We just came back from a long overdue 5 day trip to Phuket, it was such a good much needed break!
Phuket. People’ll usually think, overcrowded Patong beach, the commercialism of malls like Jung Ceylon, brands like Starbucks, Burger King, loud Bangla Road bars, english cover bands playing My Sharona, ACDC, blast from the past, the same imitation branded stuff selling in every corner and that pickup that blasts ‘Tomorrow night, Tomorrow night, Tomorrow night, real Thai boxing at Bangla stadium” all day.
Yes, that’s all cool, however I can say that’s half the reason why I love Phuket. Here’s the other half.
Do note that you either have to rent a bike or a car to get to most of these places. I don’t see much cabs in these places I go as it’s mostly frequented by locals.
Phuket Indy Market
This place was set up in 2010, it’s an artsy market where you’ll find Thai local designs and local bands performing in an open area. As it’s mostly frequented by locals, the starting prices there are way less tiring to bargain than at Patong or other touristy places. And there’s great cheap food there as well. For e.g. Fried seafood omelete with rice (20baht, 80cents SGD) and Thai Ice Kachang, super ‘gao’, super shiok. (20baht, 80cents SGD)
Old Phuket Town
This places is kinda like Emerald Hill where they restore all the old colonial houses. Some of it is still operating traditional businesses like textile cloths, hardware store while there are many quaint unique cafes sprouting up all around, some with local bands playing there in the night.
I have a sinus problem, so my tastebuds need to have intense tastes for me to enjoy food. And that’s what Thai food is all about! You can easily find great food anywhere, however here are 2 of the more memorable places I went this time.
1. Bang Pae Seafood
This place is about 30 minutes away from Patong, we just went to check it out as it’s rated in the Top 10 of best Phuket restaurants on the internet for their Tom Yam Soup. And yes! It was delish!
2. Rom Sai Barn Nakalay
This restaurant is inexpensive and serves authentic local Thai Food (not the touristy kind) with some dishes not commonly found (Chilli Chicken, Tom Yam Pork Soup which doesn’t taste like your usual). They’ve got great Som Tam. And what a great view!!!
The local music venues
When I first started coming to Phuket, which was around 1998, I was exposed to the cover band culture along Bangla Road, which we can easily get over here in Singapore. However thank the Heavens for the internet and I found out about other places that have local bands playing local Thai music which I love.
The internet will cover places like Yaowarad road and Old Phuket Town where they have little cafes or bars with live bands. However this time we came across a guitar shop, and the owner gave us 3 great places to check out local live bands. So I’ll share it here.
1. ?$?$?$?$? and ??!?!? Bar.
Their names were written in Thai so I won’t know how to tell you their names, however if you show the picture above to a local, I’m sure they’ll be able to advise you. These 2 venues were side by side, we went to one of the places that I can’t pronounce simply because it was such a cool setting. No building structure, just some used car parts, an abandoned van, a traffic light and a zine roof made up the venue with a backdrop made up of used TVs. How cool is that? And also because the bars were right next to each other, I didn’t feel I need to go to the one beside it because the other side was leaking in their live music as well
THIS, is my new ultimate fav live venue in Phuket. It’s set in an old cinema, the bands there are really great and it’s packed the three weekday nights we were there! And every local Thai cover that the different bands played set the crowd screaming. It’s really nice watching the Thai crowd loving their own local made music, enjoying, supporting and singing, dancing(with some even screaming) along to every word to songs performed and written by their own country men. I really enjoyed myself there and was very envious of the support Thai people give to their own homegrown musicians.
Yep. These are just a few reasons why I love Phuket. I haven’t even mentioned the beaches outside of Patong where it’s not so packed (Paradise Beach, Nai Harn Beach, Laem Sing Beach, Karon Beach, Tri Trang Beach etc) Hope I can be back really really soon!
Even before there was social media, there’s been neverending rants from musicians/photographers/film makers/designers/creative individuals etc about being underpaid, or being asked to work or perform for free with the promise of exposure, experience, for lack of budget ______ (Insert reason/excuse).
Nothing wrong with ranting, I’ve been there too, if you are planning to get into or am already in the industry. If you have not experienced this, don’t worry, you’ll get there soon.
And usually these posts are mainly trying to get others to notice, take action, hoping to get the clients understand about the state we’re in etc.
I’ve been in the industry long enough to hear these rants going on and on, and also to notice, nope. It’ll never change. It will still go on that way. People will still try their luck, people will still claim they spent their budget on that awesome something else and forgot all about you.
Why? Because as you know, someone will always come along and take on that offer.
