Friday Dec 2, 2022
Friday Dec 2, 2022

Are Nepali artists being exploited in the name of exposure?

Recollection of artists makes us question the sustainability of a music career in Nepal

2022 Apr 06, 10:53, Kathmandu, Nepal
VZN in his studio

Artists in the Nepali music industry rarely rise to fame—those who do are a few of many. This isn’t a fault of the artists, but rather the industry in itself.

The lack of musical literacy among young upcoming artists often leads them to be exploited in the name of exposure. In a conversation with singer and songwriter Sajish Shrestha (VZN), he takes us through the beginning of his musical career. As an 18-year-old fresh out of high school, he was overjoyed to be recruited by a “record label”. Little did he know, record labels rarely exist in Nepal and due to his naivety, he was obligated to spend 3 years of his life being exploited for his art with little to no credit. Learning from his past mistakes, VZN urges all upcoming artists to invest in themselves by independently producing their work instead of going to a studio or a management company.

                 Assuming you have a good laptop, it takes you about 30 to 40 thousand rupees to produce music”, VZN says. “Mixers cost about 8 thousand rupees, microphone cost around 15 thousand and headphones cost around 13 thousand”, he added, emphasizing the need for availability of such information on equipment. 

Singer and songwriter Yabesh Thapa, however, has a very different experience from VZN and many artists in the industry. His debut song “Lakhau Hajarau” itself is a popular hit among listeners with over 2 million streams on Spotify. Although this kickstarted his career, it put him under immense pressure to outperform this sensation to avoid being a “one-hit wonder”. Thankfully, his other songs “Aakhale” and “Ae Mutu” have also been successes. Fortunately for him, his first and current record label, ClassX Presentation is one of the few legally-established ones in Nepal. “I have seen countless record labels that exploit artists but I don’t think I am in one”, he remarks. 

Singer Yabesh Thapa performing live
Singer Yabesh Thapa performing live

Despite their contrasting experiences, VZN and Yabesh both firmly believe musical unions must exist in Nepal as a support system for artists. Oftentimes, artists do not realize their own worth—making it easier for management companies to capitalize upon the low bar they set for themselves. It is also common for companies to exploit smaller artists with the promise of “exposure”; for instance, the opportunity to open for a bigger artist with no remuneration.

VZN at his studio
VZN at his studio

With the amount of investment making music requires coupled with hardly enough returns, many artists are discouraged to pursue the industry professionally. Streaming sites like Spotify are notorious for underpaying their artists—bringing around 0.00001$ per stream. Similarly, YouTube monetizes videos only after it crosses the 100 hours of view time and the 100 thousand views mark, making it difficult for artists to profit off streaming. Even then, due to monetary law restrictions, Nepali artists do not receive streaming revenue in Nepal from these sites. “In my 3 years as an artist, I have only made 35$ from streaming, that too I haven’t been able to withdraw yet”, says VZN. He, like many other artists, also has a day job —the salary from which he is compelled to funnel into his music ventures. 

The bleak reality of the Nepali Music Industry is one that goes notoriously unsaid. Yet despite all the existing convolutions within this industry, passionate artists still remain optimistic about their futures.


nepal music Musical Industry singers Exploited Underpaid artists
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