I personally don't have much opinion on the music-related changes that TVB is planning on rolling out next year, since I stopped caring about the HK music industry for close to a decade already. Most of the singers I like are veteran artists from the 70s, 80s, and 90s and if/when they release new music, I have my ways of finding out and supporting. Yes, I still do listen to newer music from the younger generation, but not as much compared to in the past...plus I don't follow most of the newbie singers anyway.
My only comment on the article below: the part that annoyed me big time was Sandy Yu once again 'boasting' that they (TVB) came up with the idea of having a unified awards ceremony and that they are all for this idea, but the other 3 media companies shot it down. Well, I will tell you that what Sandy said is B.S.!!!!! TVB was NOT the one who came up with the unified awards ceremony thing -- in fact, they weren't even supportive of such an idea until about a year or so ago! The veteran singers -- such as Jacky Cheung for example -- were technically the ones who first suggested that HK should do a unified awards ceremony...in fact, Jacky had heavily pushed for this about 5 years ago and would talk about it at practically every interview. But all the media organizations (TVB included) were vehemently opposed (most likely because they would lose whatever benefit they got from keeping it separate). At that time, TVB even went as far as 'boycotting' Jacky because he kept pushing the unified awards thing (though there were other reasons too, such as Jacky saying that alot of the music programs don't respect the singers because they cut off their performances among other things -- indirect jab at TVB, since they were notorious for doing this...plus there was the royalty dispute, since he belongs to one of the record companies that was at odds with TVB). I don't have a problem with TVB realizing they were stupid not to support the unified awards ceremony thing and therefore are now changing their tune -- but for them to take the credit for 'coming up with the idea' and bragging about it constantly and then worse yet, making themselves seem all high and mighty and the other 3 media stations look like jerks for refusing to cooperate with them...to me, that is utterly ABHORRENT!! If I hear TVB brag about this again, I swear I am probably going to strangle someone over there...argh!! :-(
TVB attempts to save its music programs through ‘ice-breaking’ dinner with record companies
Source: Mingpao Weekly, Issue# 2445
Original article published September 18, 2015
In recent years, due to losing many of its first-line actors and actresses, TVB had to cast newcomers in lead roles in more of their series while continuing to watch the ratings for their programs fall. At the same time, TVB’s music programs have also suffered a significant decline. Ever since the royalty dispute 5 years ago with the big 4 record companies (Sony, Warner, Universal, and EMI), TVB’s relationship with the record labels has been shaky. As a result, TVB’s music programs as well as their JSG awards ceremony have lacked significant star power the past few years, which has not only made their programs less attractive, but also severely reduced their impact [on the music industry].
Seeing this, TVB took the initiative to put together a dinner this past Wednesday (September 16th) to ‘break the ice’ with the record companies. As host of the dinner, TVB’s director of variety programming Sandy Yu (余詠珊) invited the management teams from all of HK’s record companies, whether big or small, to attend. At the same time, Sandy Yu also took the opportunity to update those present on TVB’s latest projects related to music as well as roll out a few policy changes resulting from this. With this dinner, TVB hoped to continue their long-standing contribution to the music industry while at the same time garner some ‘goodwill’ and support for their own music programs.
Three weeks ago, Sandy Yu had already contacted the executives at all the record companies to invite them to the dinner. Since she took on the position of programming director for TVB’s variety department at the height of TVB’s royalty dispute with the big 4 record labels, this would actually be Sandy’s first time meeting with all the record company execs. At first, a few of the record companies thought it was odd and were hesitant about attending, however when they heard that some of the major record labels’ execs -- such as EEG’s Ng Yu (吳雨) as well as East Asia’s Chan Chi Kwong (陳志光), etc. – had already confirmed their attendance, they proceeded with plans to participate. With that said however, Universal Music’s top exec Duncan Wong (黃劍濤) did not attend the dinner, instead sending representatives in his place.
As host of the dinner, TVB arranged a 6 table banquet for the close to 70 execs in attendance. Though technically one of the goals of the dinner was to have all the execs mingle with each other regardless of record company, the seating arrangements indicated otherwise. At the first host table, Sandy Yu was responsible for attending to the execs from Sony, Warner, and East Asia while her husband Herman Ho (何哲圖) – CEO of TVB’s newly formed in-house record company The Voice Entertainment Group (星夢娛樂有限公司) – hosted the execs from Universal and EEG at the second table. The execs and representatives from the rest of the record companies were seated throughout the remaining 4 tables.