I think the analogy is similar to illegal downloading of music and movies. You probably heard enough endorsements by artists/actors/directors or organisations and all those rants out there to know that you’re actually denying the creators the financial support they need to go on. For music, the results are already out there, bands/artists come and go, 1st single/ 1st album fails, good bye, get lost, next better player. And of course the many musicians out there with a day job.
But then…downloading still goes on, because it’s there, if this torrent doesn’t work, hit the other one. Try hard enough, you’ll get what you want.
Similarly, clients seeking performers, creative works, will still try their luck. Try hard enough, they will find someone, and if they are lucky, that person might actually be really good. If they still can’t find one by the dateline, they scrap it or they have no choice but to pay the next cheapest alternative.
Eh…like that…So how?
Here’s some tips from my own experience on how I’ve managed this never ending problem, it might work, it might not. However I believe we cannot expect others to help or symphatise our situation as if we want to make a living out of this, this is OUR business. And these tips are suggestions/actions you can start from within.
1. Improve your art.
This should NEVER stop, you don’t wait till a great offer comes to you then you start to prepare for it. Always work on improving yourself to be able to demand what you deserve.
2. Improve your negotiation skills.
There are many books out there on self improvement, how to speak in public, how to negotiate the best deal, how to make people want to part their money to you. In the music biz, we are all salesmen, marketing and promoting our wares in hope of convincing buyers.
3. Improve your marketing/promo skills.
If people don’t know what you’ve done previously, why will they want to pay you to do their next project?
4. Say No.
Short and sweet you don’t owe them a long story. But please decline it politely, as you will never know one day you’ll be big enough for them
to knock on your door again and wish to pay you gazillions.
5. Say Yes
IF you can benefit from it in other ways. Whenever I get these kinda offers, I try to look thru the bullshit and decide what’s real. Is it a good experience? Can I learn from someone who I’d normally won’t get access to? Is the exposure really good for me? Will I be able to get a credit that I normally will not be hired for? Does associating with this brand help me in my future plans? If I do take a case from this brand/client, will other similarly related clients/brands will follow suit and start to ask me do things for free as well?
Different exposure will benefit different areas of your expertise, for this you will have to weigh it yourself.
Ultimately, you should only say Yes because it’s a win win situation.
6. If you say Yes, know when to stop
Everyone’s gone thru this process of doing free stuff to gain experience, get more exposure etc. I started out doing session gigs for big time artists at 30 dollars a gig. However you have to know yourself when enough is enough, and when you have to reject these offers. If the same client who expects you to do for free or almost free again and again start making noise when you ask for a fee, even when you know your work deserves a reward, it’s time to look for other clients.
7. Be open to still saying Yes.
Along the way, there will still be offers that come to me asking if I’m interested to work on certain cases. If I feel it’s for a good cause, or I can really learn something from it, or if it’s a true win win situation I’ll say why not? However I’ll not advise to take a much lower pay just because on that month you do not have any jobs, it will just all go down from there.
8. What if it all doesn’t work out? What if you still have to keep that day job?
If you feel like giving up because you think you won’t make $$$ out of this. I’d say give up now. Ask most of the musicians who succeed making a living out of this, and you’ll find that most of them didn’t start out with money as the main driving force.
So yeah, even if you think all these suggestions won’t work for you. Think of something else that you can start within yourself.
A few days ago I bumped into an old friend whom I haven’t seen in a long time, she shared with me that her husband suddenly passed away at the start of this year from exhaustion, he was only 50plus. I felt heavy hearted as she muttered the words 生命如此短暂 to herself as she left.
Over the years I’ve had people around me who left this world too fast, too soon. Some of whom didn’t even get the chance to experience their 30s.
The recent news of the MH370 is yet another tragic reminder of the words my friend left me with. Hearts goes out to all those affected.
My insurance agent told me that once a person experiences cancer or other critical terminal illnesses, his or her whole view on life will change. If they do recover, they will see life in a whole different light, priorities change, they cherish life and enjoy the power of now etc.
Let’s not wait till something hard hits us before we realise that life is short.
It’s not all about work, it’s not all about play. Life can be so much more than that for all of us. Plan for tomorrow, live for today.
Do what you wanna do, say what you want to say.
The upcoming few weeks is going to be exciting. Right now I’m preparing with Ming for HKAMF next week.
The HKAMF is a competition for budding recording stars from seven countries/territories in Asia, namely the Mainland China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and the host city Hong Kong and Ming has been selected this year to represent Singapore.
She’ll be facing stiff competition with acts such as QUAN ZHENDONG from Mainland China, Hans Tsou from Taiwan, TarO&JirO from Japan, N-SONIC from Korea, Bell “a.k.a. Bell宇田” from Malaysia and J.Arie from Hong Kong.
