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Sound Advice: How to succeed in the music industry

Sound Advice: How to succeed in the music industry

Welcome to another episode of The Zista Podcast! Today’s segment promises a melodious journey into the world of the music industry. For those who have dreams of composing memorable tunes or crafting captivating jingles, you’re about to gain some invaluable insights.

Joining us is Ashwin Vinayagamoorthy, a dedicated and talented figure in the music realm. From his early experiences interning with the esteemed GV Prakash to making a mark with projects like ‘Vidhi Madhi Ultaa’ and ‘Yaadumaagi Nindrai’, Ashwin’s journey is one of passion and perseverance. Today, he stands as the driving force behind Shimmr Studio in Chennai, a testament to his dedication, where he continues to contribute to both movie soundtracks and diverse commercial music projects.

In this episode, we’ll explore various facets of the music domain alongside Ashwin. From his personal inspirations to insights on the myriad roles within the film music industry, from the art of building a standout portfolio to strategies for effectively reaching out to potential employers – it’s all covered. So, whether you’re a budding artist or just someone passionate about the world of music, this episode is sure to resonate with you. Tune in for a harmonious blend of stories, tips, and inspiration.

Welcome to another episode of The Zista Podcast! Today, we turn our focus to the vibrant world of the music industry. If you’ve ever dreamt of composing tunes or creating catchy jingles, you’re in for a treat.

Joining us is Ashwin Vinayagamoorthy, a name synonymous with passion and dedication in the music world. From his early days of interning with the renowned GV Prakash to marking his presence with projects like ‘Vidhi Madhi Ultaa’ and ‘Yaadumaagi Nindrai’, Ashwin has charted an impressive path. And it doesn’t end there. He now runs the successful Shimmr Studio in Chennai, working on an array of both independent and commercial projects.

In our conversation with Ashwin, we explore a wide range of topics. We discuss what drove him towards a career in music, the composers and producers who have inspired him, and how studying abroad shaped his musical journey. Ashwin also sheds light on the myriad roles in the film music industry and offers invaluable guidance for young enthusiasts aiming to make a mark. We also touch upon practical aspects, such as building a striking portfolio and effectively approaching potential employers.

So, whether you’re on the brink of a musical journey or merely an aficionado of the art, this episode promises a wealth of knowledge and inspiration. Tune in and let Ashwin’s experiences guide and inspire your musical aspirations.



  • While local legends are important, expanding your horizons with global music trends can give you a unique edge as an upcoming artist.
  • Explore study-abroad programs or travel opportunities. Such experiences can enhance your music production skills by introducing diverse soundscapes and traditions.
  • Beyond singing and composing, there are roles like sound engineering, music marketing, and more. Diversifying your skills can make you more marketable in the competitive music world.
  • Regularly update yourself with the latest music genres and techniques, but also explore niche or lesser-known territories for a unique sound.
  • Networking is pivotal. Whether through online platforms or in-person events, building relationships can open doors to collaborations and opportunities.


Q1: How did Ashwin discover his passion for the music industry?

A: Ashwin’s passion for music was apparent from a young age. During kindergarten, a memorable incident occurred where his teacher noticed his constant singing in class and recommended he be enrolled in a music course. This, combined with Ashwin’s upbringing in an Indian culture, meant his journey in music was ever-present—from vocal lessons to mastering the piano.

However, a significant turning point came during his interaction with the esteemed composer, GV Prakash. Ashwin, armed with his dream of becoming a singer—a vision he had since 8th grade—auditioned for Mr. Prakash. But the feedback he received was unexpected. Mr. Prakash advised him to halt his pursuits, refine his skills for five more years, and then return. While initially disheartened, this interaction broadened when Ashwin mentioned his proficiency in playing the piano and composing music. Recognizing his potential, Mr. Prakash guided Ashwin to invest in a MacBook. Upon doing so, he equipped Ashwin with the necessary music software, catalyzing his journey in music production.