Internet popularity can qualify a song for JSG
According to those who were in attendance, Sandy Yu revealed at the dinner that TVB would be implementing 2 policy changes in the coming year. Paraphrasing Sandy Yu’s speech at the dinner: “It’s been quite some time since we’ve gathered together for dinner – thank you to all of you for your support and attendance. During times like this, the music industry needs unity and needs all of us to work together to make the industry better. With this goal in mind, we (TVB) will be creating 6 to 12 additional channels in the coming year and also establishing an online TV station to support more music-related programming. As a result, there will now be 2 new ‘policies’ if you will. In the past, singers had to be backed by a record company and have a certain amount of name recognition in order to qualify for a spot on the JSG charts. With the new policy, as long as a song gets recognition by listeners – for example it gets a lot of hits on the Internet – it can still get a spot on the charts; once on the charts, it can then be in the running for JSG seasonal selections and the year-end awards.” Sandy Yu cited music queen Sammi Cheng (鄭秀文) covering Phil Lam’s (林奕匡) hit song High Mountain, Deep Valley (高山低谷) as an example – Sammi’s version, though not an official release, was popular on the Internet, so we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of these types of songs. One of the attendees at the dinner revealed that the ‘no show, no award’ rule was brought up and TVB confirmed that, similar to before, if an artist does not attend the award ceremony, they will not get an award.
JSG Awards will take place earlier
The other change in policy involves TVB’s youth-oriented J2 channel. Sandy Yu indicated that there have been many new singers to emerge in the music industry the past couple years, so they wanted to give these singers a platform to promote their music, whether through airing their MVs or participating in actual music programs. TVB also indicated that they welcome any feedback from the record companies on the possible ideas to promote the artists under their labels – in addition, they hope to collaborate with the record companies to produce programs revolving around these artists, which will also be a different direction from the past. Another project that the J2 channel is working on will be to produce a younger version of TVB’s current music variety program Sunday Songbird (Sunday靚聲王). Sandy indicated that she welcomes any feedback the record companies may have on this project. It is said that TVB intends to explore OTT set top broadcast format next year, which means that their cable channels and their free-to-air channels will be combined into one package in the near future and sold at a low price to local television audiences. Therefore, TVB needs to produce more new programs to prepare for this move.
In terms of the annual JSG Awards ceremony, TVB revealed that this year, the show will be broadcast on December 20th instead of in January as in the past – this would make JSG the first of the big four music awards ceremonies to take place this year. In addition, TVB8’s music awards ceremony, which takes place on January 17th, will air on TVB’s Jade channel [their regular free-to-air channel] this year. Sandy Yu indicated that she has already contacted overseas singers from other countries who are working on clearing their schedules so they can come to HK to attend.
Indifference toward new changes
Despite TVB taking the first step to break the ice, the record companies’ response toward the new changes seems to be one of indifference due to doubts about TVB’s intentions. According to sources present at the dinner, there were a lot of concerns and questions raised about TVB’s new ‘policies’ – for example, someone asked why it was necessary for a singer whose song had already become a huge hit over the Internet to go on JSG and promote their song all over again? Others brought up credibility concerns with basing awards on number of Internet hits, as it was easy for people to rig the results by increasing their number of hits. Still others felt that TVB’s new system is backwards – what the music industry truly needs right now is for everyone to work together to make good quality music, not for people to get on the sensationalism bandwagon and rely on gimmicks to increase hit count.
Also, it was mentioned that in addition to the Internet, there are currently many options for singers to promote their music – for example, both i-Cable and NowTV have produced a lot of music shows the past couple years – so there isn’t tremendous concern about the lack of promotional platforms for singers. Besides, the big international record companies that had lost TVB as a promotional platform the past couple years due to the royalty dispute have still been able to increase their own artists’ popularity and job offers (examples cited were Pakho Chau, Shiga Lin, Kelvin Kwan), which proves that singers can still survive in a different environment.
