Music Business — January 10, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Like The Beatles Said, Come Together: Singapore’s Radio Quota Saga & How We Can Help

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It is unlikely that music industry professionals and enthusiasts in Singapore have resigned to the news from the Ministry of Communication & Information (MCI) that a quota for local music will not yet be imposed on Singaporean radio stations. What appears to be the rejection of Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) Janice Koh’s request was met with dismay, most likely at Minister of Communication & Information (MCI) Yaacob Ibrahim’s note that “feedback from the industry has been that it lacks a sufficiently strong library of broadcast quality local music at this time.”

Judging by the immediate reactions across social media platforms, that line stung. But do not feel offended – by ‘broadcast quality’, Dr Yaacob means mastering quality that is deemed listenable against technical radio standards. It does not refer to the quality of a melody, nor a songwriter’s talent. The thing is, as Singapore Music Society’s (SGMUSO) President Graham Perkins put it in his written response to MCI, “Singapore artists since the 2000s have been consciously ensuring projects are professionally mastered, many being done overseas to ensure broadcast quality.”

SGMUSO is a non-profit entity here in Singapore set up in 2012 that supports artistry, business and production by developing skills, advocacy and opportunities. It follows the footsteps of national music associations across the world which backs the presence of their artists at many international events and fosters growth of their local industries with the long term support and co-operation of their governments. The organization, with an executive committee of 15 notable industry professionals, has grown since its inception with a current membership of at least 450 individuals and 1190 supporters on their Facebook page. SGMUSO has been supported by the Employment and Employability Institute (e2i) at Music Matters 2012 and the National Arts Council with a Seed Grant.

Perkins, a self proclaimed music enthusiast and once a professional musician himself, agrees that much of the industry referred to by Dr Yaacob favourably partook in a series of meetings that put forth the current 1 song per hour commitment (which is stated as a statistic in MCI’s response), which, even if not a mandated quota, is still a noticeable and very much appreciated catalyst to the objective in the first place – to help develop an audience base for homegrown music.

The Media Development Authority (MDA), a statutory board under MCI that promotes and regulates the media sector so as to contribute towards economic growth and help foster a cohesive and inclusive society; Composers and Authors Society of Singapore (COMPASS), the organization that helps songwriters and music publishers administer the rights to their musical works; Recording Industry Association, Singapore (RIAS), the association for the promotion and protection of the rights of its members and through ensuring the existence of a business and legal environment in Singapore; National Arts Council (NAC), another statutory board with a mission to nurture the arts and make it an integral part of the lives of the people of Singapore; and Mediacorp, Singapore’s largest media company which runs the vast majority of Singapore’s commercial radio stations engaged in meetings together with SGMUSO where, among several issues discussed, Mediacorp proposed their English radio stations play 1 song by a local artist per hour. The first of these meetings took place in July 2012. NMP Janice Koh’s question was posed in March. MCI’s response came in November.

During these meetings it was also agreed that this assimilation of local music into commercial radio should be an organic process, where “several initiatives such as advocacy, creation, production, marketing and distribution, have to be put in place before quotas can be introduced.”

Thus, SGMUSO has led the collective in putting together a set of initiatives, most notably regular listening parties which the animated Perkins explains in detail during a recent interview. These listening parties will be conducted quarterly, likely to begin this February, and SGMUSO will curate content in the form of recorded and live music that will be showcased to media, promoters and venues ie. the people who need to hear it. He lets on that a special guest will be invited to each of these events to inject more perspective for both the ‘listeners’ and artists.

Another initiative (of many more) for 2013 will create more interest in Singapore music and the music industry at tertiary schools. These events would evolve from the format of School Invasion, a well-received program that exposes artists to teens and young adults through touring secondary and tertiary schools across Singapore. School Invasion has helped launch the careers of current household names such as Shigga Shay and Inch Chua, and the plan now is to execute something on a bigger scale for better awareness, vibrancy and dare we say, massive all round fun.

The Singapore music scene has continued to blossom in 2012, and surely Singapore would like to see, or rather hear more of its own music on the radio waves. While we gratefully applaud the initiative taken to introduce more local music on radio (and we know its good music!), we sincerely hope the symbiotic co-operation of various arts, music and media bodies continues and deepens in 2013 in order to progress. And to the public, while Perkins’ oft used line sums up our subconscious collective vision nicely – that Singapore should “come together at all levels for the greater good: music” – remember that actions speak louder than words. If Timbre Co-founder/ veteran musician and SGMUSO Vice-President Danny Loong’s simple idea is anything to go by, if we all called up our preferred radio station to request for our favourite local artist’s song, we may never need a radio quota anyway.