Label It Mantra

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As the yoga music market evolves out of the "cottage industry" phase, it has begun to attract interest from the mainstream music business. The first indication of the phenomenon came in 2003, when music industry heavyweight Rick Rubin produced Krishna Das's Door of Faith album. Now Terry McBride has stepped into the yoga music stream in a big way with his new mantra-kirtan-yoga music record label, Nutone.

As CEO of the Nettwerk Music Group, McBride has masterminded the careers of top mainstream artists like Sarah McLachlan, Barenaked Ladies, and Avril Lavigne. He started taking yoga classes four years ago and became interested in the music played at the studio where he practiced. "The first artist who grabbed my attention was Wade Morissette," he says. "After that, Krishna Das caught my ear. So did Deva Premal, and when I heard Donna De Lory, I said, 'Wow, who is this?'"

But when McBride tried to purchase CDs by some of the artists he was hearing in class, he found they weren't always easy to locate. "And I'm in the music business!" he says. "If it's hard for me to find this music, I have to think it's really difficult for someone who's not in the music business."

So McBride revived the Nutone imprint, a world music label he'd started years ago, and made it an outlet for mantra music. He started by signing Wade Imre Morissette and soon assembled a comprehensive roster of mantra artists, including Krishna Das, Wah!, Jai Uttal, Donna De Lory, Reema Datta, David Newman, and Bhagavan Das. McBride has a reputation for striking fair deals and allowing artists complete creative freedom in the studio, and so far he seems to be operating on good karma yoga ethics. His basic business strategy is to tap into the grassroots network through which yoga music is already reaching listeners and then to expand that network using his own music business know-how.

"When yoga studios play music in class, they act as little satellite radio stations," McBride says. "And it's working. You've got artists like Krishna Das or Deva Premal walking into anything from a 500- to a 2,500-seat theater and selling out." That's good news in an industry in which both CD and concert sales are declining sharply. And the audience for mantras and other yoga-based music is expanding and becoming more demographically diverse.

McBride is a resourceful marketer when it comes to bringing yoga music to a wider audience. For instance, he has already succeeded in adding a program of mantra music to airline in-flight entertainment options. The mastermind behind the Lilith Fair, he has plans to create a similar concert festival for mantra music, combining kirtan artists with like-minded mainstream music acts and presentations by leading yoga instructors and spiritual teachers. At the same time, McBride is exploring new ways to promote and sell the music digitally via the Internet.

The methods are sophisticated, but the goal is simple. "I believe that the more this music is heard by a wider audience, the better place the world is," McBride says. "Just as the more people who practice, the more we have a better world."