Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Perkins' advice to local artists: The World Is Your "Chilli Crab"

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges that Singaporean artists face are themselves. The country's small footprint in the global music industry, may have indirectly left an indelilble mark on the mindsets of local artists, and Graham Perkins, President of the newly set up Singapore Music Society, advises that they should try to avoid falling into the "trap of thinking small and feeling insignificant".

Graham Perkins at Digital Matters Conference

Q: What are the biggest challenges that local artists face today?

GP: I think that there are three major challenges for artists in Singapore. Firstly, to succeed in Singapore alone, is not enough. The world is the Oyster (or to put into context, the Chilli Crab) for local artists. It has often been said at many international music conferences (Music Matters included) that the next big thing can come from anywhere in the world. However, its important to get it right at home before an artist explores overseas opportunities. Singapore provides a great sandbox, to hone skills in artistry and performance to better prepare for exposure overseas. As Malcolm Gladwell says in his book, “The Outliers”,one of Gladwell’s theory is that “it takes roughly 10,000 hours of hard practice in a chosen field to become a master in that field”. Artists can see their activities at home as a major part of their 10,000 hours towards becoming great.

Secondly, there is a clear lack of exposure for local artists. With the danger of the “living in a glasshouse” syndrome, it's extremely hard for our artists to break the glass.There is only so much that happens within Singapore that can help provide the window to the world. Sure events like Music Matters will help, and we do have many visits from international artists playing here, but we don’t get the Marvin Gaye feeling of knowing “What’s Going On”.

I do think however, that this is where the government can play a part in helping artists visit other countries to feel the vibe of successful music cities, and associate with other music folk. However, visitors to overseas markets, need to be initially armed with their digital devices or notebooks, not their guitars or microphones. Being immersed within international music ecosystems, listen, connect and collaborate with others, helps to build aspiration, inspiration and more importantly, support the feeling of hope that many artists have. This will help build an artist's opportunity to prepare for export.

Thirdly, the nation’s multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-language society, potentially creates dividing lines that seem to permeate the music industry. Singapore arguably struggles with its identity and music should not be driven by this conflict. At the utmost, Music is the greater good and should transcend all these boundaries. Now I do not think that this image is actually created by artists, but more by external advocates who try to promote Singapore music styles and have a lack of knowledge to how music impacts the listener. Music is emotive and its our emotions that are at the heart of every decision we make in life. Sure, language is key to written and verbal communication but music is already its own language and the key for humanity.

Q: What are some of the biggest revenue streams for local artists?

GP: The obvious revenue streams are the traditional forms of music consumption through recording and live performances. But its clear that digital consumption has made an impact towards revenues of value. Furthermore, the lack of willingness by consumers to want to pay for art, continues to dent revenues.

Personally, I’m more excited and interested to look at how new trans-media streams can provide new opportunities and revenues as its something quite close to my heart at Rune Entertainment.

Q: How has the change in the music industry landscape affected relationships between artists and labels?

GP: These days the artist potentially is in a much stronger position.This is because the artist can get closer to their fans, develop their brandand put together great sounds even in their bedroom. I think the major labels know this and are looking at ways to change their approach and relationship with their repertoire.

Q: What kind of opportunities are there for Singaporean artists?

GP: Humongous if only artists can dream big, develop their brand and build confidence to approach international markets and new platforms for music.

Q: How can artists be discovered, groomed and developed into exportable representations in other markets?

GP: There are many ways artists can be discovered. In my view, it's important to get things right at home first. Its important that each artist explores the markets it wants to approach before it goes in blindly. Of course a main vehicle is Digital as the world has become so much more connected. An artist can create huge interest if it cleverly builds the right connections.

As to grooming and development, there really isn’t any success stories here in Singapore. Sadly, the music industry is not seen as a career choice for many due to a lack of opportunity which creates skepticism. Furthermore, education does not induce a creative nature or provide the right experience to allow creativity to flourish. I’ve seen many examples overseas (Canada, UK, USA) in which various entities provide fantastic development vehicles and success has been achieved.

Q: What is the Singapore Music Society and whatare your future plans to increase "capability, advocacy and opportunities" in Singapore's music industry? Any targets in the short and long run?

GP: The wider development of an industry can take many years so it's better to be pragmatic. I would rather focus on getting it right, than right now, and not to look for quick wins. Of course, there are various activities we can provide in the areas of education, lobbying and business opportunities, and myself and the Executive Committee will be rolling out a strategy for themembers of the Society in due course.

One area of importance is to get the nation to realise that great music can come from this isle. This can be enhanced if we simply focus on the greater good of promoting great music, not “Singaporean” or “local” music. It's given that music from here is from Singapore but advocacy is created when artists are good at what they do. It also enables a chance for the Society to drive “a land of cool” which is one of the main reasons why people like music.

Following on from a successful forum in January, we will be getting heavily involved in this year’s Music Matters for our launch. With the support of Music Matters and e2i (Employment and EmployabilityInstitute) we will be providing complimentary conference passes to 130 of our 240 members. We will be conducting five, up-close and personal Mentor Master classes and inviting all conference delegates to the Singapore Matters Cocktails. In addition to this year’s MusicMatters Live Festival, there will be 11 acts from Singapore along side many artists from nations around the world. To support digital consumption, we have partnered Singtel to provide an opportunity for acts from Singapore to have their music available on the AMPed platform.

I have a lot of work to do at the Society and I’m up for the challenge!

About Graham Perkins

Co-CEO Rune Entertainment and President Singapore Music Society

Growing up during the hippy era, Graham quickly got the bug to get out of school and pick up his guitar and play. Graham came to Asia in 1996 and has had the pleasure to continue his creative approach to life working at Adobe, Apple, MTV and Republic Polytechnic. In 2008 Graham became the Co-CEO for the trans-media studio, Rune Entertainment and continues to consult for the Singapore Government in the areas of Creative Industry skills development.

Graham has more recently set up the Singapore Music Society and as President, is helping to develop quality, advocacy andopportunities for the Singapore music industry.

About Singapore Music Society

The Singapore Music Society is a non-profit entity that supports artistry, business and production by developing skills, advocacy and opportunities. We transcend music genres, cultural and language boundaries and support the growth of the music industry both home and away.