re­spect artis­tic free­dom. Also, in terms of eco­nomic sta­tus, mu­sic can po­ten­tially be one of the most lu­cra­tive pro­fes­sions in Iran. The rel­a­tive eco­nomic sta­tus of artists in Iran, how­ever, goes back to your first ques­tion as to the type of fi­nan­cial sup­port an artist is able to re­ceive. And this is the main dif­fer­ence be­tween Ira­nian artists and those from other parts of the world. Al­though one sees the emer­gence of tal­ented artists with­out money, there’s no gen­uine mer­i­toc­racy in the in­dus­try and so there are also many less tal­ented artists who made it through money alone.

What kind of mu­si­cal genre do you see be­ing most suc­cess­ful in Iran over the next 10 years?

From my per­sonal stand­point, the in­stru­men­tal genre will do very well in the com­ing years. The num­ber of fans at­tracted to this genre is grow­ing by the day.

Given that you are one of the most suc­cess­ful New Age artists in Iran, and in view of the lim­i­ta­tions im­posed on New Age mu­sic in the coun­try, do you think it is pos­si­ble to be truly suc­cess­ful in this genre?

New Age mu­sic is some­thing new in Iran, and many peo­ple are not fa­mil­iar with it yet. Nev­er­the­less, Ira­ni­ans have an ear for good mu­sic and once they be­come fa­mil­iar with a genre, they re­ally go for it. The rea­son peo­ple are lis­ten­ing to and ac­cept­ing pop mu­sic more and more is that th­ese gen­res are new and ex­cit­ing to them. So, just like the pop style, I truly be­lieve the New Age genre can find many lis­ten­ers and fans, as long as there the req­ui­site ef­fort made by mu­si­cians, along with strong mar­ket­ing and in­vest­ment.

Giv­ing con­certs in this genre, es­pe­cially with an orches­tra, re­quires more sup­port than pop be­cause it re­quires more mu­si­cians and a cer­tain amount of infrastructure. In ad­di­tion, co­or­di­nat­ing the nec­es­sary num­ber of mu­si­cians to per­form a con­cert is no easy task; many mu­si­cians in Iran also work other jobs due to eco­nomic dif­fi­cul­ties, mak­ing the or­ga­ni­za­tional side dif­fi­cult.

As of late, there are Ira­nian pop artists who have achieved a high level of fame al­most im­me­di­ately with­out re­leas­ing a lot of work. What fac­tors have led to this phe­nom­e­non and do you see this dis­crep­ancy be­ing re­solved?

It’s not my place to say whether an artist who has a cer­tain stand­ing de­serves to be there or not be­cause that’s for au­di­ences to de­cide. But gen­er­ally speak­ing, in mu­sic, as in any other field, there are some es­sen­tial qual­i­ties nec­es­sary for suc­cess. If an artist doesn’t have those qual­i­ties, they will fade away as quickly as they ap­peared. In the mean­time, those with gen­uine tal­ent and artis­tic value tend to stick around. Per­haps, along with the govern­ment and the Min­istry of Cul­ture and Is­lamic Guid­ance, the pri­vate sec­tor could also help tal­ented artists by organizing fes­ti­vals and tal­ent con­tests with­out the usual fa­voritism. By do­ing so, they could en­rich the cul­ture and mu­si­cal tastes of the Ira­nian peo­ple, as well as help­ing those with tal­ent be­come bet­ter known and reach the po­si­tion they de­serve.

Is there any­thing you would like to add?

I want to see good things hap­pen in Ira­nian mu­sic, es­pe­cially for the New Age genre in Iran, be­cause many Ira­ni­ans love the genre and lis­ten to it pas­sion­ately and mind­fully. Also, I truly be­lieve that the me­dia is a bridge of com­mu­ni­ca­tion among dif­fer­ent peo­ple around the world and can be of great help in pro­mot­ing mu­sic. Maybe if Ira­nian artists re­ceived more in­ter­na­tional sup­port, we could make more progress.

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