The show will be broadcasted on StarHub in Singapore and I’ll be backing Ming together with my band, Adam Shah, Clement and Jin An, so yeah, wish us luck!
For more info http://www.hkamf.org/index.php/en/hkamf-2014/news/51–hkamf-2014-
And in April, our past trainee from the “Career in Hit Songwriting” course will release his full length self composed album with Funkie Monkies Productions in Taiwan. So will be heading there then to look over things.
Yep, exciting months ahead for FM. Will keep you guys posted!
And meanwhile in the middle, will be slipping out to Phuket for a well deserved 1 year overdue holiday! Woo hoo!
After all, all work and no play makes a dull boy right?
We’ve just had an enjoyable Q&A session last weekend where we met many aspiring hit songwriters. Always happy to see fresh new faces, as we believe there is always space for a new hit songwriter, always space for a new song to resonate with us for years to come.
I’ve answered a few of the frequently asked questions here below. If there are any more questions, do feel free to ask here!
1. MDA-WDA is coming on board to fund my training fees up to 90%??? Really? Why?
Yes, the MDA-WDA has partnered with FM Pop Music School to sniff out the new breed of hit songwriters and give them a head start to a potential career by allowing them hands on job experience and training under experienced lecturers who’ve had an extensive hit songwriting career under their belt. The lecturers (Xiaohan, Jim and me) who’ve been teaching songwriting for almost 10 years, have written hits for the Mandarin pop scene for artists such as A*Mei, Stefanie Sun, Fish Leong, Jolin, Gary Cao, Show Luo etc for more than 15 years.
Trainees will need to submit their works for assessment to be eligible for the grant. More info here.
2. For melody, do I need to be super good in playing an instrument or a wizard in modern recording software?
I’ve mentioned before that to me, writing a melody, requires a different ‘muscle’ from music arrangement, music production or playing an instrument.
To me, if you can hold a pen, or if you can make a sound with your mouth, you can be a songwriter.
The ‘techniques’ used are far more intangible going beyond technical saviness of an instrument or a software.
No hit songwriter can guarantee that every next song is going to be a hit, even if they practice everyday. However of course with more practice, the frequency that your next song will sound great is much higher.
3. What if I’m really interested to write a hit melody for the Mandarin Pop Scene but can’t really speak Mandarin?
Well, you’ve talked to the right person because my Mandarin ain’t that great as well =D Our melody courses are conducted fully in English. The topics we touch on can work not just for the Mandarin language, but for the English, Malay (or any other language you prefer) language as well. In our last batch, we’ve had trainees who wrote songs in English only, and we helped them improve it. The magic of a great melody is that it transcends languages.
4. During the lessons, what will Xiaohan, Jim and Eric be teaching?
More info here.
5. When will the lessons be?
Weekday nights after working hours (For melody)
Saturday afternoons (For lyrics)
6. What will happen after we completed the 9 months of training?
If we find you suitable, we will sign you as an exclusive writer under Funkie Monkies Productions. For those interested to further their knowledge, we are also planning an advanced course for our previous batches.
7. What is the difference between this “Career in Hit Songwriting” course and our ongoing normal basic melody/lyrics course in the school.
This is a more specialised course, catering to the aspiring songwriter who wants to write hit songs for the music industry. Our expectations will be higher for our trainees as together with the MDA-WDA, we wish to make this into a viable income source for you.
8. Why are we so focused on songwriting?
Besides the fact that there are not many music schools out there offering songwriting courses. Funkie Monkies is not just a training school, other than our artist management and music production department, we have an established music publishing department that has generated many hits in Asia for years. Plus, having your songs published will open doors for musicians to venture into other music related avenues. Our trainees have moved on to jingle singing, music arrangement, music production and releasing their self composed albums all around Asia.
If you guys have any more questions just shoot! I’ve already heard some of the entries and they sound exciting! Keep them coming! Keep on writing!
I recently got to hear this brilliant medley of pop songs from different eras stringed together with 4 simple chords. Yeah it’s entertaining, explaining the crazy hit count since it’s release in 2011. And most importantly It shows how simple but yet challenging pop song writing can be, to make each melody catchy, distinct but yet flow with a familiar set of chords.
So how do you do that? How do you ‘design’ this distinction? We’ll be doing a Q&A session on 15 March Saturday, to share more about this business of pop songwriting and of course, our upcoming “Career in hit songwriting” courses.
