The recent KL Jamm International Music Festival featured music forums that intended to discuss, innovate and open minds about the current issues facing the local music industry. Pictured here, during the My-Jamm segment from the Forumuzik music forum session, are (from left) Datuk Jake Abdullah, R. Ramani Ramalingam, Para Rajagopal and Kenny Ong. (Picture by NSTP/AZHAR RAMLI)

THE recent inaugural KL Jamm International Music Festival entertained concertgoers with a host of artistes that included NCT Dream, Datuk Sheila Majid, Datuk Zainal Abidin, Datuk Ramli Sarip, Bunkface and Ruffedge through 11 ticketed shows.

  Held over three days beginning last Friday at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre (Mitec) in Kuala Lumpur, the festival, organised by Music Unlimited International also featured two other major components – Forumuzik, a one-day international symposium and an intellectual discourse on the subject of music, as well as Musicxpo, a free-entry music-oriented trade and exhibition programme.

  Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Muhammad Bakhtiar Wan Chik officially launched KL Jamm on the first day and the festival kicked off with Forumuzik, which saw 20 local, regional and international speakers discussing various issues and aspects of the local and global music industry.

  The forum was divided into nine different programmes that included topics such as Music IR 4.0 Rocks!, Brand Me, Brand My Music, Indie Way, No Money? No Problem and Power Music.

  Starting off with My-Jamm, the segment featured Astro Radio CEO Datuk Jake Abdullah, RIM (Recording Industry Association of Malaysia) Chairman Kenny Ong, and Alife (Arts, Live Festivals and Events Association) Chairman Para Rajagopal.

  Moderated by R. Ramani Ramalingam, who was the head for the forum and expo segments of KL Jamm, the one-hour programme, attended by UiTM, Aswara and MMU students, aimed to look into the recording, live and radio broadcast business and find ways to address the digital opportunities and challenges, as well as adapt to the new consumption pattern and behaviour of users and listeners.

 

STANDING OUT

Speaking from the radio perspective, Jake said that radio today was not the same as radio from several decades ago.

  “We have to embrace digital transformation and think of how to get onto the bandwagon and make the transition. My competition now isn’t other radio stations, it's the smartphone and other things like YouTube and WhatsApp,” he said.

  He added that government support was also essential. “Like the South Korean model, ...it not just pushes out their music into the open but brands like Samsung into the mainstream as well for a multi-pronged approach that’s all linked to go global,” he said.

  Coming from a live concert angle, Para said that live events are actually fuelling the digital world.

“Music brings people together and it gives people happiness, hope and escapism. Live events are important. The recent Ed Sheeran concert in KL sold over 35,000 tickets in just five hours,” he said.

  Ong said that the challenges facing recording artistes were funding, fragmentation and facilitation.

“We’ve upcoming indie artiste with talent but there’s a lack of funding. One of the biggest issues is the attention span of the new generation who are doing and experiencing multiple things at once, so how do we get the artistes to be noticed? Then there’s the challenge of getting the artistes to perform overseas and to effectively put their music out there in the market,” he said.

 

NEW MINDSET

All three agreed that a change of mindset was in order for all involved, from the artistes to the listeners and music fans. 

  “It’s a globalised environment now so local artistes can't complain about others coming in. But the people also have to start supporting local artistes. I still get calls from people who always ask me for free tickets to concerts. People need to support local acts by buying tickets and merchandise,” said Jake.

  Para said: “For us to compete, we must change our mindsets and attitudes. We need to excel to a different level and work harder to go global, and not just in music. It takes political will, human will and the joining of hands for people to collaborate.”


KL Jamm festival director Datuk Norman Abdul Halim during the recent official opening of the inaugural international music festival. (Picture by NSTP/AZHAR RAMLI)

EMBRACING TECH AND CREATIVITY

“Technology rules everything and we’re trying to understand and make sense of it because every small nuance will change things. The impact of 5G will be crazy as access to data and Wi-Fi become cheaper and widespread across the country,” said Jake.

  Para added that creativity should be thoroughly encouraged. “Creativity will rewire the whole country. We have to get out of our various comfort zones,” he said.

  Ong said that Malaysia is a reservoir of talent and viable musical genres. “There are plenty of great music from Sabah and Sarawak that we can push and expose the world to. Even nasyid music is something that has big potential. Malaysia has so much of cultural, beautiful and unique music to offer,” he said.

  Ong also talked about changing the teaching and learning curriculum in educational institutions for a more modern and relatable approach. “It has to be updated to match what's happening and going to happen. We need to talk about the future.

  He added that the classrooms needed to be driven by people who were forward thinking and open-minded.

  Explaining that there was also a need for synergy between the universities and companies in the industry, he said: “There has to be real-life experience and participation for students in the industry. The various elements and goals of internships have to be laid out clearly so that the students get proper learning exposure from internships. Not just photocopying documents and going out to buy lunch and drinks.”

 

GOVERNMENT HELP

Earlier on in the day during his opening speech, KL Jamm festival director Datuk Norman Abdul Halim had called on the government to create a central music agency to further push the Malaysian music industry forward.

  He said: “So far the government has lent support to other creative areas of the entertainment industry. For film, we have Finas (National Film Development Corporation) and MDEC (Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation) for video games and animation.”

  “It's high time that steps are taken for the sake of improving the recorded music scene, the live music arena and music education as well,” said Norman.