Singapore: No country for music?

Earlier this week, Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh called on the Singapore government to do three things to strengthen the local music industry:

(i) establish a broadcast quota for Singaporean music on local radio;
(ii) develop a strong export strategy for Singaporean music; and
(iii) develop a single vision for the music industry here, championed by a single agency which will work directly with industry professionals.

She was speaking at the Ministry of Communications and Information’s Committee of Supply (COS) debate. (For those unfamiliar with Singapore’s legislative process, COS is basically Parliament’s annual debate on each ministry’s proposed budget for the following financial year).

Naturally, her speech has been well-received by music practitioners here. The call for a broadcast quota is not new, but it is a sensible and feasible way of addressing the seemingly intractable problem of unreceptive local audiences.

The issue of an ‘export strategy’, however, is more debatable. Koh drew comparisons with South Korea’s government support for K-pop, and the UK government’s support for its creative industries. There’s no question that the interventions in those countries made a decisive difference. But they probably did because the products were highly exportable to begin with — K-pop is an assembly-line of identikit acts, primed for mass consumption; and UK music has a global brand name dating back to The Beatles. Singaporean music, however, is a hodgepodge of styles and identities, done mostly on the side by people who have day jobs.

Nick Chan (of MUON and Heizenberg) summed it up brilliantly when he once said in an interview that “this ‘music industry’ of ours isn’t an industry at all. It’s a scene, and that’s it”.

“It’s a vicious circle, because musicians will never level up without professional management and business opportunities.”

Of course, we can’t blame Koh for using the word “export”, or taking a business-centric perspective for the arts. She was after all standing in Parliament, speaking to the lawmakers of a country whose fortunes have been built on exports; the administrators of a country with the highest trade-to-GDP ratio in the world. She can’t tell a government assailed by demographic challenges and growing income disparity that more money needs to be spent on hobbyists — it just wouldn’t fly.

But ‘hobbyists’ is exactly what the scene here is comprised of, harsh as the assessment may be. The high cost of living in Singapore, and the lack of legitimation for music writing/production/performance as a profession, means that most musicians have day jobs in other fields. This in turn means that they don’t have the time to hone their craft to an international standard, whether as individuals or with bands. And ironically, their daytime income removes the drive for them to do so.

Even if they do hit that international benchmark — as some acts here have done — these musicians are unlikely to sustain it for the long haul. And those few who take the plunge and play music full time? Chances are, you’ll find them in a nightspot playing covers, because ‘that’s where the money is’.

This is why an industry hasn’t organically arisen to support original Singaporean music. It makes no commercial sense to invest in artists who can’t commit 24/7, and are likely to quit once the pressures of schooling, employment and/or raising a family take their toll. But it’s a vicious circle, because musicians will never level up without professional management and business opportunities.

“Is it inherently impossible for tiny Singapore to have a strong music industry, especially for music in English?”

Granted, many would recoil at the idea of their craft being reduced to dollars and cents, but the truth is that every international act that makes it to our shores for a gig, however ‘DIY’ their image, is being supported by a corporate machinery far more elaborate and well-oiled than anything available to local artists. This machinery encompasses recording, production, contracts, licensing, publishing, publicity, design, distribution, artist management, tour management, venue management, intellectual property management and more. This is the ‘industry’.

The industry can’t be built overnight, but this is where Koh’s third suggestion — a single agency working directly with stakeholders — comes in; the key is cooperation between both sides of the house.

Singaporean music won’t go far with the usual state-sponsored cultural exchanges (such as our agreement with France), or Singapore Day showcases overseas, or grants for bands to perform at South By Southwest (SXSW) and other festivals — these are isolated measures that look pretty on a CV and sound good in a speech, but have no lasting impact. The long-term goal should be to establish distribution channels.

Distribution is the reason why Singaporeans even know about obscure international acts, and distribution will be the reason why international audiences will know about Singaporean music. But distribution is something that needs to be led by the private sector, not the public. This is why cooperation is so important.

“Musicians, producers and promoters need to get organised and mobilised, draw up a roadmap detailing what they can do, and identify the tipping points where targeted government intervention is needed.”

