Home Club: This is the end, beautiful friend

Jim Morrison sings, “this is the end, beautiful friend” on the classic track ‘The End’, and these are the words that Home Club owner Roy Ng has left us with, following the announcement that after nearly 10 years, the venue will  be closing its Doors (ha).

The song pretty much encapsulates the whole situation perfectly, as the venue has been a labour of love right from the start, “our elaborate plans, the end“.

Arguably standing ground as one of the few and longest-standing venues in Singapore to bring live music to  us, the venue has played host to a number of our most memorable shows over the years, including controversial Canadian electronic musician Peaches, Bloc Party’s Kele Okereke, experimental glitch artist Baths, and all-round weirdo Mac DeMarco to name a few, and more recently, the Blue Hour Sessions in collaboration with longstanding local music programme Identite.

The announcement of the club’s closure however, doesn’t come as a total surprise, given that Home Club’s in-house programming has been relatively sparse in recent months (and some may even say “uninspired” for years). It’s hard to tell whether this stems from punters’ lack of interest in supporting live music, or the fact that it may just be easier to simply settle for the catering of external events — a catch-22 either way you look at it, really. External factors have surely not made it easy either, considering the difficulties we face in the current state of our music scene.

Home Club will now be transformed into yet another ’boutique’ dance spot, resulting in the blaring of overplayed drivel, muffled beats, and D-grade cover bands that can be heard on an evening stroll along Clarke Quay. Shame.

The sad reality is that we have almost come to expect these closures. The Pigeonhole on Duxton Road, despite persistent crowd-funding efforts, was forced to shut down in December 2012; just last July, probably the city’s only truly underground (i.e. perfectly scungy) bar and sometimes-venue, Night & Day, also closed its doors for good.

Most recently, Broadcast HQ in Little India was another piece to fall in this looming domino effect. Although short-lived, the venue showed great potential, however, they were never even given a chance to find their feet due to preposterous licensing restrictions — a massive hinderance to the progression of our music scene.

The closure of Home Club may leave many misty-eyed, but even more so, we are curious to see how things pan out without it: what does this loss mean in the grand scheme of things? Where do promoters put on shows? How about local bands, where do they perform?

Having said that, not all is lost.  With the opening of Pink Noize on North Bridge Road in March, and with recent renovations at BluJaz’s third floor, we see that there are still people dedicated to fighting it out.

RIP Home Club.

by Ale Launech

Licensing laws continue to hinder development in live music

Another live music venue has been affected by the stringent, outdated, and uncooperative laws that brought Little India’s Broadcast HQ to a close last November.

The newly renovated and recently expanded Gem Bar in Singapore’s hip Ann Siang Hill area has been forced to cease their regular evening programmes after authorities received complaints from neighbouring establishments.

The venue had only recently introduced a weekly music programme — including ‘Polished’ with Chris Ho on Wednesdays, and ‘Cuts’ with Darren Dubwise on Thursdays — but their Category 2 Public Entertainment license, which states that only the “transmission of recorded music without dancing by customers” is allowed, has led to a premature end to the events.

Licensing laws continue to hinder development in live music

But what defines the “transmission of recorded music”? George Grover best describes the flawed regulation in a statement written upon the closure of the venue, “We were very confused and confounded by the ruling that under our Category 2 license we could play a pre-recorded DJ set on a laptop, but if we wanted to employ an artist to play pre-recorded music (even using DJ technology on a laptop), this would be considered a live performance, and therefore was illegal under our license.”

A lot has changed in the music sphere in the 13 years since these laws were reviewed in 2001, and the regulations have become the single most difficult obstacle for venues simply looking to provide a positive platform for artist and punters alike to overcome. The saddest part is that each incident only serves to discourage potential venue owners from trying, while KTVs around the country continue to thrive.

By Melissa Yong

Mosaic Music Festival announces its tenth and final line-up

Mosaic Music Festival is a ten day festival in Singapore that features both local and international acts every year.

The festival has built a solid reputation in Singapore’s music landscape of always providing punters with a trustworthy line-up, regardless of how familiar you may be with certain genres. And next year’s line-up is no different.

A host of international talent including Hellogoodbye, The Big Pink, ALPINE, and The Cat Empire will join one local act (the first of many), Charlie Lim & The Mothership, as part of the festival, with more to be announced in January next year.

2014 will also mark the tenth and final year for the Mosaic Music Festival. Speaking of the end of the festival, organisers said in an informal Facebook announcement: “The scene has blossomed since we launched in 2005, and with such a wide variety of concerts and festivals out there, we can now take stock. We’re going to see what more we can do for you as music lovers and for music in Singapore.”

The festival’s aim when it started in 2004 was to provide a platform for interaction between Singaporean and international artists, and by the sounds of it, organisers feel that with the recent success of festivals like Camp Symmetry and Laneway Festival in Singapore, their efforts are no longer needed.

Despite the increasing instances of international artists killing it in Singapore, the burgeoning local scene — and the infrastructure that surrounds it — continues to struggle. The recent closure of Broadcast HQ revealed the legislative and financial challenges facing business owners trying to support a local alternative music scene.

Nevertheless, Mosaic remains a good example of efforts to support the alternative music scene in Singapore. This is only the festival’s first announcement, with just about the remaining half of the programme to be announced in January, including the remaining ticketed shows as well as a guaranteed packed schedule of free performances.