A sore point that was not even mentioned during the dinner was the issue that had brought about the whole royalty dispute between the big 4 record companies and TVB 5 years ago. At the time, TVB had taken their JSG program and released it on DVD as well as VCD, however they did not pay the artists involved or their record companies the royalties that should have been due to them from the sale of those DVDs. Due to this issue not even being acknowledged at the dinner, a few of the record company execs felt that TVB was trying to use their artists to garner support and hype up their own music programs.
Sandy Yu responds: It was merely a ‘reunion dinner’
Afterwards, we contacted the dinner’s host, TVB’s variety program director Sandy Yu, to ask about this ‘ice-breaking dinner’ with the record companies. She responded: “It was merely a reunion dinner.” Towards the earlier royalty dispute that caused TVB’s relationship with the record companies to turn sour, Sandy denied that there was any negative impact to their relationship: “Actually, the relationship never turned sour, it’s just that a few of the international record labels viewed the issue of copyright and royalties differently than we did. They [those record labels] were only willing to grant us 2 years [license agreement for artists’ songs], which was way too short. From a business standpoint, we were not able to come to an agreement, but we continue to negotiate and in recent years, there has been increased discussion on both sides – the record companies have been very understanding.” Sandy emphasized that the dinner gathering was planned over a month ago and the atmosphere that night was actually quite good. In fact, some people didn’t want to leave and even suggested that they should do these dinners every quarter to facilitate more communication between the record companies and TVB.
As for this year’s JSG Awards being held on December 20th instead of January the following year, Sandy clarified: “We are instituting a voting system this year, as we want everyone in HK to get the chance to participate and choose what music they like. Since we (TVB) were the ones who started the ‘one person one vote’ system [TN: reference their Miss HK pageant several years ago], it makes sense that we should hold our music awards show first instead of last. Actually, we (TVB) had once suggested having all 4 media organizations [TVB, CRHK, RTHK, Metro Radio] collaborate together on one unified awards ceremony so that there would be a ‘true’ music king and queen each year – we even volunteered to put money into producing the show, but the other media organizations refused, so we gave up on the idea.”
Voting system doesn’t truly reflect audience’s choices
Despite the ‘one person one vote’ system being implemented for JSG, someone at the dinner mentioned that with the rule of ‘no show, no award’, it still won’t be the true will of the people. Towards this, Sandy expressed: “Every year, we never say that an artist who doesn’t attend can’t get an award.” Asked whether each award category will be subject to voting, Sandy clarified that it would only be limited to certain categories: “The voting will only count for a portion. There will also be an audience survey that we’ll be doing, which we’ve already hired a third party company to help us with -- they will call audiences up to ask for their feedback and those results will be incorporated for certain categories. Actually, we tried to think of every possible method we could come up with.”
Towards the sentiment that some people felt this new system was TVB’s way of saving their own music programs while also attempting to boost the popularity of their own newcomers, Sandy denied and stated: “Why would we want to shoot ourselves in the foot like that? In order for the music industry to truly prosper, the entire entertainment industry needs to prosper as well, otherwise it’s useless. We truly do want to contribute more to the music industry and produce more music programs to support this cause. To be honest, I don’t even have a budget for this, since making music requires time and patience, both of which we are willing to invest.”
One of the attendees at the dinner, hehA Music company’s representative Kawaii expressed her thoughts on what she observed at the dinner: “It was a nice gesture, as it had been a long time since all the record companies last gathered. The atmosphere was actually quite happy and comfortable. While it’s true that there are many platforms for singers to choose from nowadays, TVB is still one of the biggest platforms so their influence can’t be ignored. Actually, these types of dinner gatherings aren’t bad, since it allows everyone to share their opinions.” Asked about her opinion toward TVB’s new policies, Kawaii stated: “For us, things don’t change much, as our artists never had to sign a singer’s contract in order to appear on TVB’s shows. The way it always worked is that we would sign a ‘pink paper’ agreement and that was it. [TN: the ‘pink paper’ is essentially a copyright release agreement that authorizes TVB to utilize the song in their productions and also sell overseas]. Besides, most of the artists under our management are overseas singers not based in HK, so the impact is not as great.”