So where do we go from here? Musicians, producers and promoters need to get organised and mobilised, draw up a roadmap detailing what they can do, and identify the tipping points where targeted government intervention is needed. A vision needs to be proposed — a comprehensive one that speaks not only of our homegrown talent, but also addresses Singapore’s burgeoning reputation as a destination for international acts. This can be ammunition for Koh to take Parliament, and guarantee that what she says achieves more than a few hundred Facebook ‘likes’ and ‘shares’, and a “thank you” from the Minister in charge.

At this juncture, one could reasonably ask the question: if the problem with local music is that the musicianship isn’t ‘good enough’, the production isn’t ‘good enough’, and the distribution non-existent, why bother? Are we barking up the wrong tree? Is it inherently impossible for tiny Singapore to have a strong music industry, especially for music in English?

To answer this, we need look no further than places like Ireland and Scotland, which have smaller populations than Singapore’s, but also strong distribution channels to the UK and beyond. Or Sweden, which is slightly bigger, and Iceland, which is much smaller.

We don’t even have to look beyond our own shores. In 1964, The Quests’ ‘Shanty‘ knocked The Beatles’ ‘I Should Have Known Better’ off the top spot in Singapore’s charts, and the band had a successful tour in the region. This was, of course, before a series of government policies effectively neutered the local music industry (and yes, there was an industry back then).

Fifty years on, in 2014, there is no less talent or interest among our musicians. There are only fewer big opportunities, and less validation. So let’s do something about this. Because the last thing any of us want is to have a foreign friend ask us why a Singaporean band they like gave up, and for us to reply, “Because they were born in the wrong country”.

By Don Shiau

Click here to read NMP Janice Koh’s full speech titled ‘Developing a Strong Singapore Music Industry’.

Priya Dewan worked really hard and so should you

Other Sounds recently caught up with the thoroughly self-aware Priya Dewan, brainchild of Feedback Asia and the woman who took Warp Records “from relative obscurity in the United States to a position as one of the leading indie tastemakers,” who laughed when she told us how she made the “weirdest” jump from receptionist to label manager.

Now, after acquiring ten years of experience in the music industry in London, Boston, and New York, Dewan has finally embarked on her own in Singapore, where she had spent her years growing up listening to “straight up pop”. Representing one of her favourite artists, Manu Chao, along with dozens of other artists in Asia, Dewan shares how she built her career and dishes advice to our local talent.

So, tell us — how did you do it?
I literally just came here and started talking to people, then they put me in touch with other people, who put me in touch with other people. It’s just like building a network from scratch.

Could you maybe simplify your relationship with music for us?
Growing up here [in Singapore], everything was basically pop music, straight up pop. It was before the internet had really taken off, before we had exposure to anything else. There were three radio stations and I wasn’t really that interested in music at all. I went to college wanting to study Theatre.

I did Theatre my whole life. I played trumpet and I played trombone — I definitely did a lot of musical things but I never thought of music as an industry until I went to Boston and my friend had me join the local radio station, WTBU. Boston is such a great place to discover music because it’s got such a rich indie music history and a scene. And it’s small. It’s not like New York. New York would have been so overwhelming. Boston is a really good way to get introduced to indie music.

“My thing is to get more people to take a more pro-active approach to Asia, instead of think of it as an afterthought.”

Because it’s small?
Yeah, I got there and I was like: There are genres of music? And there are sub-genres of music?

How old were you at this point?
Seventeen. I had a really late start in the music industry. Most people know at the age of five that they want to work in music. They remember their very first concert. I think mine was Sting — I don’t even remember. Then my friend and I started following local bands and got really into it. She was German-Colombian, but knew all this underground stuff. She really introduced me to a lot of stuff and I thought wow, this is really cool.

What got you more involved?
I started this event, which I believe still goes on and is huge now, called WTBU Days — live music events. We started bringing in local artists and interviewing them at the station and from there I thought, this is amazing. I love this. I think part of it was that I was so naïve and all of it was so fresh.

You meet a lot of people in the industry and they’ve heard it all. They’ve been listening to music since they were little kids. So that was something advantageous to me. Everything was a fresh sound to me. And I’m still learning about older stuff. But I know what I like and I’m not ashamed of what I like, even if it is pop or cheesy. There’s nothing wrong with that. And that’s what I love about music — there is no right or wrong to it. It’s so personal but can be also so communal.

