I'm talking here from the perspective of independent music in Malaysia. More specifically, what I perceive as problems that are afflicting the independent music practitioner.

Problem #1: radio stations play popular songs. But songs become popular when played often. So how do music directors pick songs?

Problem #2: radio stations don't do enough for the local independent music scene. There doesn't appear to be anyone who is brave enough to play local content on PRIMETIME radio. It's not enough to relegate the music to the odd hours after midnight, when most of the listeners tune in during the peak hours - morning and afternoon drive.

Problem #3: there's a HUGE amount of locally made content, but there aren't enough platforms to showcase them. Social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and MySpace are not sufficient. Traditional media - TV and radio - still forms the bulk of airplay time. In any case, social media is for fan engagement, not as a broadcast means.

Problem #4: nobody wants to buy local independent content. The radio, television and satellite stations don't seem to be interested in this. Surprisingly, not even the fans with the exception of the act's hardcore followers.

Problem #5: many are in the dark about how royalties work. This lack of awareness also hurts independent acts because there are legitimate revenue streams there. Without knowing how it works - the independent acts stand to lose out when their contracts with labels are improperly negotiated. The Malaysian Copyright Act provides for a lot of things, especially with the recent amendments. Everyone in the industry needs to know their rights.

Problem #6: artistes need more SUPPORTERS, not fans. There is a difference between the two! Supporters are those who buy the artiste's albums and merchandise. They attend gigs and events where the acts the follow plays. Fans are in it only for the freebies.

Problem #7: the industry does not have an established, well-planned and consistent touring circuit. Everything is too random. The few that exist are venues such as open-mic nights, but these hardly provide enough exposure to raise the acts' profile.

Problem #8: a 20% import duty imposed by government on music instruments. This actually extends not only to musical instruments, but also to components required to record the music. Import duties are established as a form of protectionism for producers in the local market (think Proton). But there is hardly anyone manufacturing these items within Malaysia - so what is there to protect? If the government can do away with import duties for electronic goods as a means to stimulate the industry and economy, why can't they do so for the music industry?

Problem #9: non-mainstream acts remain obscure. This is mostly the result of a combination of the previous problems. But, with the empowerment provided by today's social media platforms, bands need to have a solid social media strategy to engage their supporters and increase their fanbase. Twitter and Facebook are the most obvious choices, but bands need to start thinking like brands and adopt a good approach to maximize its effectiveness.

And the biggest problem: When the buying stops, then the playing stops too.
 


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