We Asked Local Musicians How They Cope Financially During MCO

The current coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a stop. For the music industry, this has meant festivals and gigs being cancelled or postponed, and artistes having their album releases pushed back.

In Malaysia, anxiety among indie artistes and freelance music industry workers continues to mount, with many fearing for their livelihoods as income is interrupted. While most artistes are keeping busy by engaging with fans through digital concerts, live Q&A, and other displays of creative expression – we can’t help but wonder, how the hell are the smaller guys (or anyone who’s not a superstar) coping financially?

So, JUICE got in contact with a few local musicians and posed these four question:

Q1 – With no live shows, does this affect your finance and are you finding a solution with new sources of income?
Q2 – With almost everyone being constantly online now, do you leverage on digital content?
Q3 – How can fans show and give support to their favourite local artistes in MCO?
Q4 – One song that’s on repeat ever since MCO started?

Check out what they had to say: 

1. Ze from Spooky Wet Dreams

(source: Spooky Wet Dreams Twitter)

Q1: Yes it did, definitely. There were at least around 7 to 8 shows. Most of them are postponed and some of them cancelled. One of it was Rockaway and it’s a damn shame since we’ve been wanting to perform at that stage for years. But I guess it’s for the better, no? Thankfully, the band is finishing off the last few promos for the album campaign before we call it a day, and go for a short hiatus. So it’s safe to say that we got what we need and we’re wrapping things up soon.

Q2: Yes! We’ve done a few live interviews and performances, with a few more coming up. We even did the #RockawayLiveChallenge with bands like Kyoto Protocol, Project EAR and Here Comes July as part of our Rockaway promo. We’re also working to publish our final music video for our album ‘Sayang, Tolong Buatkan Abang Teh’.

We’re quite active online now, and it’s exciting to see other acts doing the same too because frankly, this is the time that artistes have to show up. Quoting Toni Morrison, “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilisations heal.”

It has always been in our scope to entertain but at times like these, it is our responsibility, as artistes and entertainers to promote love and support to the people.

Q3: Subscribe to our content, follow our social media accounts; just contribute to the numbers. Maybe buy our merch too!

Q4: Yo this is not an easy question haha. There’s a lot in rotation right now, but the first thing on my mind was ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ by Crowded House. I mean sure I’ve been listening to the Strokes and Buttertones new albums but, I’d always go back to this.

Follow Spooky Wet Dreams on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook

2. Takahara Suiko from VIONA/The Venopian Solitude

(source: ExpatGo)

Q1: Like any other occupation, definitely. How? By not being able to perform lah haha. Nowadays I spend my time either playing Switch, watching Netflix, or writing songs. By writing silly songs about current events, some people do support by purchasing the songs I released on Bandcamp, which I have been doing since VIONA started as my solo project so technically, there are no new sources of income.

But some platforms have been giving performers opportunity to perform like on Instagram Live sessions where you get income from that, although even that only pertains to solo artistes whereas bands will need to have their representative/frontperson to perform on the bands’ behalf.

Q2: I have been doing so since the beginning of The Venopian Solitude (2008) so I’m basically going back to my roots. I used to post videos twice a week back in 2011 and have since been neglecting the channel, but thanks to MCO I gave myself the challenge to write a song a day and publish along with a lyric video of sorts.

Q3: Buy their songs. Spotify plays are great a track-record, statistically, but if you want to help them get income faster – because Spotify doesn’t pay much, buy their songs on iTunes/Bandcamp. If they have Patreon, support them. Or, the cheapest (free) way is to share their music on your social media.

Q4: I have not been listening to songs properly (normally, at least 10 times) since MCO started because… Netflix. But also, since the daily song project has been going on, I haven’t been able to allocate time to listen to songs because whenever there’s a new album I want to listen to, I normally go on long drives. Listening to albums (or even songs) right now would make me too restless.

Follow The Venopian Solitude on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Check out VIONA on Bandcamp.

3. Eff Hakim from Pastel Lite

(source: GirlsClub Asia)

Q1: Yes, it does affect our income because a lot us – I can’t say all of us – rely deeply on gigs and live concerts. It does cause us to try and find other sources of income. For us, we plan on focusing on our CDs, merch and other things like that…  Maybe we’ll come up with something while we wait for this quarantine to be over.

Q2: Even prior to the whole MCO ordeal, we’ve always been very careful and cautious about what we put online, due to quality control. We take pride in it. I think just because there’s a pandemic, it’s no different for us. Understandably right now, everybody has some fear of not being relevant – even us. I believe everyone has their own pacing and to each their own when it comes to online content.

I hope people are understanding that musicians – we’re human too. So, recognise that some musicians can’t make content at this time. It’s proven to be very difficult too because we understand that music is business. Although it is a business, it’s hard because we’re going through the same feeling of fear and uncertainty like everyone.

No matter what though, we’ll try our best to keep people entertained and interested as much as we can, hopefully.

Q3: By constantly supporting the band online. Thank God for the internet! Also, by buying merch, CDs, and constantly promoting bands in the local scene. Now, more than ever, it’s up to fans to keep the scene alive. Bands can only do so much, it takes two to tango.

Q4: This sounds like a shameless plug but the only music right now that me and Faliq (Pastel Lite) listen to comes from this two-piece band from KL called Kiga. Mainly because we’re producing and mixing their songs, but to be frank – they are really good! It’s not out yet but I hope everyone will have a listen when it is.

Follow Pastel Lite on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

4. Syabil from Golden Mammoth

(source: Golden Mammoth FB)

Q1: Playing shows or gigs have never really generated much income since back then. However, it did help us to collect funds by selling merchandises. So, I would say yes, it does affect the band’s income especially, because we have a whole line of merchandises recently launched.

We haven’t had the opportunity to showcase the merch at venues or our shows. We did put up these products on our social media in hopes of boosting the sales but the numbers are not as good as selling the merch at gigs/shows.

However, we do understand that everyone is in a tight and difficult position at this period of time so we try our best not to shove the products in our fans’ faces or to be an importunate salesman. At this point, I wouldn’t say we’re on tight rope, as some of us are working – or have had been doing other things to generate income. Some of us offer other artistes producing and mixing services, and that has helped us a lot in generating income.

Q2: Most of us are really bad at social media haha… but we do try to keep up. A week after MCO started, we posted a video of us performing our song ‘Ominous’ from our bedrooms.

We do have other plans to engage our listeners with more online content, but at the moment, it doesn’t feel right to advocate about music or to promote music, as there are more serious and terrifying things happening around the globe. We’ll try to do more, but slowly.

Q3: Honestly, we don’t expect much from our fans. We’d only hope for them to constantly reach out to us so we feel like we’re not alone in this world, or stream our music. To those who have enough, we would appreciate so much if they’d buy our merchandise or our digital releases. I guess this would go out to other bands and artistes as well.

Q4: ‘Alone Again (Naturally)’ by Gilbert O’ Sullivan, because, you know why haha…

Follow Golden Mammoth on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

If you’re a musician yourself looking for options, the Cultural Economy Development Agency (Cendana) has outlined a recovery package to benefit artists and cultural workers in the performing arts, visual art and independent music sectors. Artists and cultural workers whose household income is RM4,000 and below can apply for food aid by clicking, here.

As for the self-employed and gig workers, Cendana is rolling out its ‘Create Now Funding Programme’ which is an immediate response grant of up to RM1,500 per individual artist/cultural worker and RM3,500 per collective/arts organisation.

It is geared to prop up practices and operations of Malaysian artists, collectives and arts organisations during this Covid-19 pandemic.

If you want to know more about these programmes, check out CENDANA’s website

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