When people start working in the music industry, it’s usually super hands-on, interning here and there.
Oh yeah absolutely. Stuffing envelopes. Stuffing envelopes for a good year.

Did you go through that?
Oh, a lot. I definitely put my time in. You meet people now [who tell you] I want to do what you’re doing. First, do all of this. If you want to do it the way I’m doing it, then do it the way I did it. These are attractive industries to work in, right? Art is the same way, fashion. I feel like that’s kind of the initiation process that weeds out the people who are serious about it.

“I tell people here who have been doing this the last ten years: thank you. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would’ve been.”

You’ve got two kinds of interns: one who is listening and paying attention while stuffing envelopes and realises that just the fact that they’re in that environment is this huge learning experience and will jump in and offer to help out more, when they see a need or an opening — that’s how you build.

In Warp, I started as an office manager, literally the receptionist. It was a combination of right-time-right-place and seeing every little thing as an opportunity and building on it.

That will give the rest of us hope! What happened?
When Simon [Halliday, who now runs all of 4AD] decided to leave — again, it was a great-timing situation. Steven [Beckett, co-founder of Warp] didn’t want to be label manager, he wanted to be a creative, and when they asked me, I said ‘Yes, really?’ I made one of the weirdest jumps from receptionist to label manager.

Now that you’ve been living in Singapore, what are your impressions?
I moved here in January of last year. It’s still home for me. My parents never left so I would come home here every year. My sister is in Hong Kong and my dad spends half of his time in India, so whenever I would come back I’d spend three days in Singapore, three days in Hong Kong, and three days in India, so I never really had time to see how the music scene was going. And also, I’d be on holiday which means just going out and eating my favourite food.

What exactly prompted the permanent move then?
One year, [while still working at Warped] I felt like I needed to do something else. Basically, I felt like I was just doing and not building anything. I’m that kind of person when there’s a plateau and I start getting stir-crazy. Ultimately, I just wanted to start something on my own. My dad is an entrepreneur and he has been encouraging me since I graduated. And then finally, I was ready.

“It’s got its difficulties, but the potential and the excitement far outweigh the frustration. It’s so exciting to be part of something growing so rapidly.”

It has been so great to have that support. I timed my trip back to Singapore during the first Laneway Festival. More and more artists started coming here and I would hook them up with my mom and she would take them out. She was like a little artist liason, personal artist liaison. I saw stuff happening in the periphery.

I came for Laneway festival when !!! [Chkchkchk] was playing and also Beach House, who I represent now for Asia, and a bunch of artists I knew directly — I felt that there was something happening here. This could be it, the idea I was looking for. And it was. From there I went back to New York, told Warped I was leaving, and I told them what I was doing.

You’re on your own. How has that been?
It’s great. It’s got its difficulties, but the potential and the excitement far outweigh the frustration. It’s so exciting to be part of something growing so rapidly. I tell people here who have been doing this the last ten years: thank you. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would’ve been.

If I had come a couple of years later, I would have missed the boat. Already a lot has popped up since I moved here, which is great — that’s kind of the idea. My thing is to get more people to take a more pro-active approach to Asia, instead of think of it as an afterthought.

And what should we be looking forward to in the future?
A general building of communities, and it’s happening already. I’m just excited to be a part of it. SGMUSO invited me to be on their advisory panel. I love that whole thing of “let’s get together and build something together”. And even if we’re technically competitors, there’s enough to go around and we all benefit from shared ideas.

“I felt that there was something happening here. This could be it, the idea I was looking for. And it was.”

One of the limitations in Asia, is that it’s been quite fractured. You lose a lot of opportunities. It’s happening more and more that people are working closely and we’re going to be stronger as an Asian music community, than as a Singapore music community or a Hong Kong music community or a Philippines music community. I think that’s something to look forward to, and also getting the world to take notice of what’s happening here.

