By Hans Ebert
There was news today that Canto Pop superstar Aaron Kwok, one of this music genre’s “Four Heavenly Kings”, will stage and stream an online fundraising concert on Saturday. Being an actor and dancer, proceeds will go towards helping local dancers and film crews hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s something to be applauded.
It’s also something that Hong Kong musicians who are not part of the Canto Pop fraternity should take on board with their present and future careers in Hong Kong in mind.
Without turning this into a history lesson on how and when Canto Pop happened- a term created by yours truly when writing for the American trade publication Billboard- this became the sound of Hong Kong and made millionaires of many- artists who, today are mega celebrities along with now-retired music executives, songwriters who wrote for all the big name artists, television and film executives who came along for the ride etc. It was big banquet of business opportunities. It was also pretty much a closed shop.
Everyone involved in keeping Canto Pop alive have enjoyed various slices of a very lucrative pie. Canto Pop is still very much alive and kicking and is well supported by the Chinese media and, of course, local audiences who grew up listening to its artists.
A few weeks ago, Canto Pop pioneer Sam Hui streamed a ‘live’ one hour special from the rooftop of the Harbour City shopping complex which attracted a global audience of almost 3 million viewers.
Online donations raised HK$72,000 whereas Hui donated HK$250,000 himself and with all this going to workers from sound production company Tom Lee Engineering who have also lost their jobs due to the pandemic.
This leads to what was mentioned here a few weeks ago- for the rest of Hong Kong’s very international music community- largely a giggling community- to come together to create something unique to make itself seen and heard and be more than it is by creating its own “brand personality”. By being a business and run by those experienced in the music industry- today’s music industry and not a waltz through yesterday.
A few musician friends contacted for the project and property I had in mind were up for it, and, understandably, wished to be paid for their services. That’s a given. It’s business and there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
Unfortunately, musicians wanted for their talent and who would also have been paid- $3,000 for two hours of session work- didn’t even have the courtesy to respond.
When they did get back after prodding with an answer, it was decided to move the project to Australia and work with musicians I have worked with and with the concept being tweaked.
The bottom line is that though not part of the Canto Pop fraternity, there’s even more of a need for especially gigging musicians to have some ownership of an alternative and unique music product. It just makes business sense when venues for ‘live’ music are going through their own problems.
This should have happened decades ago, but for various reasons, it never did. Nothing new was able to be created to build up a big enough audience and bring in financial support groups in the way of sponsors and business partners.
It’s not too late to make this happen during these days when everything is changing and up in the air. All this ‘live’ streaming of music is a nice gesture, but unless a marquee value name and good for branding, it doesn’t pay the rent. It doesn’t even buy one a cuppa coffee.
Let’s also not forget that God helps those who help themselves- and especially those who come together to be One and help each other.
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