This was all up in my FB news feed. And it made me pretty fucking happy.
Over 10 years in this biz and finally someone is doing something about it politically (thank you Janice Koh).
I want to talk about a few things - namely why this is important and the one major starting point that I think would help. But before that, I’d like to address the response from Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Information, Communication and the Arts, to Nominated Member of Parliament, Janice Koh. (Click on the link above to read the article).
$4m spent in 3 years.
I know it’s a lot of money, but to me this is funny. $1.3m a year, so just a little over a hundred Gs a month. When I was in Urban Xchange, the studio ended up sending an $80,000 invoice to Universal Music Singapore. Apparently Universal also spent $20,000 on two of our music videos. Let’s not even talk about what it costs to market and promote an act. What the fuck? This is pop. 10 years ago.
Now, if the government did indeed pump that money into local music, I’d really like to know where it went. I know for sure it didn’t go to Kevin Lester, Shigga Shay or Michaela Therese - just three artists who could have probably had very different releases with some of that money. If we go on Urban Xchange expenditure (which I’ll admit is fucking ridiculous but just to make a point) - we should have seen at least 36 major releases in 3 years. So why didn’t we?
What is the criteria for giving out this money? Who decides who it should be given to? And why do only a few people know about it?
There is no proper support system for original music in this country.
You know why? Because apparently - people don’t like local music.
This is bullshit.
But it is supposedly the reason radio doesn’t play local music. Or if they do they relegate it to specialized programs that are aired at times when fewer people are listening.
When I worked on radio, I saw first hand how many people complained about the supposed shittiness of local music. As a colleague and musician, I could agree and disagree. Local music did not have the same ‘perfection’ as ‘foreign’ music quite simply because we were not as developed as these countries. Countries that have had decades of music culture and years of experience in production and promotion. This difference in quality didn’t affect my own ability to appreciate the Singaporean musician’s craft. But people who play the music you end up listening to are not musicians. And quite honestly, very few of them actually give a shit. I was once told not to play any local music at all on a drive time shift after I had intended to do a segment at the end of my show to play tracks from SG artists that I thought were dope. Why?
Because people don’t like it.
The real problem is that the majority of people who tell you what you’re listening to and decide who to support are actually, quite clueless. They do not go to local gigs and they do not talk to the wide spectrum (and it is wide) of fantastic musicians, producers and DJs here. Or to the promoters, videographers, managers and helpers. I say the majority, because I know there are some people who actually do. But these people have no power and end up spending most of their time trying to convince the people that do why they should give a shit about something they don’t understand as opposed to actually being able to get shit done.
So why should you or anyone who is not actually making music give a shit?
Because music is life, dude.
Think about a time you were sad, or angry or happy. Think about a boy, a girl, a friend, your wedding dance, your first kiss, a fight, a break-up, a fuck. Tune come to mind? Where is it from?
Now imagine it is from someone who is yours.
I thought about this some time ago, what it must feel like to be a struggling trumpeter in America and find inspiration in Miles Davis. Or some little American girl who likes to sing may find inspiration in, well, Lady Gaga probably…. But I found myself thinking how lucky those people are because they can go back to a sound and be in awe of the fact that they were standing on the same ground, in the same place - and what hope it must give them.
Music is important. It is a snapshot of time cemented in history taken by people who have been given the gift of being able to touch other people’s lives. It is art. It is culture. It is beautiful. Why would you not want to support it?
Because it’s not good enough?
I could probably name you 36 amazingly talented artists and groups who could have used some of the $1.3m to fund albums, videos, promotions and tours. But you wouldn’t know them. Why?
Because there is no support system for contemporary original content in this country.
Mandate a percentage of local music on radio. It’s suggested in the article. Just do it already. Don’t understand the importance of music as I’ve already explained? Let me give you one that you will.
In countries where radio stations are legally obligated to have a percentage of music played be from artists in their own country, it has without fail, generated an industry. It’s worked in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and other parts of Europe.
Plus musicians cannot do it on their own, they need creative teams. This is a good way to pump money into Singapore’s creative industry of film-makers, designers, artists.
And if people don’t like listening to more local music on radio?
The musicians who are shit will be forced out of delusion and actually have to get better, and the people who aren’t musicians will eventually start to recognize the ones that actually are. More importantly, musicians will be heard instead of hidden - instead of being figments of mainstream imagination appreciated only by a niche. It will give everybody - musicians, non-musicians, media - something to talk about.
There are a lot of other suggestions I have for how the industry can be supported, but I think it is better for a team of people who are living and breathing it to tell someone who can do something about it, what could be done.
Culture has to be cultivated. It does not happen overnight. It may take years. But this is really the best chance we have of changing, growing and developing.
It is important.
And I imagine a day when a child or grandchild tells their parent that they want to be a singer, or DJ or piano player, and Mum or Dad doesn’t smile and say ‘Yes, darling!’ while secretly knowing that it is hopeless in this country. Or frown and tell them to stop being stupid, thinking in the back of their minds, that this dream -