You are in touch with a lot of international acts, what kinds of conversations have you had with local bands?
In a lot of conversations I have with local artists, they seem to think that it’s especially hard being here because they don’t have support. But in reality, it’s hard to be an independent artist anywhere in the world, you know? By the time we see them here, they’ve struggled through that with three jobs and getting in the back of a van with no money, five times before they get to the point where they’re profitable, if they ever get there. Sometimes it’s a bit of a reality check. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. So how badly do you want it?

And your advice to local musicians?
Work really hard. Be really good. That’s it. Be proactive. You can’t sit around and wait for somebody to come and find you. Especially, yes — especially when you’re in Singapore. That should give you more reason to be proactive.

By Cat Cortes

Open invitation to SGMUSO’s House Party

The Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) are set to hold an open house event — a ‘House Party’ — this October at the Aliwal Arts Centre, hoping to provide an opportunity for anyone looking for a closer insight into the local music scene and the people behind it a chance to experience it first-hand.

The open house event is a follow-up to the the inaugural Music Matters Academy, which ran as a three-day project for Singaporean artists at the annual music conference, Music Matters, where song-writing sessions and management masterclasses were held, alongside discussions about key issues that arise in the Asian and particularly, Singaporean music landscapes.

Featuring over twenty local acts from the Music Matters Academy initiative including The Sam Willows, Charlie Lim, Kevin Lester, Nick Chim, Sezairi, Grizzle Grind Crew, the House Party will also include keynote panel discussions on topics such as ‘Digital Distribution’ and ‘Honing One’s Artistic Vision’, led by special guests from Spotify, Youtube, as well as Vanessa Fernandez, Kevin Lester and more.

Two local documentaries, ‘Ignore All Detour Signs‘ and ‘Here We Are‘ will also be exclusively screened.


House Party is free and open to the public. More details can be found at the SGMUSO Facebook page.

House Party: An SGMUSO Open House
Aliwal Arts Centre
5 October 2013

By Izzan Haziq

Sillywhite, Soundcheck, and the secret to success

In conjunction with the Steve Lillywhite Production Week, the Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) introduced a new industry event called SOUNDCHECK to round up the week of activities in the studio.

The event, which the organization hopes will become a regular platform for Singapore-made music and a place to facilitate the organization’s advocacy for local music, included a one-hour long interview with Lillywhite, and a special presentation of the reworked version of The Sam Willows’ single, ‘Glasshouse’.

Since its launch at Music Matters 2012, SGMUSO’s followers were keen to see some action behind the extensive discussion that has taken place over its ten months in operation, and Production Week and SOUNDCHECK were a promising start to the organization’s first initiatives.


Local music enthusiasts sat amongst musicians, industry members, and an international legend at the Chamber at The Arts House, as Lillywhite talked us through his successful career, and the secrets to his success.

“Art will always endure, and commerce will inevitably follow”, he told us, which hopefully, will reflect the activities of the week past, with the Steve Lillywhite Production Week being a prime example of an investment in creativity.

He goes on to explain though, that initiatives like this one can never be the definitive answer to a thriving and creative music industry — but one that could very well be the catalyst to it all happening. This again, rings particularly true to Singapore, with major events like Music Matters and Laneway Festival expanding or moving to Singapore in recent years, providing Singaporeans more opportunities to engage and experience music in all forms and on all levels.

“Steve taught us that regardless of standard, or the level of of experience you’ve had, you have to be the best at that level, and always excited and willing to learn.”

Increasingly, attention is being cast on the fast-growing Asian market, and companies are beginning to see potential in investing in its development. Lillywhite elaborates, “America’s hold on the world is not what it was and I’m seeing Asia as an emerging market. Certainly, with China loosening its grip and individual freedoms being expressed, it’s a good time for me to share my forty years’ experience.” And so he tells us, the whole world is waiting for Asia to produce our very own Mumford & Sons.

Lillywhite also highlights the importance of mistakes as being crucial to learning, as they too, will eventually lead to success. Touching on importance of dedication and pushing the limits of an individual’s creativity — citing Bono as one of the most dedicated musicians he has worked with — the overarching message was that “There is no ‘winning’, there is only ‘not losing’.”


For local musicians, finding a place for self-expression is a struggle both musically, and physically. So Lillywhite’s emphasis on being courageous with new ideas comes at a perfect time for young and fresh new bands like The Sam Willows who are at the cusp of breaking overseas.

