In 2019, there was talk of FINAS potentially stepping in and expanding their scope from films to music in Malaysia. FINAS CEO, Ahmad Idham said in a news report by NST that, “The Communication and Multimedia Ministry wants Finas to assist the music industry, because musicians and singers are part of the creative industry, just as filmmakers and actors are.”
This idea was “not ruled out” by the actor-director-CEO, for he believes that music is just as integral to the country’s economy as films. After all, FINAS is already a body that governs films in Malaysia in terms of promotion, cultivation and facilitation of the development of this industry.
According to NST, Ahmad Idham represented FINAS in a meeting, and agreed that there should be an entity such as FINAS, controlled by the government, that oversees the recording artistes and musicians and ensures a centralised organisation for funding and collection of royalties.
At first glance, the idea was conceptualised with the betterment of the country’s music industry in mind, but many netizens feel that it could potentially lead to the decline of independent music and freedom of speech in Malaysia.
Veteran musician, Aubrey Suwito, who most notably worked on Jaclyn Victor’s empowering anthem, ‘Gemilang’, agreed Tun Dr Mahathir, when the ex-PM said, “There are ‘crooks’ in the music industry, and they are often the ones who get into positions where there is money to be made.” Suwito added,
“I hope honest people, with a proven integrity record are appointed as we need to be cautious in selecting the right people for this body, or else it will be ‘more of the same.”
The music industry in Malaysia is a game of survival for most young, budding musicians, especially those venturing into the indie scene. For them, there is a serious gap in earnings compared to those who have signed with record labels. Nasir, the bassist for rock band Search, mentioned that if FINAS were to be handling funds, they would have to be “transparent and accountable.”
If FINAS continues to appoint higher-ups who do not fully understand the struggle of those just starting out, it might cause Malaysians to deter from entering the music field. Justin, a part-time lecturer in Universiti Teknologi Mara’s Faculty of Music, said,
“There are veterans who do not understand their basic rights, resulting in them saying their rights have been abused or stolen after their song was released. I hope this body can educate our younger generation and future artistes so that these issues will not recur.”
In addition to that, FINAS is also heavily influenced by politics which has surfaced issues with censorship in the past (read: Ahmad Idham’s Aflix side-project and his lobbying for censorship on Netflix). This poses a threat to the creative liberty musicians have with their art.
Many Malaysians have expressed their concern towards FINAS’ plans by petitioning against the move. The petition, started by Malaysian record label owner Prashan Chitty, highlighted his distrust of the current executives at FINAS who he believes will not work towards making the music industry better. He believes that there should be a new vision at FINAS that is both sincere and determined to spread the wings of the music industry to explore bigger opportunities.
With Ahmad Idham at the forefront, many believe this vision will not be realised due to his unsavoury track record.
Amongst the musicians supporting the petition is rapper Altimet who said,
“Finas is a joke. They can’t even manage the artists in the film industry, and now they have the nerve to consider governing the music industry. Please sign this petition if you agree.”
Kelakar ah FINAS, Anak seni filem pun tak terjaga, nak selia kami di industri muzik. Tolong sign petisyen ni kalau setuju: https://t.co/X48RPo0Yas
— Altimet (@altimet) June 26, 2020
Indie singer-songwriter Zee Avi also supports the movement by saying,
“I rarely pass petitions, but if you are a musician, singer, busker, producer, anyone and anything to do with Malaysia’s music industry, PLEASE SIGN THIS! We need to be heard NOW!”
The petition currently sits at over 1,300 signatures.
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