It Ain’t Rocket Science

@Campo Pequeno, 19 Março 2009

Image via Wikipedia

I have a friend who took Aerospace Engineering. I remember asking him why he took such a specific line of engineering. He said the space is his passion and there are a lot of jobs for aerospace engineers and proceeded to rattle off a list of jobs that would await him once he gets that piece of paper that would prove to employers that he has been trained in the right discipline. I disagreed and challenged him to name any famous Malaysian rocket scientists, living, dead or fictional. He couldn’t. But he went on to get his degree AND his masters degree in Aerospace Engineering anyway.

What he forgot to factor in was such jobs could hardly be found in Malaysia since we are not exactly at the forefront of space technology. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It’s just the way things are.

We kept in touch over the years and every now and then he would moan about his unfulfilled space dream. When I pointed out that he has been getting offers, he dismissed me and rattled off a list of reasons why he could not accept them. Except for this sore point, we more or less enjoy each other’s company.

Tonight as I read the rants of yet another frustrated, under-appreciated local musician who blasted the music-buying public, Malaysians specifically, for shying away from going to concerts by local bands, I thought of my friend and his work situation.

Frankly, I am sick of  listening to rants by our local musicians.

Firstly, you are not just insulting me, a music-buying consumer. You are also insulting your compatriots, or those “foreign acts” as you’d like to call them, by insinuating that your music is superior than them and that you deserve this more than they do. Seriously? You think you’re the first to feel pain, the first to feel the sting of this unforgiving, fickle industry? Everyone who has ever done anything for or in the music industry has a sad story to tell.

Secondly, do you even realize how much more work that you need to do in order to be at market entry level? Just some basics from the top of my head, have you:

  1. Gotten all your copyrights and IP rights in order? Taken the time to at least understand the basics of Music Law to know your rights?
  2. Opened up a proper legal entity to manage your career and finances? It takes one form and a RM25 fee to register as an entrepreneur with SSM.
  3. Registered with MACP, PPM and PRISM? And if you are self-managed, PUSPAL?
  4. Produced all your music in broadcast quality and get them approved by the Censorship board? And before you do that, have you gotten your music appraised? Did you seek feedback from people who makes music a living? Did you make the changes they suggested? Did you keep track of music trends to understand what sort of music the public would like to hear and connect with?
  5. Figured out how to distribute and sell your music?
  6. Made them available for online purchase by listing them in online stores like itunes, cdbaby and tunecore?
  7. Created an avenue to promote your music and widen your fanbase?
  8. Prepared a marketing plan and publicity drive to sell your music?
  9. Set aside funds or capital to be able to do all the above?
  10. Made friends with all the entertainment journalists, DJs, regulatory people, promoters, venue owners and event managers? Do you have a proper business card, or a Press Kit that you could hand out to help promote your music and your band? Do you have merchandise? Little gifts to hand out so that they would remember who you are?
  11. Taken the time to research your market? Have you decided what sort of people you want to “speak to”? How do you get them to “discover” your music? Do you know theirs likes and dislikes?  Their music purchase behaviors? Who they listen to? Who are your competitors for their money?  How is your music better than your competitors?

If you answer “No” to even a single question, you have a long long way to go. You don’t have to know everything about business, marketing and the entertainment industry to be a success – but lack of these basic knowledge is certainly not going to get you there any faster. Information is everywhere. People are always ready and willing to help. What have you done about that?

And thirdly, stop being so full of yourself. Just because you write beautiful music and rock the house like you’re Mick Jagger doesn’t make you entitled to our money. How arrogant can you be if you believe that the public owes it to you to buy your music by virtue of us being the citizens of the same country? And as if that is not bad enough, you proceeded to insult us and our choices? How does that make your music, or you, more desirable to us? You think by branding us unpatriotic you could shame us into opening up our wallets and our hearts? If you confuse consumerism with patriotism, you need to pack your guitar and stop making music right now.

You can bitch, yes, go ahead and let out your frustrations but this pity party has to stop some time coz it has gone on too long. If in 2010 local musicians still behave and think this way while musicians like Jason Mraz grits his teeth and makes RM10mil out of selling ringtone downloads to “I’m Yours” then he is doing something right and you are not.

And if you think Jason Mraz had it easy, think again.  Google it. Like I said, everybody has a sad story to tell; Jason Mraz does,  I do,  even my extremely-qualified, brilliant, charming rocket science friend does.

You choose what you choose, you deal with the consequences. Moaning about it and blaming other people is childish. I dare you to name a single artiste or musician whom you think does not deserve the fame and money he is making and I bet you every single cent that I have on me that I can prove you otherwise. Go on, I dare you.

It’s how we persevere and  rise above it all – that’s the stuff that people make movies about. I struggle with it everyday and so does everybody else.  We all do. Change starts with you, NOT with my wallet.

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