And despite this being the end of the festival as an exhaustingly exhilarating ten day affair, organisers have promised that the Mosaic name is by no means dead: “keep a look out to see who we’re bringing to Esplanade for the Mosaic series in the near future,” they assure us.

Mosaic Music Festival 2014 line-up:

Esplanade Concert Hall

11 March, 2014: John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension (UK)
13 March, 2014: The Cat Empire (AU)
14 March, 2014: The Big Pink (UK)
15 March, 2014: John Pizzarelli Quartet (USA)
16 March, 2014: Neko Case (US)

Mosaic Club (Esplanade Theatre Studio)

7 March, 2014: Hellogoodbye (US)
8 March, 2014: Caspian (US)
14 March, 2014: Young Dreams (Norway)
15 March, 2014: ALPINE (AU)
16 March, 2014: Charlie Lim & The Mothership (SG)

Mosaic Studio (Esplanade Recital Studio)

7 March, 2014: Kurt Rosenwinkel (US)
9 March, 2014: Ólafur Arnalds (Iceland)
11 & 12 March, 2014: Buika (Spain)
13 March, 2014: Omar Sosa & Paolo Fresu Duo

Mosaic Music Festival
7 – 16 March 2014
Esplanade, Theatres By the Bay

Tickets are on sale now. For more details, click here.

By Katherine Pollock

Live music venue closure prompts call for long-term solutions

Comprising four shopfronts and two levels, Singapore’s Broadcast HQ housed a restaurant, a record shop, and a bar until it was forced to close its doors permanently this week due to ongoing licensing issues.

The original concept for the venue when it opened three years ago was that it would host local and international bands and artists, and serve as a live music venue, something sorely missing from Singapore’s entertainment industry.

However, restrictions placed under their Category 2 license for Public Entertainment, which stipulates that only the “transmission of recorded music without dancing by customers” is permitted in the venue, forced them to shift their focus instead, towards DJ nights.

The venue soon earned a reputation for fostering an environment where patrons were challenged with more alternative music, but this was not to last long, as they soon learned that even DJ nights were banned under their license, deemed as ‘live performances’.

Essentially, the venue was forced to shut down operations altogether while they continued to appeal for a Category 1 license. With all of its temporary closures and re-openings, and renovations to appease the process over the years, it seems that Broadcast HQ’s whole, short existence has been at the mercy of the unreasonable and inconsistent restrictions of Singapore’s outdated licensing laws.

While perhaps, Broadcast HQ should have been more thorough in researching the details of their initial license, there are some other very interesting factors at play — in a blog post announcing their closure, the venue takes issue with a number of facets of the licensing system, even going so far as to mention how some businesses exploit the system as a means of bringing in foreign workers.

Compounding all this shadiness, the Singapore Police Force’s grounds for rejecting the application reek of bureaucratic bullshit, as Broadcast HQ explains, “Their justification was they would not consider any new Category 1 PE applications in the location due to complaints about existing Public Entertainment outlets in the area,” despite the fact that the venue shares a wall with a KTV outlet with a Category 1 license until 3am and several other similar outlets in the same area.

The statement continues, “We were very confused and confounded by the ruling that under our Category 2 license we could play a pre-recorded DJ set on a laptop, but if we wanted to employ an artist to play pre-recorded music (even using DJ technology on a laptop), this would be considered a live performance, and therefore was illegal under our license.”

The saddest part of this whole debacle is that Broadcast HQ’s closure will likely discourage others from trying to start businesses with a similar concept in Singapore. Moreover, it represents another mammoth obstacle in Singapore’s struggle to develop a local alternative music scene — one of outdated, uncooperative, and totally uninspired bureaucracy that does not look like it is going to change.

Beyond being a venue, Broadcast HQ had a number of initiatives in the mix to help local fans and musicians get involved in the scene: they held a monthly crash course in DJing so anyone could have a go on the decks. They had a dropbox where aspiring artists could submit a mix to receive feedback, and, if their style fit with the programming, schedule them in to play.

Moreover, they were about to launch their Broadcast Radio site, an internet radio station with a heavy focus on local music, which would have engaged local musicians for different shows and presentation slots, and cover a variety of alternative music with the intention of introducing Singaporeans to new music.

Broadcast HQ explains:

“If there is no support for PE Category 1 licensing outside the main entertainment hubs, there will be no strong alternative music scene. After our [application] was rejected we viewed a number of other potential locations where Category 1 licensing was assured. Due to Cat 1 licenses currently not being issued in our area, venues which had the license came with a premium of between $100,000 – $250,000 business buy over fee in addition to the monthly rental which was solely a reflection of being able to obtain the license. Trying to earn back that money promoting alternative music is not possible.

In the main entertainment districts, rental was so high it would necessitate abandoning our alternative music program, and achieving a very high alcohol sales turnover rate to pay the bills, which would essentially mean providing mass-appeal music and events programming.”

While it is incredibly sad that a business which aimed to foster local music has failed solely because of bureaucratic bullshit, this is a real opportunity for Singaporeans to push for legislative reform: the baffling inconsistencies between the different categories of Public Entertainment licenses reveal a system which is out of date. If Singapore is serious about supporting music as part of a rich cultural scene then the bureaucrats need to sort this stuff out, and punters need to support businesses which take risks to bring patrons great new music.

Click here to read Broadcast HQ’s full blog post.

By Katherine Pollock