He perceives his journey as being orchestrated by a force greater than himself, guiding him to a destined path in music. This divine inspiration, combined with Ashwin’s innate talent and dedication, has allowed him to flourish in the music industry.

Q2: Which composers and music producers have had the greatest influence on Ashwin’s musical journey?

A: Ashwin acknowledges that many young individuals from South India would naturally point to legends like Raja sir and Raman as pivotal inspirations. However, his personal musical landscape was deeply shaped by the transformative sounds and production techniques of Harish Raj and Yuvan Shankar Raja. While there were numerous influential figures, these two stood out as central figures in his musical upbringing.

Expanding his horizons, Ashwin also immersed himself in world music. One notable figure that left an indelible mark on him was Timberland, a renowned artist, producer, and beat maker. What fascinated Ashwin about Timberland’s approach was his emphasis on beats. Timberland would craft a beat, often 16 bars, and then collaborate with others to develop a melody or full song around it. This approach was a stark contrast to the more structured format prevalent in India, which typically encompasses an intro, pallavi, charam, interlude, bgm, followed by a repeat of the charam. The idea that international artists were earning recognition and remuneration primarily for rhythm or a foundational beat intrigued Ashwin and fueled his gravitation towards production.

In summation, while Ashwin drew inspiration from a myriad of sources, the foundational influences that shaped his musical perspective remain Rajas sir, Raman sir, and Timberland.

Q3: How did studying overseas at Full Sail University influence Ashwin’s personal and musical growth?

A: Ashwin emphasizes the unparalleled value of experiencing a new culture firsthand. While digital platforms like YouTube or movies offer glimpses into foreign lifestyles, living and interacting with people from different backgrounds provides profound, immersive learning that cannot be replicated virtually.

Recalling his initial days abroad, Ashwin was met with astonishment from peers who were surprised he spoke English, and he often faced misconceptions about his Indian heritage. However, these interactions illuminated a significant gap in cross-cultural understanding. Ashwin recognized the untapped opportunities to bridge these gaps, realizing that by immersing himself in foreign cultures and subsequently sharing his Indian roots, he could enrich both worlds.

His time at Full Sail University was particularly transformative. The state-of-the-art facilities and individualized attention were a departure from what he was accustomed to. For instance, while he was used to sharing a single computer with multiple students in India, Full Sail offered individual consoles for every student, giving him unprecedented freedom and exposure.

In conclusion, Ashwin believes that experiencing different cultures, whether by studying abroad or even just moving out of one’s hometown, greatly broadens one’s perspective. He passionately advises others to seize opportunities to immerse themselves in new environments, as it can significantly enrich their personal and professional growth.

Q4: What multifaceted career opportunities exist within the film and music industry?

A: Ashwin highlights the plethora of avenues available in the music industry, broadly divided into artistic and technical roles.

On the artistic front, one can pursue a career as a session musician, playing instruments or singing for different bands and getting compensated per session. There’s also the role of a producer, crafting tracks for others, or a composer, creating original music. Additionally, lyricists craft the words behind the songs, establishing a unique revenue stream.

For those inclined towards the technical side, becoming a sound engineer is a viable option. They collaborate closely with producers, bringing the latter’s vision to life. Live concerts, like those of A R Rahman, offer opportunities for professionals handling sound, lighting, and stage arrangements.

Ashwin stresses that today’s music industry doesn’t permit exclusivity to just one role. For instance, as a composer and producer, he writes, engineers, and sings his songs. He is involved in every process, from programming to mastering, to marketing and liaising with labels and radio stations.

Marketing and management are indispensable roles too. While not everyone is suited for artistic or technical roles, they can thrive by managing artists or engaging in music-related marketing. It’s essential to recognize the vast interconnections within the music business and the importance of understanding multiple facets, even if one specializes in a particular domain.

Q5: How can students determine if they can establish a successful career in the music industry?

A: Ashwin emphasizes the importance of introspection and understanding one’s personal circumstances when considering a career in music. Often, the journey in artistic fields, such as music, requires patience, especially when building credibility. As compared to traditional sectors like IT, artistic professions might demand more time to gain recognition.

