Interview with Ali Pahlavan

When Iran's ban on pop music was finally lifted he sold millions of records

Ali Pahlavan is an award-winning Australian-Iranian singer and songwriter. Pop music was banned in Iran after the 1979 revolution and it was only in 1999 that Ali gained the liberty to found the country’s first mixed-gender pop band - The Arian Band.

The band became very successful, but at the same time, it faced a lot of challenges from the religious hardliners because of its Western music style and stage work that involved women. As part of the Arian band, Ali released six albums and sold millions of records nationally. His band also performed more than 400 gigs in Iran and around the world, soaring to success and getting a great platform to showcase their remarkable talents.

However, due to a complicated process, which involved him releasing a song and requiring mandatory permission from Iran’s Ministry of Culture, Ali had to switch to his main profession, putting aside his musical talents and working in project management. Today, Ali Pahlavan is back to the music industry, creating memorable and stunning compositions and set to soar and improve.

Tell us about your latest release, what's it about?

My latest release is called “Khiale To” (Your Dream). It's a love song in Persian and is very similar to the old songs I made with my band, Arian. It reminds my fans of my greatest hits in the band and the great vibe of our gigs. The song is written and produced by me. The lyrics are by Yavar Fallahi and are based on a true story. My old friend and the Arian Band’s composer, “Neenev Amirkhas”, performed on bass guitar.

So far the song has received a lot of great feedback from my fans.

Ali in his home studio

How did you record it?

I recorded the song in my home studio in Sydney, Australia, except for the parts that were played by Neenev in California, United States.

How did you distribute it? How did you promote it?

I use CDBaby for the distribution of my works. I have also created a shop on my website where people can buy my songs directly from me. I distributed the song separately on SoundCloud

For promotion, I started a campaign on Instagram, Facebook and Telegram. Additionally, my great fans supported me by sharing my songs on social media. I also requested my fans to join me on Smule (Karaoke App) to sing the song with me. The result is some great performances by some talented singers. Many of them have shared their joint performances on YouTube and received remarkable attention from their followers and mine.

Ali Pahlavan

The music industry is in a state of flux right now, where do you see it heading?

All we can do is to adapt ourselves to the situation and make use of technology as much as possible to connect with people and provide them the best we can offer.

It is also crucial to encourage people not to use any tools or websites that engage in piracy and provide people with artists’ works only for their own benefit. 

What's the most important thing missing from Songwhip?

Songwhip is an easy-to-use, neat and well-designed website that can help artists promote their works. What is missing, in my opinion, is a tool for more easily embedding the artist’s page in the artist’s website.

Which artist do you look up to the most and why?

I cannot mention anyone in particular as I listen to a lot of different types and enjoy various genres of music.

What artist tools/services can't you live without?

Definitely, my guitar is the first, followed by my computer and the music-related software and tools that I use for songwriting and music production. One of the tools that were so life-changing for me was the “Reference 4 Calibration tool” that helped me calibrate my speakers and headphones. It enabled me to select better sounds and mix and master the songs more accurately.

Ali Pahlavan's live performance

What is your advice to other indie artists to help fund their work/produce music?

For me, it is different because project management is my main source of income. I fund my songs through my full-time job. So, if anyone can advise me on how to better fund my songs, I would appreciate it.

Anything else you'd like to plug?

If you are not a fan of World Music, I have also written an instrumental called “Veg Out” and an English song called “With You, Without You” performed by Vanessa Steele. The US label “Music of the Sea” has also released one of my songs called “Knuck”, which I wrote for a film trailer. So, please go to my profile and enjoy my songs.