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Living in the digital age
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  1. #1
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    Living in the digital age

    The music industry has come a long way in a short amount of time, challenging companies and artists to keep pace

    KANOKPORN CHANASONGKRAM
    Bangkok Post


    Thanachot "Piak" Peansema, owner of New DJ Siam CD store, feels that he's under an October sky. What he means is that it's plai fon ton naow (end of rainy season and beginning of winter), elaborating that while declining sales and the closure of Centre Point has hurt his business, good things will come his way soon. His 30-year-old store has seen the transition from records to cassette tapes to CDs, and adapting to the digital age is just another challenge.


    "The next time you come to my store, we will be selling look chin ping (grilled meatballs). It's easier to sell than CDs," jokes Piak, a lively chap who likes to entertain his customers. He notes that CD sales started going downhill around eight years ago, due to the availability of new technologies.


    "We hear people sing along to Hangman's Chocolate but I bet not many bought their CD. Today's music lovers can just sit in front of the computer and download their favourite tunes," he says. "While CD stores have started closing down, big Thai music labels are not as affected because when it comes to a dead end they can take new directions. And today, it's about selling artists' popularity as much as their music."


    With digital entertainment taking over, last year telecommunications company True Corps launched TrueMusic, an integrated media platform with which people can listen, watch, download, vote, chat via radio, TV, mobile and online. It offers legal downloads of its digital content - around 400,000 songs, some of which are free. In addition, TrueLife@Thong Lo claims to be Thailand's first free hi-speed music download cafe.


    "In the past, successful albums could sell over 100,000 CDs. Today, hitting 30,000 copies would have record companies cheering and celebrating," says Kitikorn Penrote, TrueMusic's director. "Instead of buying CDs, the new generation has a tendency to consume music via digital content because downloading songs is more convenient. Responding to this change in consumer behaviour, Thai record labels have shifted to digital content as another source of revenue."


    TrueMusic was initially a marketing tool for the mobile service provider True Move to attract subscribers who can enjoy free downloads (not including the GPRS service fee) and exclusive content, including music like Bodyslam's Save My Life, Ohm Chatree's Into the Light and BOYdPOD's Bittersweet. Many of these special albums are sold as a package along with sim cards.


    This year, TrueMusic continues to join up with labels like GMM Grammy and Love Is to produce exclusive albums. Record companies are more than happy with this collaboration since they can take advantage of the digital platform to further promote their artists and albums.


    "But like pirate CDs, we face a similar problem with illegal downloads. Until a future technology is able to prevent pirates, we're in a vacuum," Kitikorn notes. "Labels therefore focus on finding other sources of revenue, and we now see them branching out into showbiz, especially doing more concerts and musical shows. These can't be copied. If you want to see your favourite artists perform, you have to buy tickets."


    An engineer-turned-musicmaker who's been in the industry since 1992, Kitikorn is also managing director of True Fantasia, a spinoff from the reality show Academy Fantasia (AF). The relatively young label is more notable for its inventive concerts than songmaking.


    Last year, they presented a "reality concert" which had DJs from A Time radio stations joining AF artists in singing and dancing and scenes from backstage screened live to the audience. At Dream World amusement park, "Krungsri AF Funtasia" was also a music phenomenon that had four-dozen AF artists performing on 14 stages, featuring different concepts such as "Action on the Rock", which combined a stunt show with a rock mini-concert.


    "In the past, music was the product and we depended on sales of CD albums. Today, music is merely a part of the product, and the line extension of musical shows adds more variety to the entertainment business," says Kitikorn. Nevertheless, he envisages that concerts and musical shows will eventually come to a point of saturation because of a limited audience.


    "What I like to point out is that artists are not in bad times because they can't sell their albums, but the abundance of them in the music industry makes it tougher. Besides talent, they need good marketing and artist management to make them stand out from the crowd," adds Kitikorn.


    Groove Riders bass guitarist Notapol "Kor" Srichomkwan agrees that today it will be more difficult for new artists to make it big, while those already in the music industry will have to work even harder.


    With a background in music production and engineering from Boston's Berklee College of Music, Kor is also a songwriter, music producer and a management executive at Spicy Disc, an indie label with artists like Sqweez Animal, Otto and Captain Loma.


    "In our case, revenue from selling CD albums is so small that we don't even need to mention it," he says. "We can't rely on downloads as a source of revenue either because Thais like things for free and may not pay for music. Even with anti-piracy technology, I think people will still find ways to copy songs. Instilling good social values against pirates and appreciation of music can better get the heart of this problem."


    Groove Riders released their first album, Discovery, in 2001 and launched their second album The Lift last year. During this time, they undertook a phenomenal six-year nationwide concert tour.


    "MP3s, iPods and downloading songs changed the way people listen to music. Since we couldn't sell CD albums, we concentrated on doing more concerts," Kor says. "In the last two years, I think more Thai artists have become aware that they have to do more concerts, including pub performances, and the trend now is to sell shows instead of albums. Live performances really put singers and bands to the test to see whether they are truly musical artists. We will see a survival of the fittest."


    Spicy Disc is a small label without a media arm to promote its own music. Unique disco-funk music and live performances have, however, made Groove Riders a huge success. "People knew of us by word of mouth and we gradually made a name for ourselves," explains Kor. "What's most important for us is to make quality music. That's why our second album, The Lift, took four years until it was a perfect piece to release."


    GSM Advance offered their new smash hit Superstar as a free ringtone download to its subscribers, with hundreds of thousands of people taking up the offer. The mobile service brand also sponsored a charity concert to launch the new album. In addition, the four band members are ambassadors for sportswear manufacturer Fila, with a recently launched limited edition Groove Riders clothing line. This reflects an emerging trend for artists to associate with sponsors to support their musical ambitions. However you have to be hot enough to attract their attention.


    Instead of complaining about pirates, instead of being reactive to new technologies, Kor concludes that "We just need to be in tune with the dynamic music industry, and let the music play."

  2. #2
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    Re: Living in the digital age

    Ermh.... This would be good!!! Nothing beats having a LIVE performance... The experience is PRICELESS!
    I admit i do download the music... However i make sure i purchased the CD everytime i had the chance to fly to Thailand...

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