Sandra Tang , vocalist of The Sam Willows, told us, “Steve taught us that regardless of standard, or the level of of experience you’ve had, you have to be the best at that level, and always excited and willing to learn.” Lillywhite reiterates, “Music is ever-changing and ideas, never-ending.”

SOUNDCHECK has proven itself to be a promising new start to a real and vested, formal collaboration within the Singapore music community, forging new relationships — most notably with government agencies, who are often seen as reluctant in cooperating with indepedent, creative ventures — and a providing a definitive voice that gives our music scene the credibility it deserves.

“There is no ‘winning’, there is only ‘not losing’.”

From what Other Sounds understands, representatives from e2i, NTUC, WDA, MDA, NAC, and STB were present at the event. Mr. Patrick Tay of the National Trades Union Congress, said, “It is heartening that Singapore has a platform, SOUNDCHECK, created especially for local music industry professionals to showcase their talented pieces, be updated, as well as learn from each other and tastemakers from around the world. The Labour Movement fully supports efforts that allow our local talents to deepen their professionalism.”

It would have been nice to perhaps see a wider variety of issues addressed in a more formal but open format; but this is the first of many events, and one at which we were also given the privilege of interacting with Steve Lillywhite. Who knows what the next installment will entail, or when it will be, but we are rest assured that with the potential power that the Singapore Music Society holds, they have taken on the responsibility with the utmost sincerity and passion.

By Shawn Ng and Melissa Yong

The Sam Willows production diary with Steve Lillywhite

The Sam Willows were one of four bands chosen to participate at SGMUSO’s Steve Lillywhite Production Week this week, and the legendary producer has handpicked the band to further collaborate with for the rest of the week.

It has been a whirlwind year for The Sam Willows so far, having just returned from a 17-day North American tour with official showcases at SXSW and Canadian Music Week. Now the band will enter the studio to record a song with Lillywhite before playing a showcase at SOUNDCHECK to wrap up the week’s activities.

The band will be live blogging their experience with the producer here, so check back for updates every day to see what the band are up to!

DAY 1: Monday, 1 April 2013

[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]
DAY 2: Tuesday, 2 April 2013

1:45pm, Sandra
Steve has picked ‘Glasshouse’ so we’re going to do a different take on it. We’re really excited to be here. He encourages us to throw around ideas, digging around our brains for different ideas. We’re tracking the acoustic guitars at the moment so it’ll be really exciting to see how this builds and how it turns out.

6:40pm, Narelle
Today was great, we learned a lot from Steve. Basically what we did was track the acoustic guitar, electric guitar and bass. He taught us a lot about the importance of having hooks in a song to capture people’s attention. We really changed ‘Glasshouse’ up by adding some very nice melodic lines to it but also keeping it simple at the same time. We also layered quite a few different acoustic guitar tracks in with different tunings to create a really big sound.

Another we learned is that when double tracking, it has to be a little different so that it creates kind of a bigger sound, which was very interesting and helped shaped our sound a lot. We’re excited to see what comes out of that!

Day 3: Wednesday, 3 April

11:45am, Ben
It’s been a surreal experience working with Steve, I think for myself I’m trying to maximise my time with him because I’m also juggling this with another production of mine. I might only have four to five hours with him at the start of the day.

Steve is extremely attentive in the studio, he listens to every single idea you give him and entertains everything — he doesn’t shoot anything down… well, yet! He’ll give it time to fester and if he feels it’s really right for the part, we’ll put it in or he’ll give it his own personal twist. He will even listen to the smallest things that pop up here and there and see if we can make any use of it. What we’ve done so far today is just come in with a lot of ideas and we’re having a fun time mashing it all together.

Day 2 & 3 video
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]

Day 4: Thursday, 4 April

12:35pm, Narelle
We’re almost done with the recording! We just finished percussion and little bit of drums and it’s all really starting to come together. There are a lot of exciting little parts of the song that are making it really so freaking energetic, it’s ridiculous — I can’t wait to hear it.

6:20pm, Jon
Today I re-tracked some guitar parts for 2nd guitar — electric guitar — which was really cool. For a lot of it, because I’ve done the song so many times, the parts were actually already ingrained in my fingers and in my memory — Steve pushed me to do something that I never thought I could do though, and it makes the sounds so much more beautiful.

