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Blog // Sounds
February 25, 2013

Social Media Week Singapore – Music

Social Media Week Singapore recently had an evening with three events focussed on music and social media, sponsored by the online music platform Deezer. The night was hosted by Broadcast HQ, which is a cleverly designed bar, bistro, music store and live venue. Where Music, Social & Tech Collide The main event was a panel […]

Social Media Week Singapore Music

Social Media Week Singapore recently had an evening with three events focussed on music and social media, sponsored by the online music platform Deezer. The night was hosted by Broadcast HQ, which is a cleverly designed bar, bistro, music store and live venue.

Where Music, Social & Tech Collide

The main event was a panel discussion, chaired by Hidzir Junaini from Juice magazine, with Sandy Monteiro, President South East Asia Universal Music, indie musician Inch Chua, Dean Chew from record label Darker Than Wax and Clement Gosse, Deezer’s Business Development Manager.

Unfortunately, the conversation never really took off, the room was too small for the crowd that turned up with the audience crammed into rows school assembly style and the speakers seated in a row. It was an oddly cold environment for a creative event.

Moreover, the panelists seldom interacted with each other and the moderator did little to get the speakers to elaborate on their comments. This was most evident at two points, when Chew and Gosse spoke back to back; the first when Chew mentioned how young electronica artists are distributing on casette and Gosse (who sadly did little but shill Deezer’s features) suggested digital was a total solution and later, when Chew spoke about the value of Bandcamp for a small label while Gosse followed up with another generalisation about Deezer’s benefits.

Not to be down on Deezer as a service, but it’s these kinds of contrasts that really need to explored if a panel is going to take us any further that what we can learn by just looking up each speaker’s website.

And, this is especially the case in Singapore where music and tech really out to collide more regularly than the currently do. An observation I’ve made (which is backed up every time I talk to experienced people in music here) is Singapore has talented musicians with good ideas, but the execution of those ideas and the online and social media backing those ideas is not always the best.

Inside The Game

“The audience is always smarter than you.”
Inch Chua

Thankfully the event did have it’s good moments. I’ve already mentioned some good points raised by Dean Chew. There was also some frank insights from Inch Chua, especially around how time consuming and unpredictable social media and online communications can be. Chua has recently run a good crowdfunded campaign for her upcoming album and many people (myself included, consider her one of the brightest of the current musical talents emerging from Singapore (a fact supported by her solo showcase later on in the night, which was the best performance I’ve seen from her and followed another great act, soul/electronica duo Octover).

But, somewhat surprisingly, the most engaging speaker of the night was Sandy Monteiro from Universal Music. In my experience, it’s rare to hear a major player in the music industry be as candid and honest, at least while they are still employed. Monteiro spoke openly about how difficult it has been for the industry to adapt to digital and the loss of control over channels of distribution. And, it was good to see a leader in this field acknowledge the human cost of the industry’s upheaval, in terms of jobs lost and people leaving music (just this week we had news the legendary Ocean Way was sold). And, I appreciated his plea for people to be as passionate about music on social media as they are about other pursuits (which makes me wonder why social music platforms never generate as much positive comment as photo and visual curation services).

What Is A Music Scene Anyway?

The one really controversial comment of the night, which attracted a fair bit of murmur in the audience and a lot of comment online came during the question time.

“Singapore does not really have a vibrant local music scene.”
Sandy Monteiro

It would have been good for the moderator to have stopped Monteiro and asked him to unpack this sentence a little, because I suspect there are two things people may have misunderstood. First, what was meant by the phrase “vibrant” and second, what a “music scene,” looks like.

I suspect Monteiro was not saying what many thought, namely Singapore has no musical talent to offer, or this place is a musical desert. Of course, there are good bands and songwriters here and live venues to support them – far more of both than in Hong Kong, for example.

But, a music scene is a lot more than just a few gigs and bands. It’s a community and culture that supports and develops every aspect of music, creating and sustaining careers (I’ve before about this, in How To Develop A Jazz Scene In Hong Kong and A Better Music Scene In Singapore?).

And calling a scene vibrant suggests to me size, diversity, sustainability and optimism. On this point I always keep coming back to Nashville as the success story of our age. There are, to my knowledge, at least four guidebooks in print aimed at helping musicians, producers, engineers and songwriters to “make it” in Nashville.

This suggests a scene vibrant enough to attract people from other parts of the US and in fact, from all over the world, to move there. A really vibrant music scene in Singapore would be evidenced not just by it’s ability to sustain a diversity of (lifelong) careers in music, but by how attractive it would be for people to be based here and want to make music here.

And, yes, that includes foreigners.

Final Thoughts

Probably the most important part of this event were the conversations during and after each session (although the conversations online were limited). I’d call it less about networking, than about encouragement and support for each other’s work, since most people in the room either knew each other or knew of each other.

Perhaps the biggest dissapointment for me was the event was on at the same time as some other parts of Social Media Week Singapore. It would have been good to have some of the high profile tech-focussed “experts” in the room to engage with and comment upon the conversations.

Still, the organisers of Social Media Week here should be thanked for putting together a solid event, with a well balanced panel, a promising music platform and two of the best local acts performing. The music industry is changing fast and it needs innovation and fresh ideas. I still believe Singapore is a place where music and tech can collide and events like this can play a part in helping that happen.

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