COPY AND PASTE
It’s strange that in 2012, we are still addressing the issue of ‘cover songs’ and ‘tribute bands’ in Singapore. Don’t get me wrong I believe that there is a place for ‘cover songs’ and ‘tribute bands’ – these serve a certain niche market worldwide. The problem is that in Singapore, it’s not a niche market but the only market! Whereas in the western world, new bands may be able to get away with playing cover songs early in their career, there will come a point where their success as a band will depend on the quality of their original music.
It seems almost ludicrous to have to discuss this issue at all. I mean, in the 90s, Singapore indie bands played original music and nobody thought twice about it. Radio and TV featured Singapore indie bands playing their original music and nobody demanded that these bands played familiar cover songs. I mean, that’s what you expected if you had the Oddfellows, Padres, Concave Scream or Stoned Revivals performing on stage. After all, these bands were songwriters and artists in their own right – it’s almost as ridiculous as going to a Coldplay gig and demanding that Chris Martin and company play U2 and Radiohead songs!
But visit any bar or club in Singapore nowadays and chances are that the band on stage will be playing cover songs. Again, I must stress that I am not against this per se but why must being in a cover band about the only way that Singaporean musicians can make a living from music in Singapore? So who is to blame? Musicians? Business owners? Patrons? Media? Government? All of the above?
Is the artistic voice of the Singapore musician not treasured at home? Why do Singaporeans switch off when confronted with unfamiliar Singaporean original songs? Lack of quality? I do not believe so as the acceptance of original Singapore music overseas proves otherwise. Lack of support? Ah, that’s a sticky issue. Especially when it relates to the question of the economic value and worth of music compared to other kinds of ‘products’.
Of course, these issues are not unique to Singapore indie music and apply across the board whenever one discusses the local arts & entertainment scene. But these issues must be addressed head-on by all the stakeholders (mentioned in my third paragraph) and the beginning of the new year seems like a good place to start.
But naturally, if you are reading this here then I’d assume that you are on board with my sentiments and the whole cliche of ‘preaching to the converted’ seems all too applicable. The real question is that do you, dear reader, believe in Singapore music (and musicians) enough to be evangelistic about the cause of Singapore original music? To put it bluntly, what are you willing to do? For my part, as a music journalist, singer-songwriter, artist manager, mentor and teacher, I am fully committed to doing whatever I can in 2012 (and beyond) to raise the profile/support the cause of Singapore original music in any way that I can. Will you join me please?
Note: This is not meant as a personal attack on anyone within the Singapore music scene so please take this post in the positive and constructive spirit that it was written. Thanks!