Monday, July 5, 2010

What Has Become of the HK Music Industry?

I was reading an old edition of Mingpao magazine (from August 2009) and one of the articles in there was an interview with Nicholas Tse regarding the Mandarin album that he released last year. I’m not a fan of his by any means, but something he said about the HK music industry during the interview really hit home for me and is very much in line with something I’ve been trying to say for a long time – that the HK music industry has been in a dismal state for years and will continue to go downhill.

The interviewer asked him if the Mandarin album that he released will be his last album – Nicholas answered that it probably will be his last because 1) he wants to focus more on movies and 2) he feels that he doesn’t fit in with the current music industry.

With regard to Nicholas feeling that he doesn’t fit in with the industry anymore, he brought up several very valid points, but the one I agree with the most is that the “standards” have definitely changed from the way it was back in the 80s/90s – basically, the standards have been lowered rather than raised.

Here’s Nicholas’ exact words (translated into English) from the interview: “In the past, our albums needed to sell at least several hundred thousand copies before we were even ‘qualified’ to have a concert at the HK Coliseum. Nowadays, if only one song from an album is a hit, the next day, there is already an announcement made that the artist will be performing at the HK Coliseum; then even if the album sells only 10 thousand copies, the champagne is brought out right away in celebration – the standards have been drastically lowered. If Michael Jackson hadn’t died, the young artists today would not even know that such a superstar even existed – it’s sad that it takes a superstar like him to die in order for the young generation to understand what it really means to be a legend and what ‘true music’ really is. To be forced to exist in such a music industry today – sorry, but I can’t do it.”

What Nicholas said has a lot of merit and I absolutely agree – the standards have been lowered so much that now, the music industry is pretty much crap. I mean, just looking around, there are countless examples of how the younger generation of singers just can’t cut it:

~ Most can’t sing live without going off tune (and I mean REALLY off tune). True, some of the older generation artists have gone off tune before, but not in as obvious a way as today’s artists do. Part of the reason for this is because today’s artists are not used to singing live – they are so spoiled by the record companies that all they do is release an album that is recorded in a studio and are all of a sudden considered ‘singers’. But one thing that they fail to remember (or they know but are in denial) is that just because someone sounds good on a recorded album does NOT mean that they are a good singer – namely because the songs can be recorded over and over again so that the best version gets recorded and plus there’s a lot of post-production editing that goes into the album to make it sound perfect. So technically, a ‘singer’ can be extremely off-tune, but since the audience only gets the final version of what was recorded, they would never know that. Singing live is different because 1) the audience is sitting right there, so any error made will be very obvious, and 2) unforeseen situations can happen when singing live (such as microphones not working properly, audience members walking in and out of the room, etc.) that the singers don’t get the benefit of experiencing in a studio setting and therefore do not know how to handle.

~Society tries to be so ‘politically correct’ nowadays that people become ‘afraid’ to give constructive criticism and feedback to these young artists. So with no one telling them what they are doing wrong or even worse, downplaying their flaws in order to not hurt their feelings, the younger artists are going to continue their bad habits until it gets to a point where, when they finally realize their faults, it is too late to change.

~Most of the younger generation have haughty and arrogant attitudes – so when the older generation artists DO try to mentor them and give them feedback, they don’t listen to them. What’s worse (and what I find most annoying) is that some of these younger artists cast the feedback aside as ‘faulty’ and disrespect the older generation artists by claiming that they are ‘out of touch’ with the newer generation. Well, those ‘kids’ need to wake up because it’s NOT the older generation that is ‘out of touch’ – rather, it’s the younger generation’s bad attitudes that are not allowing them to accept the feedback and advice of those who are only trying to help them (and help the industry at the same time).

Bottom line: the reality is that the music industry (namely, the HK music industry) has lowered its standards to such an extent that it is willing to accommodate and accept mediocrity – and in doing so, basically “killing off” the industry completely.

I could go on forever about this topic, but since I will only become increasingly frustrated the more I talk about it (because unfortunately, it’s too late to change the industry and things are only going to continue to get worse), I figured I should end it here.


  1. Honestly, NOT just HK industry are going haywire. It's the whole industry. In fact, everyone and their cousins could practically release an album. AND sadly only those pretty faces get to release while those rare few who could actually sing in a decent manner becomes over-shadows because oftentimes they are NOT good-looking OR do not know their way around to be noticed.

    Totally agree with you regarding 'live singing'. Seriously, I have to constantly remind myself of that one since those supposedly 'good singers' sound really nice on albums YET when you end up hearing the live version, you'll be stumped major time. I've been scratching my heads for days. BUT then there also delusional fans who DO NOT know the differences and actually still praises them. I'm not kidding. Then when confronted, those fans would make up excuses like 'the majority of voices do not have to be strong/powerful in order to be a good singer'. Probably they're coming defense for those who can't carry the high notes that well? BUT come on now, those are just excuses to cover up and prevent those 'singers' from improving. I do know it when those who do not do that well in those super high notes BUT they have good techniques to maintain their style and improve (but of course they are the ones I talk about who do not get chances).

    I'm getting way off and way more frustrated than ever when I discuss about this so I'll stop here and maybe come back later... (LOL)

  2. Sorry for the (very) late!

    Anyway, I totally agree -- but won't go into it too much anymore because it will just get me heated all over again!

    One thing I will say though is that us hardcore music fans will have it even tougher in the next 10-20 years when the singers of our generation retire (since we can't tolerate the "newbies" nowadays) fact, it's already started to happen...I find myself listening to my ipod/itunes more and more often -- and it consists primarily of songs from the 80s and 90s (with the exception of some TV theme songs and some newer Jacky songs)...I know practically nothing about the new songs and new albums from the past 10 years (outside of the ones I mentioned above of course)!

  3. I actually still pay attention but only follow the ones that are sooo under-rated that it's sad. (Again, it's all about looks nowadays if you want to release an album so either they give in to focus on packaging their looks as well OR they'll be out. And sadly, I have seen some who abandoned their principles to do so - both in acting and singing, not just singing alone.)

    I agree that we should end it here before we get worked up all over again.