From counting dollars to Counting Stars: Meet the heavy metal head-turned entrepreneur bringing OneRepublic to IndiaBinjal Shah
The drama for the drummer has been plenty – from the change of venue two weeks before the concert, to the high GST rates eating into the margins.
He studied genetics, meandered to marketing, and then procured an MBA. In his first job, he sold furniture.
While these are all red herrings – they do clue you into one unshakeable aspect of Cyrus Gorimar’s personality – his free, unkindred spirit.
So, the next bit of information will come as no surprise, that he also moonlighted as a musician. Having been “a grinder” who was heavily “into rock ‘n’ roll music” since he was a teenager, there was a time when Cyrus would drum 10 hours a day.
For the love of making good music and promoting it, he founded Opium Events. While it was created to promote his heavy metal band “Brahma” – Cyrus caught on to his knack for organising musical gigs and concerts of epic proportions soon enough – and diversified to bring some of the greatest acts in the world to India.
Cut to two decades and many firsts later – he is counting down to Counting Stars with Ryan Tedder and the boys at their peak.
‘This has gotta be the good life’
The year was 1997, and Cyrus was selling furniture half-heartedly, all the while fantasising about channelling his energy, and passion into making and promoting the music he loved, instead. He did the former through his heavy metal band “Brahma,” and for the latter, Opium Events came into being.
They started selling concepts to companies, and tied-up for around 40 Brahma concerts a year to take the band and the brand to the top 40 leading college festivals across India. In a span of four years, brands from Close-Up, to Axe, Philips, Pepe, and Vh1 came to bat for his concepts – and Cyrus took a well-calculated plunge – but a leap nonetheless – and attempted to promote Joe Satriani in 2004.
“The norm was that the promoter is supposed to have some international band experience under their belt – but I had none, except for some DJs, but my professional rockstar skills came into play. Since I was a founder and drummer of a metal band, they realised that I was the one with in-depth knowledge on rock concerts – and I had promoted and organised close to 300 rock concerts with big Indian bands already by then,” Cyrus tells us.
The management not only signed him on as a promoter, they also agreed to do a three-city tour across Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bengalaru to a turnout of 25,000 people, at a time when other international band promoters would take on single city promotions. This helped put Opium on the map in the international bands circuit.
Chasing the dragon, they brought on Sepultura and subsequently Michael Angelo Batio for a three-city concert tour, and their recently handled all-star Dream Theater tour.
“Dream Theater is my favourite band, and I had relentlessly tried getting them to India. In February 2017, there was a hoax that they were coming down. Tears started rolling down my eyes - I was very clear, if not me, no one else will bring them down. While their agents confirmed that it was “false news,” I immediately got to work to get them to come down for real. From February to July, I was negotiating non-stop, and on July 27, 2017, it finally got confirmed. What a feeling,” he recounts.
They ended up doing two concerts - in Dubai and India.
“When you promote a band like Dream Theater successfully, you find a special spot in the hearts of the international bands, booking agents, and artist managements. The band, Dream Theater requires perfectionists and meticulous promoters. We were just right up there with their expectations. So now I get offers from all the other international bands wanting to tour India,” he says.
One of those bands was OneRepublic.
OneRepublic, one of the top five pop acts in the world, of ‘Apologize,’ and ‘Counting Stars’ fame – has a massive fan base in India, and Ryan Tedder had always wanted to come down here.
“There was a window of opportunity and I lapped it up, though there were many promoters vying for this deal, and there were many naysayers who tried to dissuade me,” says Cyrus.
It took them close to six months to lock in all paperwork, and Opium and OneRepublic formally engaged only a month ago, leaving little scope for pre-event promotion.
OneRepublic comes with 19 tonnes of equipment and a 50-personnel entourage. The band loves Indian food, so special arrangements are underway.
“OneRepublic is a fuss-free band and their management is most co-operative,” he says.
The band will arrive in India a couple of days before the concert on April 24. “They wish to experience the culture of India. We have lined up a Mumbai Darshan at iconic travel spots. We have also suggested the management to explore cross promotions with indie musicians and the band,” Cyrus says.
He describes what’s to come as a “never seen before sound and light spectacle with all the hits from their 15 years of existence.” He quips that the number of lights that are going to be deployed can light up half of Mumbai. “The band is in top form… They will kick off their South Asian tour from India, which is a big deal,” he lets on.
Taking a leaf out of the (not-)to-do list of last year’s Justin Beiber concert in Mumbai, Cyrus says his team has made sure that food and beverages are not overpriced inside the venue, and the ticket counters open up by morning. “Most importantly there is no lip syncing, it’s a live show and as a promoter, I only promote artists who give fans a value for their money,” he reveals.
Too late to apologize…
However, even as he held fort and secured all fronts, an unforeseen situation rendered them venue-less just two weeks before the concert. "The venue was confirmed as the authorities accepted our letter with the demand draft. Suddenly, we were told only verbally, sans anything in writing, that the permissions to host any event at the MMRDA Grounds post April 1, 2018 had been withdrawn because of the bullet train project," said Cyrus.
Scrambling for a replacement that could match the size, and infrastructure of the MMRDA grounds, they eventually managed to book Dome@NSCI instead, and took to Facebook to make an official announcement.
“Thankfully, we have very co-operative sponsors on board who have changed the communication overnight," he said.
This was not the only plot twist; along the way, the self-funded Opium Events has had to lock horns with the bureaucratic ways of the authorities before getting in order all the necessary permissions and paperwork for this event. “It’s high time the government realises that we need more entertainment. To create a space for more entertainment we need to make the licensing process a one-window clearance. Besides, GST at 28 percent is a killer. Ticket rates go up and people who buy it blame the organiser for pricing the tickets high. I don’t cater to people who ask me for complimentary passes. Friends, acquaintances, foes, all want the free pass. Buy the ticket and save the promoter from losses,” he says, in conclusion.