Thursday, 29 September 2011

Is Manila Asia’s new concert capital?

by Nickie Wang
Manila Standard

Leading music channels MTV Asia and Channel [V] are based in Singapore and Hong Kong, respectively, hence it is easy for them to claim that they are the Asia’s music capitals. But why is that foreign artists are flocking to the concert venues of Manila to stage their performances instead?

According to a prominent publicist, around 200 concerts and performances are being staged in the country every year. That’s enough to make Manila’s music scene alive almost every day. So, will it be safe enough to say that Manila or the Philippines in general has become the music and concert capital of the region?

Last week the Idols Season 10 Top 11 staged a two-night concert at the Big Dome. It made a lot of buzz since the concert was the only live appearance of the Idols in Asia and of course that reinforces Manila’s claim to be the preferred destination of foreign acts when staging shows and concerts.

Not a single month was a lean season for concert promoters as the first half of the year saw sold out concerts of big music acts like Taylor Swift, Justine Bieber, Kylie Minogue, Maroon 5, Super Junior, and Bruno Mars to name a few. Activity areas in the malls and concert venues (big and small) were all full of action with visiting artists that either promoted a CD or staged a live show.

To top that, the beginning of 2011’s second half was even more explosive with returning acts like Incubus, David Archuleta, and Korn. And that’s not the end of superlative treats to concertgoers in Manila because they need to brace themselves up with another lineup of forthcoming concerts by Westlife, Black Eyed Peas, and Foster and Friends.

Staging a concert that features foreign acts is a lucrative business. The country has enough people from the middle class and nouveau riche sector who can buy pricey tickets that are up for sale. One performance can rake in somewhere between 10 and 20 million pesos. That is if the show is staged in a venue like the Smart Araneta Coliseum, and that amount can double if the show is staged at the Concert Grounds of the SM Mall of Asia where 100,000 fans can squeeze in to see a live performance.

Last year, Justine Timberlake was warmly welcomed by 80,000 screaming fans while David Cook and David Archuleta were watched by around 100,000 people. With that size of attendees, who wouldn’t be enticed to visit the country? No wonder even the oldies musicians from the past decades revive their glorious musical panache on the concert stage because Filipinos still watch them. Generally, Filipinos are nostalgic audience, meaning they prefer familiar songs rather than paying attention to new unfamiliar sounds. That is why retrospective concerts are very much in demand in Manila, just so you know.

While the bands and musicians from the ‘70s, the ‘80s, and the ‘90s are reviving their music career in the Philippines, virtually unknown independent music acts also find a home in the country. There are foreign bands that have not experienced performing before a huge audience right in their hometown, but in Manila, they are big music stars.

The influx of foreign acts, however, is not healthy for local musicians. Unfortunately, with the dominance of foreign music in the country local singers and musicians directly suffer, from the sales of their CDs to the number of people that attend their concerts. Thus, we are not surprised that most local acts play in the sidelights performing in smaller concert venues (as they can hardly fill big venues anyway).

For the country to claim such title, like what have been mentioned, The Concert or Music Capital of Asia, we should also consider the condition of local music industry. Unlike Japan and South Korea, or Singapore and Hong Kong for that matter, the Philippines, sad to say, does not have a thriving local music scene. The country does not have enough supply of commercially attractive performers that can lure music consumers to watch or listen to their music. In the aforementioned territories, foreign musicians have a stiff competition with local artists. Hence, naturally, they would opt to finding a place where they will experience massive reception.

Manila has become a favorite concert destination, and we would want to sustain that reputation as it also gives locals the privilege to see foreign acts performing live. But then again that does not maintain the balance. It is bizarre that we can’t generate the same interest on local artists, it’s the only missing link.

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