The whole process is Steve trying to dig up something that’s already in the back of my brain that I wouldn’t usually think of right on the spot, in terms of guitar parts, tone, phrasing. He just brought out the best in the track, it’s amazing. Plus the vocals — the way he produces vocals is something we’ve never had before. There’s just always so much energy.

Day 4 video
[youtube width=”457″ height=”343″][/youtube]

Day 5: Friday, 5 April — The Reveal

Full report here.

Four bands to collaborate with legendary producer at Steve Lillywhite Production Week

The Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) has just announced the four bands who will join five-time Grammy award-winning producer Steve Lillywhite in the studios next week for the Steve Lillywhite Production Week, an idea conceived by president of SGMUSO, Graham Perkins.

The four personally selected bands are folk rockers Monster Cat, pop group The Sam Willows, experimental band sub:shaman and newcomers Atlas; all of whom are relatively new but familiar names in the local music scene.

The bands will spend one day recording with Lillywhite before one of them is chosen to collaborate with and be mentored by the producer for the rest of the week. The three remaining bands will return to the studios with three additional producers who will also be mentored by Lillywhite, Roland LimDon Richmond and Jason Tan.

The Steve Lillywhite Production Week will conclude with SOUNDCHECK, another new initiative held by SGMUSO where Lillywhite’s selected band will perform.

Monster Cat
These five cats have quickly made a name for themselves shortly after their formation in 2010, playing several gigs in Singapore, touring Japan and the US, and performing at the Reeperbahn Festival in Berlin in 2012. Their debut release Mannequins is available on their website as a free download.

The Sam Willows
Formed in May 2012, The Sam Willows are one of the newest bands on the list. The soul-folk group have since released a self-titled EP and are supported by major record label Warner Music Singapore. The band has also appeared on national television with a performance at ‘Celebrate 2013’, Mediacorp Channel 5’s New Year’s Eve countdown event, and recently performed at a showcase at renowned music festival SXSW in Austin, Texas.

sub:shaman may have only made themselves known in the past few months but they are not newcomers to the Singapore underground music scene. The band includes members of established local band Pleasantry; and singer-songwriter Weish, who has performed solo as well as with MUON.

Formed in January 2011, indie-experimental band Atlas has just recently performed at the Mosaic Music Festival.

By Cindy Tan

Regular industry event SOUNDCHECK to bring music community together

The Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) has just announced a new initiative called SOUNDCHECK, a regular event that aims to keep industry professionals and our music community up to date with the latest developments, and provide a space to share their views and stories.

Special guest Steve Lillywhite will be present at the event’s launch on 5 April to share his views on how the music industry is evolving, the necessary elements of a successful music eco-system, and provide an update on his experiences in Singapore working with local producers and bands during the Steve Lillywhite Production Week at Yellowbox Studios.

One specially selected band from the Steve Lillywhite Production Week, handpicked to record with the legendary producer himself, will also be showcased at the event.

Soundcheck will be held “at least 2-3 times a year” with the hopes that it will foster a better understanding and appreciation for local music and present an opportunity for industry professionals from TV, concert promoters, venues, labels and other music companies — and punters alike — to keep abreast of what is happening in the music community.

This is the second initiative that SGMUSO has rolled out since being awarded a $50,000 grant from the NAC last October, however, neither Soundcheck nor the Steve Lillywhite Production Week will be funded by the grant. Instead, the events will be supported by e2i, the Singapore Workforce Development Agency, and Yellowbox Studios in the form of fee subsidies offered exclusively to members of the Singapore Music Society.

The organization is still in its first year of operation and members of the music community remain optimistic about its future plans. Jeremy Lee, music curator at The Diarists, says, “It’s too soon to tell what impact the programs will have on the music community but I am cautiously optimistic that SGMUSO will be here for a while and not fade away like so many other initiatives once the initial enthusiasm runs out.”