Q&A Session Details
Date: 15th March 2014 (Saturday)
Venue: Academies Australasia Room 606 (6th Floor)
51 Middle Road Singapore 188959
RSVP for the Q&A Session to email@example.com NOW!
Last year, we had a very satisfying 9 months training up a new generation of songwriters, I’m proud to share that the feedback has been great and so were the results with some of our trainees selling songs, having songs on hold by various overseas record companies, working on other music related projects and one releasing his full length self composed album debut in Asia very soon!
With that, I’m excited to announce.
Due to popular demand, the MDA-WDA Grant scheme with FM Pop Music School is here again!
If you’ve missed it the first time round, here is your chance again to come and learn under Asia’s renowned songwriters/producers Eric Ng (黃韻仁) and Jim Lim (林倛玉) and award-winning lyricist Xiaohan (小寒)!
Send us your best 2 demos or lyrics (to the songs stated in the Hit Lyrics Songwriting), which will be assessed by our instructors.
For the successful applicant, The MDA-WDA grant scheme provides up to 90% reimbursement for the aspiring professional songwriter! (open to all Singaporean/Singaporean PR music professionals, media freelancers and newbies).
Apply now for your chance to learn under music industry experts and you will be more than one step closer to your dream of being a Hit-Songwriter!
So what are you waiting for? (details below)
Career in Hit Melodies Songwriting
“Learn to compose catchy melodies with the pros”
If you’ve been writing songs and have no clue on what’s the next step, this is your opportunity to turn your passion for songwriting into a fulfilling career! Join us on this journey with chart topping songwriters, as they share with you priceless real world experiences and the necessary skills on composing songs as a professional songwriter.
This is course will be conducted by renowned songwriters/music producers Eric Ng (黃韻仁) and Jim Lim (林倛玉).
Course Duration: 9 months
Course Frequency: Once a week (1.5hours per session)
Course Fees: $4,185 (course fees before the grant)
Registration fee: $20
Some topics that will be covered in the course:
• Various ways of entering the music industry
• What the industry looks for in a songwriter
• Real world experience and tips for writing on demand
• Understanding the industry’s workings and knowledge of your copyright
• Advanced Chord Theory
• Aural training on listening to chords of a song
• How to develop the melody of your song and create a “hook” that leaves a lasting impression on the listener
• Demo arrangement skills
• Weekly song writing assignments and review of assignments by course instructors
• Works accessed by your mentors
• Having hands on experience in composing songs for the industry
Pre-requisite for Career in Hit Melodies Songwriting
Applicants need to have songwriting experience, basic knowledge of a musical instrument and able to present their songs through a basic demo recording with vocals. We will require applicants to send in 2 of their best works (Demos) in mp3 format for assessment by our instructors.
How to submit
Start date for submissions: 27th February 2014
Send in your completed works to firstname.lastname@example.org with the following details:
2) Contact Number
6) Current employer (if any)
Deadline for submission for HIT LYRICS SONGWRITING: 22nd March 2014
Deadline for submission for HIT MELODIES SONGWRITING: 5th April 2014
Hurry and submit your best works to us!
The instructors will assess the demos or lyrics. After which all applicants will be notified either via email or phone whether they have been shortlisted for the grant or not.
Shortlisted applicants will have to submit their grant application to Six Degrees’.
For more info:
Kindly note that all applications for Talent Assistance and Training Allowance grants will be subjected to Six Degrees’ approval.
Over the weekend, FM Pop Music School had our open house and it was a day for the curious public to pop their heads in to have a understanding of what we teach over here.
It’s always nice to meet new faces who are interested in learning songwriting, and I’m sure there are more out there. So let me share these 5 points I always mention when I meet newcomers interested to have fun or aspire to make a living out of songwriting.
1. Your 1st song will (most probably) suck
I know mine did for sure. That shouldn’t stop us, as songwriting is something that is seen as a creative process, there is no exact hard and fast rule to get started. And that’s the reason why most people are afraid to get started on it as they have the fear that it will suck.
We all have to start somewhere, get past that psychological hurdle.
Once you’re done with your 1st song, share your joy. If someone is honest enough to say it sucks, take it well, however you should ask them why it sucks. Take that feedback and deal with it with your own judgement. Absorb what you think is right, ignore what you think is wrong. You don’t have to follow what everyone says coz what you deem as right or wrong ultimately forms up your style.
The more the merrier, don’t get caught up in one song. The number of songs you generate, the actual frequency that you practice writing is actually more precious than the number of years you’ve put into it. With the right guidance and commitment, someone who write songs weekly will find themselves more in control than the guy who spends a year writing one song.
