The (Very) Sad State Of Our Local Music Today

Oh dear Lord. What has OPM come to? I just read that the local music industry is planning to regulate international acts from performing here in attempts to aid the dying local music scene. Say what?

Honestly, at first I thought it was a sound idea. I first heard those efforts coming from OPM (Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Musikero) head Ogie Alcasid. I almost said kudos to the singer-funnyman. But when you think about it, is this how the Philippine audience would want to be known internationally? Is this how we want international and big-name producers would see us? Don't get me wrong, I support the ends, I want the local music scene to be uplifted too. But I don't want international musicians to not come here because they are being 'squeezed out.' It gives a negative impression.

Then there's the thought - "It's the audience fault, if they only listen to local acts more, then producers wouldn't bother bringing in international names." Guess what? It's never the audience fault. People listen to whom they want to listen to. You can't blame them for liking something they like. We have to study the situation and dig a little deeper and come up with a constructive solution.

Personally, I blame people on the mostly solo pop singers and their community (fans and corporate bosses). Yes, I went out on a limb. Their laziness and lack of artistic integrity ushered in this drought in the OPM scene. I'm not even saying this because I'm more of a rock fan. I'm saying this because this is what I observed. The rock fan base is solid. Whatever foreign gimmick you dangle in front of their faces, unless it fits with their lifestyle and in their ears, they won't bite it. The local rock audience also has this innate love for country. They can look at a foreign band but at the end of the day, they don't forget their local music gods.

Though very loyal, the rock scene can't hold the OPM fort up by itself. OPM is Original PILIPINO Music - it's music from every Filipino, rock, pop and what not. To me, the pop scene did not do their part. What am I talking about? Sure there are solids like Sarah Geronimo (but with her I have a bone to pick with). I believe that their endless barrage or revivals killed the local music industry. Sure, it was working for a while. Why? Because that specific audience had nothing else to listen to! Who were the international pop superstars 4 or 5 years ago? There was no Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. So any pop music you shove up these people's throats, they'll gladly swallow. The formula was this:

familiar tune/lyrics + popular singer = $$$$

Where is the artistic integrity in that? Sure some rock bands came out when they were all the hype around 2005 and the crappy ones died out. But the solid ones stayed on. They were true musicians.

What happened when a new pop flavor is introduced? What happened when the world gave birth to Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and KPop? The pop fans flocked to them because 1) they were 'fresh' in some way and 2) they had marketing and media giants behind them. So even if they were crappy themselves, all the publicity kept them alive. Fans were tired of our local singers doing another 80's or 90's tune.

I think they did revivals so much and so often because of the money. Revivals don't require as much time, money and effort as originals. Sure it still needs a little work but not nearly as much as originals do. They can pump out a new album every year and fans will still eat them up. But in return, musicians sacrifice your craft, and your audience gets tired fast.

Of all the 'singers' in ASAP and Party Pilipinas, how many has the ability to hold his or her own major concert these days? How many of those are doing pure originals? Or not even pure originals, just mostly originals.

Yesterday's concert kings and queens would be ashamed of our soloists today. When they handed down the torch to this generations musicians, this new generation said "Thanks, we'll try to keep it alive with revivals of your generation's music. We won't do anything new since your generation seemed to do well."

So what do we do?

Obviously we must do something. I don't think regulating foreign acts is the answer. I say we work on local talent. It has been said over and over (and over) again that the country is full of talent. Why not work on them? Harness these talents. Give challenges to the mainstream stars. Encourage them to innovate. Force them to come up with something new that the audience will like. For heaven's sake, don't make them do one revival after the other. For those still not discovered, give them channels to showcase what they have, and I'm not talking just TV competitions. I think the government should give the youth an avenue or a place where they can improve and show their talents - maybe and after school program or something. And this should be something that can give these little voices a big opportunity. And for heaven's sake, learn to embrace new media!! (yes, that sentence deserves two exclamation points) The Philippines' two international musicians found their fame in YouTube. One of the world's biggest names today also found his luck through YouTube - Justin Bieber. There is money and opportunity in the Intarwebs people, have you not realized that yet?!

In the end, I hope this is all just a vicious cycle. Remember around ten years ago, the industry was also struggling. Around the turn of the decade the local music scene struggles and things seem to pickup every mid-decade. If that's the case then I'm a little relieved. It means we can only expect things to get better in the future. But then again, I don't want to go over this again in ten years.