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MyCreative in the news as well as the latest happenings in Malaysia’s creative industry.

A S.W.O.T Analysis on Malaysian Music Industry (Other Who Spoke 5 : Fueling the Kreativ Malaysia)

Copyright © 2017 by
Michael Veerapen
Professional Pianist
Diploma, Professional Music
Berklee College of Music

THE ENEMY OF CREATIVE ARTIST IS UNEMPLOYMENT. So how do we deal with this? My approach is really to analyse the strength, weaknesses, opportunities as well as threats of the music industry.


Good demand for live music – Malaysians (especially in the Klang Valley), have always shown a preference for outlets with live music.  Musicians who perform Top 40’s, Evergreens, Jazz, R’n’B and other popular genres do not have much difficulty getting work and income from these sources as there are a significant number of places to play in the Klang Valley.
There are a healthy number of local music colleges and universities offering degrees in Non-Classical Music. This assures us of a steady stream of trained musicians.  What they now need is some real-world music experience.
Non-Classical music education is a growing industry fuelled by the rise in a number of music colleges and also the keen interest of parents wanting their children to take an interest in music using popular music to keep that interest alive and perhaps sowing seeds for a possible career inmusic.
There has been significant growth in the number of Asian TV Shows, both local and foreign, of the ‘Talent’ genre i.e. Asian versions of ‘American Idol’ type programmes.  This means more work for Musicians, Arrangers, Music Producers, Production, Staging, Sound and Lighting persons together with Marketing, Social Media and other spin-offs that ride on these shows such as event management, catering, sound equipment rentals etc.
A good number of Music Festivals (Jazz Festivals in particular) held all over East and West Malaysia helps to keep interest in Live Music alive.

There is inadequate music education in primary and secondary education.  There are many reasons for the state of music education in schools but suffice to say, lack of resources and teachers is high on the list. In my opinion, the syllabi for music could do with a revamp to include more popular, and therefore more interesting, genres of music together with the usual emphasis on ‘nation building, patriotic and not forgetting our roots and culture’ types of music that is taught in schools.
Flowing from the above, we face creating Malaysians who are not as developed holistically as our Western counterparts who have displayed a greater understanding and appreciation of the humanities.  Take a look at the state of Muzium Negara and compare it to the number of fine Museums in London and it becomes clear.
Wage Stagnation – Live musicians’ wages have remained fairly stagnant over the last 10 to 15 years.  Alexis Bistro in Ampang Great Eastern Mall has been paying RM1,500 per night since it opened close to 20 years ago!
Media Coverage – TV and Radio coverage of local musicians and singers remains poor.  Musicians have taken to social media to advertise their performances.  Some of it is effective but nothing compares with being featured in the Star, NST etc. when it comes to building your reputation and branding.
Decline in the Recording Industry – The Recording Industry has changed largely due to the Internet.The likes of iTunes and Spotify have all contributed to the demise of CD’s and albums.  On demand type music purchasing is the norm today.  As a result, we have to redefine the meaning of the word ‘Star’ and now view it in terms of Internet language, FB likes, YouTube views, Twitter followers etc. However, it’s exceedingly hard to see where the money is in this. Composer rights and other intellectual property rights are virtually impossible to trace let alone collect.
There is lack of talent development programmes and incentives like grants for special projects and works, study scholarships, endorsements and financial support for talented musicians and artistes.There is also lack of good mentoring programmes where experienced exponents of the artsconstantly interact with younger artistes and share from the wealth of their experience. 


Today’s musician and Singers can benefit greatly from good management. Good managementmade all the difference for Superstars like Sudirman.  In today’s crowded and highly individualisedenvironment, management services are needed all the more to help artistes develop their own individuality and to make them also commercially successful and move them towards monetisingtheir internet fame.  Grooming them to become live acts from just YouTube acts is one such benefit of the right management.
Innovative educational programmes and applications for primary and secondary schools are greatly needed. Apart from developing interest in the humanities and creating a more rounded and developed populace, it also helps to bridge the gap between the haves and the have nots who cannot afford private music lessons for their children.
There is a ‘gap’ between what music graduates are able to do and what the professional music industry wants. Traditionally, this gap have been filled the hard way, what musicians call ‘paying your dues’. A professional post-graduate music school that would totally prepare the graduate for the real world would fill that gap and reduce the time it would take to get up to speed significantly.


It is my observation that the growing gap between the haves and the have nots is not just split along the lines of rich and poor but also along racial lines. Private music education like piano lessons and violin lessons is expensive and Malay participation is not in proportion with the social demographics. These music lessons are primarily among the Chinese with Indians opting for more classical Indian music and dance.  Student intake into private music colleges like ICOM and UCSI are by far non-Malays whereas colleges like UITM, Aswara, UM and UPM which are public colleges are primarily Malay. These disparities place Malay students at a disadvantage when it comes to theprofessional world where non-Malays are entering far more than Malays with the Chinese and Indians getting the better paid jobs as they are better prepared. This disparity must be addressed so that the music industry is well represented by all the races with talent recognition and artistry being the statement we make as a country.
Increasing religious involvement in the arts is a worrisome trend that must be addressed. Moralpolicing and the arts have never worked well.  Whereas understanding moral sensitivities of sectors of the public is desired, there should also be understanding from religious authorities as to the nature of art and artistic expression and the importance of the humanities in making us what weare.

As the nation pushes forward with becoming a developed country, the arts and humanities do not factor much in the shaping of the kind of people that we want to be. In the pursuit of economic growth and wealth, the danger of becoming impoverished in arts and culture is real and our leaders must address this and implement policies that not only protect but nurture our artistes and provide for sufficient funding in all our national budgets.