4. You don’t need to be a concert standard instrumentalist
I find that songwriting requires a different creative ‘muscle’ from playing an instrument or a music arranger. I’ve met many great instrumentalists or music arrangers who just can’t bring themselves to write great simple pop songs. So for the aspiring songwriter, if you want to write a melody, I’d say all you need is the passion to drive it. I’ve met songwriters who can only play an instrument in one key, or can’t even play any instrument. Of course along the way, basic knowledge of an instrument will help in writing and hence the importance of your passion to get you started interested to learn the 2 most popular instruments for pop songwriting – Guitar and Piano/Keyboard.
Though I am a session guitar player/arranger and songwriter, however I find myself in different states of mind I’m in when I’m performing the different tasks. To me, songwriting is the most enjoyable out of the 3 as it’s sort of like ‘picking from air’ a set of notes and phrases which I then start to form into something that I want to glue into your ear It’s fun working out of nothing.
5. So, you’ve written many songs! And you’re stuck…
Seek feedback from the people around you, mix around with other like minded people, find partners to compliment your strengths and weaknesses. There are many songwriters/music arrangers/singers willing to try out singing original material out there. You can listen to songs that you enjoy and try to analyse the difference between your song and those that others write. Why are they more catchy? Why are they more satisfying?
OR if pop music’s your thing, you can check out http://www.fmpopmusicschool.com.sg or email email@example.com to find out more about the songwriting courses we conduct, where we help you hone your lyrics or melodies into songs catered to the pop world:) Other than learning from experienced lecturers, I always find more importantly, you start to meet like minded friends to form your own ‘teams’ and ‘musical cliques’, for what other way to enjoy your improve yourself than in the company of good friends?
To find out more about our courses and what our trainees have to say.
Pics of my last stop for CNY. Sydney!
Sydney was more fun this time round coz my cousin stays there!
So what’s there to do in Sydney, and he says, how about going to the beach?
or another beach?
or yet another beach? (We went to 3 beaches in one afternoon)
Other than that, I couldn’t really remember much of Sydney except for Darling Harbour, China Town and the Star Casino we were staying at.
With my cousin around, there was much pubbing involved as well.
And on the 2nd last day of the trip, I had a surprise visitor from Inner Mongolia who came to watch our show at the casino! Great singer, great catching up.
And then naturally…
After which I said, yeah that’s it, I’ve been to Sydney!
So my CNY continues at Melbourne, this has been an extremely chill CNY. I think this is the 1st time in years that I experienced a CNY where I really could take a short break.
and allowing myself some spare time to walk around aimlessly.
of course this wouldn’t have been possible if not for our generous sponsors UGG…who also gave me some nice furry shoes I can wear this winter in China.
I also went to check out Basement Discs, one of the very few CD shops in Melbourne(or in the world?) It was a great show with nicely decorated and with a great collection.
However I’m sad to say that even to me, the CD shop seems to feel like an antique shop now.
The next day, I had a chance to catch up with Sanny of Empra (prev local band heroes, Bored Phucks/The Suns) of Empra. In the early 2000s, I did a gig with the Suns at the Esplanade replacing Mr Sanny on guitar as he broke his hand while jumping down a guitar amp during an earlier show. It was definitely by far one of my most memorable local band gigs ever, playing with the tight as hell rhythm section of Justin and Wayne(R.I.P).
I managed to catch Sanny’s 2 year old outfit, Empra where they were doing an acoustic gig at the ESPY, a great venue where we spent almost 6 hours standing watching Sanny and 3 other bands that night!
When I hear acoustic gigs of rock songs, they are usually watered down versions and lose the punch of their full band versions. Kudos to Sanny and Matt for their well arranged renditions, to keep their material catchy and most still punchy!!
What a great night!
Had a healthy breakfast (at 130pm) with Sanny before his gig and we were talking about life as musicians. This guy has been going at it in Melbourne for 12 years and is still full of enthusiasm about the exciting possibilities of breaking down new doors to rock heaven. They opened for Fall out boy last year, and was sent to America, representing Australia in an international band competition and won 1st prize. We were talking about the new comers, the aspiring people who want to give this a shot and of coz the need of that giving it all you got even if you start at rock bottom mentality that I find not always present in the many hopefuls.
San shared with me in his 1st year in Melbourne, where he and the Suns went to knock on every live venue they knew of to hustle for a gig so they can start the ball rolling on performing, and that they did, and played 200 shows in the 1st year.
And now with Empra, they are all ready to try to conquer America as well, all willing to start from bottom up again to experience and make their mark on the biggest music industry in the world.
With talent like that, with fire in their eyes, I’d say nothing is impossible!
Here’s a link of a song from their latest EP. Rock on guys!