By Izzan Haziq and Melissa Yong

5th April 2013
The Arts House, Old Parliament House
$20*, $100


6:30pm  Registration
7:00pm  Introduction
7:05pm  Singapore-made music update
7:20pm  Performance
7:30pm  Steve Lillywhite interview and Q&A
8:30pm  Listening party and networking
9:30pm  End

*SGMUSO members’ rate (for Singaporeans/Permanent Residents only) (subsidy supported by e2i, SGMUSO, WDA and Yellowbox Studios)

By Izzan Haziq

Singapore Music Society introduces the Steve Lillywhite Production Week

The Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) has just announced the Steve Lillywhite Production Week, the organization’s first initiative since being awarded a $50,000 grant from the NAC last October that gives four local bands the unique opportunity to work with the acclaimed producer in an aim to develop our production standards.

The project, funded with help from e21, Workforce Development Agency, and Yellowbox Studios, will see the acclaimed producer and Grammy Award winner Steve Lillywhite mentoring four personally selected bands to work with for one week.

The bands will spend one day recording live with Lillywhite whilst gaining invaluable insight and critiques from the Englishman, from which time the producer will choose one band to collaborate and record with for the remainder of the week.

Alongside the musicians, three local producers will also be mentored by Lilliwhite, and then matched with the remaining three shortlisted bands to return to the studios and record a track each.

More opportunities for all four bands will be announced during production week, which will lead to a public showcase to be held on 5 April and a series of video diaries to be released for the public.

For entry details, please click here.

By Eleanor Turnbull

SGMUSO and SAE Institute offer full music business diploma scholarship

Two key players in the Singapore music industry, SGMUSO and SAE Institute, have joined forces to offer one full scholarship to SAE’s brand new Music Business Diploma.

The partnership was formed to help nurture the future of Singapore’s music and business community with the hopes to encourage and facilitate the country’s fast-growing interest in music.

SAE’s Diploma in Music Business is the first of its kind in Singapore, a 12-month, full time course that will commence on 25 March 2013. Its curriculum is aimed at providing a broad base knowledge of music industry skills, which focuses on the operational, managerial, commercial, financial, legal, copyright, publishing, marketing, promotional and distribution sides of the music entertainment and recording industry.

Sign up for the diploma and qualify for the scholarship by submitting the following three requirements to

Enrolment Requirements:

1. CV / Resume
2. Personal Portfolio**
3. Cover Letter ***

** The personal portfolio of the applicant can consist of anything music business related that they may have done thus far such as: photos taken of bands, written music reviews on local songs or albums, promotional materials generated to create awareness for events and performances, etc…

*** The cover letter of the applicant should describe and state the reasons why they feel the scholarship for the Music Business Diploma course at SAE Institute should be awarded to them.

Applications open on 5 January 2013. Please submit all requirements to or via post mail to:

SAE Institute
The Riverwalk Galleria
20 Upper Circular Road
Singapore 058416.

All submissions must reach SAE before 18 February 2013.

Only the scholarship recipient will be contacted via email or phone on the date of 25th February 2013.

Please note that only SGMUSO full members are eligible to apply but you can register now to become a member.

Click here for more details.

SGMUSO responds to rejected quota: Deems article an “incorrect reflection” of industry efforts

The Media Development Authority’s (MDA) recent rejection of a local music quota for broadcast radio has stirred mixed reactions from members of the music industry since it was announced last Thursday.

If enforced, mandated quotas to play a certain percentage of Singapore-made music per hour on broadcast radio would have been imposed by the MDA. The proposed quota was rejected on the basis that, as explained by Communications and Information Minister Dr Yaakob Ibrahim, the industry “lacks a sufficiently strong library of broadcast quality local music”.

Several industry players argue that there is, in fact, enough quality Singaporean music to justify enforcing a quota, while others, whom the MDA consulted, stood by the decision not to enforce it at this time.

President of the Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO), Graham Perkins, has responded to an article published by Channel News Asia addressing the rejection of the quota with an open letter to Dr Ibrahim, outlining the article’s “incorrect reflection” of the combined efforts of the industry behind the scenes:

Dear Dr Ibrahim,

May I first say how pleased I am to see the beginnings of greater support for the airing of Singapore music on radio. Furthermore, it is good to see an increase of government schemes to help support the development of the Singapore music scene into a music industry. However, the article published by Channel News Asia on Thursday 15th November 2012 (“No quota for local music on radio”) was in general, an incorrect reflection of the bold efforts and immense nature of collaborative spirit that is going on behind the scenes. I would like to refer to the two main points of the article.

