By Hans Ebert
The Big Fish In The Small Pond Syndrome. It’s been the death of many musicians, and, these days, with all these social media platforms available, it’s all become one free-for-all for self promotion. And it’s not only ugly as hell, it’s funny, it’s sad and it’s pointless.
Once thought to be online meeting places to meet like-minded people and the sharing of news and views and community, it’s become as boorish as Trump shoving other world leaders aside to be the centre of attention.
What we have is The Selfie Generation- here’s me having a drink, here’s me eating, here’s me in a restaurant/club/shop/street/hotel/fitness centre, here’s me photobombing some occasion to show that I was there, here’s me flaunting my wealth because I am so darn insecure that I might be seen as a loser. And so it goes on and on with updates, “likes” for things many don’t even realise what they are, let alone like. It all becomes just a free-for-all of nothingness for lemmings all screaming for attention.
From a music point of view, this is one giant step backwards, where instead of talking softly and carrying a big stick, or else doing the best one can to create and release the best music lying dormant inside, it’s about keeping up pretences and actually buying into one’s own self-perpetuated hype. And then what?
These days, the less and less can I take Hong Kong, which is why, more and more, I need to leave it in order to be hit with a dose of reality bites so as not to lower standards and keep up with the Mister Joneses, the Wongs, the Chans, and all the other Lost People, who decided long ago to settle for Okay Is Good Enough when they probably realised that this is as good as it gets, so let’s just parlay this into something more than it is because this is Hong Kong and Hong Kong has embraced mediocrity for over three decades.
It’s why there are still sixty year old Canto-pop “idols”, the usual “nostalgia” concert with the expensive dinner, which I used to attend out of misplaced politeness until looking around one day and seeing dead people while listening to human karaoke machines. This is the main problem with Hong Kong: Not knowing what’s good and for too long accepting mawkish crap wrapped in swaddling clothes.
In nearly every industry here, those marketing products are clueless about what’s really original. And good. And so they copy. Why are these people in key roles? Like creative and marketing? Because those doing the hiring also have no idea who and what’s good. This means that, like The Peter Principle, mediocrity is promoted, and, in the process, standards are lowered. Worst of all, this is accepted as the norm.
It’s kinda like being with someone because they’re the only one who’ll have you. It’s settling for whoever and whatever is out there because it’s just so much easier than going it alone and striving for excellence. It’s like staying in an unhappy relationship and constantly looking for the right one with that U2 song playing in your head.
Whatever happened and when, the simple, organic way of making music has been replaced by over-thinking something to death. Perhaps this has to do with the fear to actually produce something and find out that it’s just not good enough? And so there’s just yada yada yada about being able to do this and that. But, especially in Hong Kong, what you get are a murder of copycat crows going nowhere and the hypocritical little shitheads who can only throw shade at those actually trying to make a difference from the safety of social media while hiding from reality. You know who you are.
To them, some advice: Step out of comfort zones and travel- not more astral travelling, but actually go to London, go to Australia, in particular, go to Melbourne, a place I never thought would have such an abundance of very good new talent, where even when artists cover a song, it sounds new. When totally original, there’s Tash Sultana.
Stop kidding yourselves with the bullshit that you’re making “Jazz” without understanding what Miles and Ella and Coltrane and Sarah Vaughan did and that Amy Winehouse is hardly “Jazz”. Stop being a legend in your own lunchtime. The only reason you’re a musician in Hong Kong is because it’s comfortable and it’s the only place where you’re accepted because most of the audiences here can be so easily conned. They’re too polite to say, “That’s crap.”
Play covers long enough until you can only play on Remote, which is fine as it’s about financial survival. But let’s drop those pretences of saying you’re capable of being original by saying such stupid things like, “I have a new song that’s very much like Bruno Mars/Ed Sheeran/Chainsmokers” etc, because, well, What’s the point? It’s a waste of everyone’s time.
Sure, make music for yourself and keep the day job. But if really sincere about making music that’s actually original and touches even a handful of people because you’re connecting with them through something honest, then spend every waking hour doing it.
Updating profile pics and living an online life in the past thinking this is going to suddenly catapult you into the future is just lying to yourself. It’s a con. And everyone can see that. You’re invisible now, you’ve got no secrets to conceal.