Great escape The essays I made about the British music industry
For three days each year, Brighton, England, transformed into a musician city, crowded with more than 400 bands from all over the world. British Council dispatches local music activists for "comparative studies" to The Great Escape Festival, England. They came home with their eyes open and a new mission.
That afternoon, it was a bit difficult to walk at a normal pace around the cultural center in Brighton. The reason, in addition to the cold air and the breeze of the challenging southern coast of England, too much temptation scattered in the corners of the city. Temptations such as beautiful architecture, unique boutiques or old record stores can still be ignored, but unplanned musicians acting by the side of the road are too exciting to skip.
I just arrived in Brighton from London and walked to Komedia, one of the venues spread out of a total of 31 points where The Great Escape Festival (TGE) took place. In the ears of the international community, the name of the festival may not be Glastonbury, Download or Reading, but Brighton should be proud to have collected - not just hundreds of new bands from all over the world - but also behind-the-scenes masterminds and key figures of the music industry. When reviewing the arrangement of events and bands that will appear, the name "The Great Escape" becomes more relevant to reality.
In addition to musical appearances, there are seminars and discussions with dozens of sexy topics around music; digital music royalties, fan management, music festival potential and so forth. All with a fleet of speakers and leading business people in their field.
The initial goal of choosing Komedia as the first location I ventured was to meet two friends who were there: Robin Malau and Indra Ameng. Both have a role that is essential in the local music scene of the country. After shining with pioneer band Puppen, Robin Malau retired from the stage and founded Musikator, a company that champion and bridge the musicians of the country in the digital wilderness.
While Indra Ameng is an aristocratic art figure of the Capital, manager of White Shoes and The Couples Company, collective art art activist and half of The Secret Agents, Superbad!'s performing duo, the flagship music show of new performers.
Robin and Ameng were sent as delegates from Indonesia by the British Council. Robin is a winner of Young Creative Entrepreneurs (YCE), a British Council stretch program that gives spotlight to young people with creativity beyond the threshold.
The YCE Indonesia program has a list of prestigious graduates, including creative entrepreneur Yoris Sebastian and the mayor of Bandung Ridwan Kamil. "We want the delegates to learn how the music industry can become sustainable," explained Kemi Harahap, Project Manager of Arts & Creative Economy British Council Indonesia.
The seminar entitled "Engaging The Fan" was just completed in Komedia when I arrived. Serious faces with forehead shrink out of the seminar room, and I find Robin sitting face-to-face with a plate of Hotdogs on the table. Soon Ameng arrived, and we started exchanging chats. There should have been one other person who sat with us that afternoon. Ferry Dermawan from G Production / Djakarta Artmosphere is also scheduled to fly to Brighton to attend TGE, but was forced to exit due to visa issues. Irritated and annoyed, it opened the topic of our conversation.
Export strategy of local musicians
The news of the cancellation of a band from Indonesia set out to perform abroad is no longer a novelty. Ironically, almost all cases are caused by trivial issues related to bureaucracy. The last case hit Sigmun invited by South by South West (SXSW) in Austin Texas, USA last few months. Procedural errors result in the loss of their opportunity to be appreciated by an international audience.
"We (Indonesia) do not have a high bargaining position, and tend to be underestimated," said Ameng. "The golden opportunity to promote local music abroad is dashed because of bureaucracy," he continued. Ameng has a high flying hours exporting White Shoes and The Couples Company to perform on many international stage.
Poor information and awareness of the system from the musician also Robin admitted to be one of the deep rooted problem. "Sometimes the band also does not want to know. This kind of bureaucracy is very complex and many details must be met. People who apply for visas must be very proactive, and keep checking to see if all the provisions have been met "he explained.
In addition to the procedural stages that must be met thoroughly, the support of the authorities also can sometimes give loose to the strict process of visa clearance. "What I'm afraid, because this problem continues to happen, the bands so on kapok," continued Robin.
Canceled because the visa problem becomes sad because the bands are so impressed "lost before the fight", and this proves the weak bargaining position in the presence of bureaucracy. Indonesian bands flying abroad to perform should be seen as cultural assets and get great support from the government. And yes, it is rather difficult to rely solely on the government in this matter.
There is a huge chasm that makes Indonesian bands fall into the same hole every time they want to perform abroad. Responding to the problem, Robin and Ameng agreed to form a special agency to help local bands who want or have the opportunity to perform outside Indonesia. "I can focus more on rock bands, and Ameng can grasp more pop," said Robin.
For Robin and Ameng who are familiar with music culture in Indonesia, going to festivals like The Great Escape is certainly a boon, but it can also be a curse at the same time. "A lot of things that open the eyes, but also make us concerned about the situation in Indonesia," Robin said with a laugh. While Ameng mengcungi thumbs to the harmony between music and business that exist in TGE. "The contents are not only businessman, but there is a cool band action. Similar festivals such as MIDEM, are too focused on the business side, "continued Ameng.