“There is not a strong library of broadcast-quality local music at this time”
From the 1980s to 1990s, there were fewer local artists but we still saw Singapore No. 1 hits on radio and, in some cases, by unknown artists. Independent Singapore artists since the 2000s have been consciously ensuring projects are professionally mastered, many being done overseas to ensure broadcast quality. The mastering engineers will ensure the final products will be ready to compete on radio. This is the case even for a large number of artists who are making music without notions of radio airplay or commercial success.

Quality is a deeply subjective. We must move on from subjectivity, as any future initiatives should be about development to make the change towards greater advocacy and increased access. It is clear that we have, as an industry, come a long way and continue making improvements in overall quality standards, production and showmanship. It is also important that local perception of Singapore music is corrected.

“The industry has advised against imposing such a quota at this stage”
Many people in the music industry have been talking about the lack of Singapore music on the radio, the reasons why and whether a quota was necessary. Nations such as Canada, Malaysia and New Zealand, impose local-music quotas on radio stations to ensure support and a deeper belonging towards local-music. Both the Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS) and the Recording Industry Association, Singapore (RIAS) recently presented a proposal to MDA, who engaged the Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) and Mediacorp Radio to have discussions on how we can improve Singapore music airplay on radio. It was Mediacorp Radio that requested that we do not push for a quota at this stage but to instead take smaller steps towards more local content on radio (being the commitment of one song per hour for English radio). Something we all agreed with and would monitor very closely. MDA suggested that all parties come together to work through a plan of action regarding radio airplay. Compass, Mediacorp, MDA, NAC, RIAS and SGMUSO came together in three meetings (to date) to talk about the radio issue.

Our view at these meetings, was that radio stations each have their own music policy & directions which is connected to the bottom-line. It would be ideal if radio was not forced into playing particular music but to see the economic and cultural potential along with the key role they would play in the development of a Singapore music industry. This would be by offering a wider, more interesting repertoire to include Singapore music in their playlists. It was also made clear, that this should be an organic process and that several initiatives such as advocacy, creation, production, marketing and distribution, have to be put in place first before quotas can be introduced.

Collectively, the group saw a lack of advocacy as a central problem so discussed the development of an encompassing advocacy initiative, to develop a long-term plan to create deeper interest for great Singapore music. We proposed that there be more live platforms, better awareness, expansion of recorded repertoire, and build towards greater digital and radio access.

The group then put together (led by SGMUSO) a set of initiative action points:

– To have stronger music advocates on local media platforms
– Create more interest in Singapore music and the music industry at Schools and Institutes of Higher Learning
– Create regular listening parties to create more awareness of Singapore music for media,promoters and venues
– Leverage from government schemes to support the increase of radio-ready repertoire
– Deliver bootcamps to increase the level of artistry, business and production

At a separate meeting with the MDA Chairman, Mr Chiang Meng Niam, with key players in the music scene, again the issue of radio quota was discussed. The consensus was again, that a mandated quota would be part of a long term commitment that is ultimately beneficial to the growth of the Singapore music industry. A suggestion made was that the quota could be applied progressively (eg. 5% to 10% to 15%, etc) so that there would be channels for the radio-ready repertoire to be played.

The Future for Singapore Music
We at SGMUSO, with the support of other music organisations and government, will soon be presenting details of activities to drive greater advocacy of Singapore music. Quota (whether chosen or mandated) should therefore become an integral part of a holistic approach towards increasing quantity and quality of recorded output. However, we will fail if we do not come together at all levels for the greater good – music. Any form of industry growth can only happen through a complete mindset shift and attitudinal change, whilst enhancing the ecosystem and infrastructure towards developing and promoting the craft for a vibrant Singapore music industry. A mindset and attitudinal change that embraces collaboration at all levels, transcends cultures, language boundaries and music genres, supports the environment needed to create, an understanding of the creative nature of artists, and last but most importantly not least, a respect for one another who are on this amazing path.

Graham Perkins, President SGMUSO
(On behalf of the SGMUSO Executive Committee)”