For those eager to pursue music yet concerned about immediate financial responsibilities, Ashwin recommends balancing it with a part-time gig. Fortunately, the modern age offers numerous home-based opportunities that only require a few hours daily, ensuring a stable income.

The key is strategic planning. Rather than vaguely hoping for success in the music domain, it’s crucial to be clear about your priorities. You should decide which aspect – your music or your part-time job – serves as your primary income source and which acts as a supplement. Making a definitive choice helps align one’s efforts more productively.

Moreover, feedback and opportunities from your immediate network can be a good indicator. If you find a growing audience for your music, or people frequently approach you for collaborations, it suggests you’re on the right track. Conversely, if another profession offers you growth while music takes time to bloom, it might be wise to treat the latter as a secondary passion.

In essence, while pursuing music, it’s essential to be realistic, understand which avenue is primary and which is supplementary, and avoid ambiguity in your career approach.

Q6: How can budding musicians effectively showcase their portfolio to potential employers or clients?

A: Ashwin believes that while Social Media offers a powerful platform for budding artists, it’s the presentation that truly makes a difference. Every day, he receives countless messages from aspiring lyricists, singers, guitarists, and other musicians. To stand out, it’s crucial not to overwhelm the recipient with numerous links, which they might not have the time to explore.

Instead, Ashwin recommends starting with a compelling opening line that highlights how you can add value to their work. In the competitive music industry, professionals are more inclined to collaborate with those who can enhance their projects. Share just one or two of your best works, ensuring they’re relevant to the person you’re reaching out to. If they’re intrigued, they’ll surely want to hear more from you.

Furthermore, if you reside in the same city as the professional you’re contacting, consider connecting directly with their office or studio manager. Word of mouth still has great value, so tap into your networks to discover possible connections. Many industry figures have their contact details available publicly – it’s about doing your homework and finding the right channel to approach them.

Remember, it’s less about forcing your way in and more about making a memorable, positive impression. In Ashwin’s words, “It’s not about opening doors and breaking doors anymore, the doors are already open. You just need to know how you can deliver your envelope to the right person.”


Q7: As a music producer, how can one stay relevant and innovative in the constantly evolving music industry?

A: According to Ashwin, there are two primary strategies to consider. Firstly, producers should be keenly aware of ongoing trends. This aspect, Ashwin feels, is relatively straightforward as it involves keeping an ear to the ground, observing what’s popular, and staying updated.

However, equally important is the need to periodically disconnect from these trends. Ashwin advises delving deep into less explored territories, be it online resources or even revisiting old collections of music and literature. Drawing a parallel to those unexpected YouTube rabbit holes where one might end up watching random videos for hours, he suggests tailoring such an experience towards music or tech. Explore unfamiliar musical territories, uncovering unique sounds or techniques that aren’t currently in the limelight. There’s a treasure trove of overlooked information, and producers might strike gold by reviving these forgotten or undiscovered elements, making them relevant in today’s context.

Ashwin’s personal strategy is to listen to what most aren’t paying attention to. For instance, exploring the top 100 tracks in Latin America might reveal a sound or style that hasn’t yet made its mark in other markets. A forward-thinking producer can anticipate this trend, adapt it, and potentially become a pioneer in their region.

However, this ability to forecast what will resonate across different cultures isn’t cultivated overnight. It requires patience and a deep understanding of diverse musical landscapes. But once a producer hits that sweet spot, they often experience a period where everything they touch turns to gold. As Ashwin puts it, it’s all about the “where, what, and how” you apply your findings, and with persistence, there will be a time when everything just clicks.

Podcast Host: Amit Ahuja, Associate Director, Communications & Digital, Zista Education
Podcast Guest: Ashwin Vinayagamoorthy, Founder, Shimmr Studio
Video & Audio Editing: Raj Soni, Communications Associate, Zista Education
Podcast Manager: Russel Aldridge, Sr. Manager, Creative & Digital, Zista Education
Podcast Transcript: Tanya Kakka, Freelance Copywriter