It is long and wide if you want to peel and compare the strains of the British and Indonesian music industry. But of course the problems not only stop in the bureaucratic problem, but also hit the realm of access, mindset and infrastructure.
During the TGE, Brighton was flooded with flyers and posters. Imagine you are starving, sitting in a buffet restaurant with a choice of over 400 food menus, for free. What should be devoured first? While confusedly observing the participants' movements, I realized a rather striking pattern. Very few bands are advancing and fighting in this arena, without a large umbrella institution / collective shelter them.
Take for example Canadian Blast led by CIMA (Canadian Independent Music Association). Or Sounds Australia, who bagged 20 combat ready bands on TGE. There is another German Haus, which brought bands from Germany to appear in TGE. "I see a lot of representatives from these countries, then I think, why there is no Indonesian name," said Robin.
The efforts of Australia, Canada or Germany to pass the hull of their musicians to Brighton are certainly equipped with a solid foundation. At the bottom of the Australian Sounds posters and flyers, the New South Wales Trade & Investment logo, NSW Government and Queensland Government are listed. Likewise with Canadian Blast, there is the name Ontario Media Development and Canada Tourism Organization.
One of the parties that seize the greatest public interest throughout TGE is Finland. Receiving special attention from TGE this year, Finland sent a number of brand-new bands - including my favorite new singer / songwriter Mirel Wagner - and promoted jor-rods, to provide a free vinyl containing a Finnish band compilation that featured in TGE to delegates. Music Finland, an association that specializes in promoting Finnish bands also sponsors the TGE.
This pattern gives clear clues to Indonesia, the best way to bridge local music to the world community. Snarling, gathering under a larger umbrella with a harmonized collective vision can be more powerful than fighting alone. Reflecting on other subjects, this concept may have been applied in other fields such as fashion and art.
But seeing the potential, dynamics and quality of local music of the country, this effort can certainly have a large explosive power. The existence of external parties becomes an important point to create real support. The potential of local music should be developed with economic weight, so that it can be handled with a broader understanding.
Compete the download culture
For three days in Brighton, it is not difficult to permeate the unique atmosphere that exists during TGE. The event's whirl of energy is not only centered on what is happening today, but also what will happen in the future. Taking some unique locations such as church and hotel basement, newly matured bands are given a stage to show off. I am quite surprised because some of my favorite new names like Paul Thomas Saunders (UK), Gambles (United States), Oy (Switzerland), Mirel Wagner (Finland) and M (Denmark) get uniform attention from the audience even on platforms with limited capacity.
I often imagine Kemang or Sabang area in Jakarta transformed to resemble SXSW or TGE. The Rrrecfest Festival once adopted a similar concept, taking place around Cikini, Central Jakarta. "In Indonesia, nothing should be with big stage, big festival. Sponsors are reluctant to work together if they have to support a small event, as it is considered unprecedented. There is a wrong mindset, "said Robin.
Talk to the mindset, one of the hot topics that is often discussed in seminars at TGE is the process of digital music consumption, and various dynamics. "All this time I thought iTunes became a 'favorite child' in the digital music industry, it was not them. From the beginning of TGE, people talked about Spotify a lot. It's something that I've long realized, that the nature of digital music consumption is not a download, but streaming technology, "said Robin.
It becomes even clearer when most industry players focus on streaming technology. "The problem of internet access should not be worried anymore. I have tried to stream spotify from Jakarta-Bandung travel using internet access from local provider safely tuh. Just change the quality of the file so low it, "said Robin.
In digital music containers in Indonesia, the discussion about piracy is a well that is never drought. Discussions and arguments throughout TGE led to the conclusion that people outside Indonesia also pirated and downloaded illegally, but at the same time the founders also implemented a system that was more accessible and fairer to all.
"We're just busy talking about the downside, while people here (England) are busy talking about how to cope," said Robin.
Go, absorb and go back
However, it is certain not all powerful systems applied in the UK can be directly done in Indonesia. Too much cultural friction, not always an effective formula can succeed when practiced in a dynamic Indonesian society.
"One of the best ways is to open the greatest opportunity for Indonesians to go outside and learn directly in the field, then go back and apply the ideas they get with the concept of Indonesian-style thinking," Robin said. "Not necessarily the expert who far flew to Indonesia really understand the market conditions and behavior of the people of Indonesia," he concluded.
According to the experience of comparing directly situations outside of Indonesia can be very inspiring. That he did with Burgerkill in 2013. Last year, metal giant Burgerkill Flower City went to England to receive the Golden Gods 2013 award in the category of Metal as Fuck.
On the same occasion, they also watch the Download Festival in London. "Although impressed simple, but their journey is very influential on confidence and understanding. And this is not only can be done by the band alone, but also the entrepreneurs and music activists in Indonesia, "continued Robin.
This problem is also silently sticking to the surface. In Indonesia, everyone - or perhaps most - want to be a rock star, perform on stage, appear on the magazine covers and get exposure from audiences. The local music scene lacks backstage executives, which may be more important than the music group. Indonesia needs more architects and music initiators, in order to create a simple but effective system.