The tradition-steeped elegance of India's Bollywood music and the rough, rattle and roll of heavy metal might make them apparent incompatible genres, but Metallica are set to disprove that conception on Oct. 28 when they play their first-ever gig in the sub-continent of India.
Winners of nine Grammys and three Billboard Music Awards, Metallica are headlining the latest edition of F1 Rocks, the series of live and televised concerts staged alongside the Formula One (F1) Grand Prix races.
Considered the world's biggest and fastest single-seater motor-racing tournament, and one of the most glamorous sports events, the annual F1 Grand Prix is in 19 countries this year and will be watched by an estimated 600 million unique TV viewers globally.
The inaugural Indian heat takes place at the 120,000-capacity Buddh International Circuit in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh on Oct. 30.
Two days before that, the accompanying F1 Rocks concert, starring Metallica in their first performance in the country, will be in front of 30,000 fans at the open-air Leisure Valley venue, which is about a two-hour drive from the race track.
Depending on the artists' availability and securing an appropriate venue, F1 Rocks concerts are organized by U.K.-based Enterprise Entertainment. It has secured the rights to host spectacular live-music shows featuring international acts and local artists during the F1 weekends and manages the associated broadcast rights. To date, international F1 Rocks headliners have included Eminem (in Sao Paulo in 2010) and Jamiroquai (in Monza, Italy on Sept. 9).
In India, Enterprise Entertainment is working with DNA Entertainment Networks, one of Asia's leading concert promoters, to organize the show, while MTV India has the exclusive broadcast rights to the local F1 Rocks.
But even Metallica is amazed by fans' anticipation of the India performance. "We're so excited to be playing a show in a place we never thought in our wildest dreams we'd get to play," the band said in a statement.
International acts tend to do well in the live-music circuit in an emerging economy like India, where recorded-music piracy is rife. But of the legal recordings sold, according to trade organization Indian Music Industry (IMI), international accounts for only 6%, while Bollywood film music plus regional film music represent 68% of legitimate recordings sold.
Yet, in the live business, says Venkat Vardhan, DNA's managing director, "we have promoted metal and hard rock featuring bands such as Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Machine Head. Metallica has a large following in India so the response has been phenomenal."
Motor-racing is also a new area for DNA. In the past four years, it has promoted the music-focused opening ceremonies at sports events like cricket, which has a die-hard following in India. But "this will be the first time (we're working) with F1," Vardhan adds.
Robert Montague, F1 Rocks' CEO, also tells Billboard.biz: "I have to admit I was a bit surprised that Metallica would have been so popular in India. But in each territory, we work with local promoters as we need local knowledge to assist us in aspects such as which artists are going to be received well. This is also the first time I have been involved in an event in India."
As F1 Rocks' exclusive broadcast partner, Viacom's MTV India is producing a 30-minute primetime lifestyle show for India alone. It is also creating a one-hour special that will feature Metallica's history-making performance for broadcast seven days after the live event. Furthermore, MTV India is putting together a four-part 30-minute reality TV documentary on the nationwide search for Metallica's support band for local transmission too. Viewers will be able to participate in the online selection of the support act.
"MTV reaches 130 million people across 40 million homes," says Aditya Swamy, MTV India's channel head. "We are the most active digital brand within the country with more than 8 million people connected across Facebook and Twitter, and 4 million-plus across mobile platforms."
Additionally, there will be another version of the one-hour music show produced by F1 Rocks that will be distributed to broadcasters worldwide, including those with the rights to broadcast the F1 races live.
Organizers of the F1 Grand Prix, the F1 Rocks series and MTV Networks see their collaboration as an opportunity to introduce the motor-racing spectacle to a new, younger audience. For example, Eminem's F1 Rocks gig and reports of the associated race reached 42 million viewers in 127 territories, including markets that had not been exposed to F1 before, a spokesperson explains.
"We are starting to create a successful work relationship with MTV across many of our shows as one of our remits from F1 is to take the sport to new audiences. MTV is the ideal partner to broadcast F1 Rocks to a new and dynamic demographic," explains John Simidian, F1 Rocks' executive producer.
Vladivar, a premium alcohol brand by United Spirits, the world's largest spirits company, is F1 Rocks in India's title sponsor. "We bring value to our partners. Our title partner in Brazil was LG Electronics and we delivered them over $26 million in global media value," the spokesperson added.