Music

‘The President’ Talks Spotify And Digital Future of Malaysian Music

Thriving in an industry still relatively in its early days when compared to the rest of the world, naturally the self-made, all-Malaysian music mogul Joe Flizzow only sees hope ahead.

When asked about the prospects of the streaming revolution in Malaysia, he admits that he is heavily reliant on technology and the Web.

“I cannot live without Spotify,” shares Joe. “You know what I don’t miss? Cassette tapes. I don’t miss scratched CDs, I don’t miss Discmans.”

As a recording artist who has made his catalogue entirely available on Spotify, he has no qualms about being a part of the streaming industry.

“Streaming takes away the wait. I get people who don’t know who I am, who are able to find me on Spotify there and then and tell me that they’ve heard my stuff. It’s a lot more efficient than passing around a CD.”

The growth of streaming has been debated heavily by recording industries overseas, with the RIAA (US), BPI (UK) and ARIA (Australia) all changing their rules of what constitutes a “hit” song or album to incorporate streaming.

Though there has also been backlash, with worldwide phenomenon Taylor Swift – the embodiment of the modern 360-deal artist – withdrawing her entire discography from Spotify. The move stirred its fair bit of controversy as it was made after evaluating the amount of revenue Spotify brings in for the artist – revealing relative pittance (read: 0.X cents and sen figures) paid to the artist for a certain number of streams.

When asked about the viability of Spotify in Malaysia, managing director at Sony Music Entertainment Singapore & Malaysia Julius Ng stated that it is still early days; in fact too early to expect much revenue from the online music provider just yet.

“It’s basically still wait and see. (For example,) Deezer (another Internet music streaming service) is very big here, but not in Singapore. YouTube is the most popular, and that makes it easier to quantify the YouTube market. In Singapore, streaming is where all the business is, with iTunes playing a big part too.”

From the creative perspective Joe understands that physical CDs have become more of a collectors item and have been steadily losing their place in the market to digital sales and streaming services.

“I used to get CDs because I wanted to read the booklets and find out where the songs were recorded and who played drums and who did this or that,” says Flizzow. “As a musician, that was the most interesting part of buying a CD aside from the listening experience.”

David Tee, managing partner of Kartel Records, believes that streaming is the right path but it’s going to take a bit of patience.

“As a country, you need the hardware to complement the software,” he theorizes. “Spotify and these other streaming services are software. They’re all very reliant on the rest of Malaysia getting on a phone or gadget capable of running Spotify. And that is only half the battle.”

“Once you’ve managed to get potential listeners on a smartphone, you now have to convince them to pay RM15 a month,” he continues. “It’s going to take a couple of years. Currently, nobody wants an app that isn’t free. And with free apps, people consider in-app purchases a nightmare.”

If it’s merely something to wait out – are they then comfortable in their seats, or is the vinyl revival something to worry about?

Even Joe Flizzow himself originally planned to press 500 copies of his album ‘Havoc’ on vinyl but plans fell through because he wasn’t convinced he had enough followers who owned a turntable.

The vinyl debate is one field which exasperates David, an audiophile.

“You can have an argument over which medium is better until the cows come running home,” he sighs. “With a CD, you’re listening to a .WAV file. That’s the purest form of an audio recording (after .FLAC, the file quality ripped from vinyl – Ed), so how can anyone say that listening to a CD is lesser than anything?”

Vinyl has been making a comeback around the world, particularly in specialty stores around Kuala Lumpur despite bearing much higher prices. This has led to a resurgence in turntables too, as new models crop up at vintage markets as well as online auction sites.

But for Julius, the future looks just fine.

“In all honesty, streaming is the way to go. This is the way the world is heading,” ends Julius on a bright note.

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