Young artists told: ‘Your talent can be monetized’

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Young artists told: �Your talent can be monetized�
Vehnee Saturno and Ogie Alcasid

Veteran singer-songwriter Jose Mari Chan recently went viral for his piece of advice to aspiring musicians.

For sure, the hitmaker had no intention to stir controversy but he sparked a discussion online when he suggested to take up music as a hobby and have a day job, especially in this day and age of streaming.

“"Now with the technology change, it’s very hard to live on music. That’s why my advice is to use that as a hobby or do music on the side but get another career in law, accounting, or medicine, and then, just do music on the side. Don’t lose it completely because that’s God’s given gift to you,” he said during a recent interview on Fast Talk with Boy Abunda.

From the music community, his comment has also drawn mixed reactions, including counterpoints that it can be a full-time career.

The new Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) president Michelle Nikki Junia told The STAR when asked about it, “Sorry, but I cannot accept that there’s no future, that it cannot put food on the table. It’s really untrue.

“In fact, I want to encourage the artists to thrive even more and to believe that it can be monetized. One of the things that I want to educate the public, even the parents, because they will say, don’t do music, walang pera diyan,” said Junia who got her start in the music industry as a child singer and an original member of the 14K (scholars of National Artist for Music Ryan Cayabyab).

“May kanya-kanya tayong calling actually. Hindi lang naman Pilipinas ang may challenge (na ganito), yung ibang Asian countries (also)... Ang thinking na ito, medyo third world, ang alam nilang profession lang sa mundo ay lawyer, ganito, doctor, ganyan.

“‘Parang trabahuin mo na lahat, ‘wag lang music kasi walang pera diyan.’ Nakaka-sad. How do we create great music, pag-ganyan ang inisip?” she expressed.

Junia further said that music production offers different opportunities to earn.

“Music production ang laki ng pera dyan, your clients are not just from the Philippines. It’s integrative. Music prod is composing and arranging. Ano yung mga musical scoring na ginagamit sa mga digital games, in animations? They get paid in dollars, they’re in demand.”

From the perspective of an early childhood educator, Junia believes kids with musical inclinations and dreams must be fully supported and encouraged.

“As a teacher, kapag dineprive mo ang bata of the interest, 50-50 mag-e-excel sa field na gusto niya kasi wala naman yung heart niya dun, iba yung ginagawa mo yung nasa puso mo. Money will come because nag-e-excel ka along the way dahil yun ang passion mo,” said Junia, who runs the school Musikgarten Manila.

“Ako, ang mantra ko rin, ‘di natutulog ang Diyos, masipag ka, nagpa-practice ka, you do your utmost best. He will bless you, in so many ways, and opportunities to make money (will come) so I would like to tell the artists that your talents can be monetized, you don’t have to be scared. You can be bold, you create opportunities for yourself. If businessmen can create opportunities, you can create a market for your talent, yung galing mo, yung creativity mo, ikaw ang magke-create ng industry mo.”

CCP president Nikki Junia.
Photos from official social media pages

Veteran singer-songwriter Vehnee Saturno recalled that when he decided to pursue music, he also encountered resistance and discouragement.

“Ako sabi ng mother ko when I was starting as a musician, ‘Naku anak, ‘di ka makakabuhay ng pamilya niyan,’ that was the ‘70s and nakikinig-kinig na ako ng music. Ang musikero mahaba ang buhok, naka bell bottom, mga adik lang mga yan (they said)… pero sabi ko sa kanya (mom) gagawin ko ang magagawa ko and talagang nagsikap ako and first attempt ko sa Metropop (songwriting competition), 1979 and 1980, wala.”

His breakthrough finally came in 1982. “Then in 1982, I was able to write a song Isang Dakot. So my inspiration at that time, squatter areas na pinapintahan ng puti kasi during that time paparating si Pope…parang naawa ako sa Pilipino, sabi kong ganun. Sabi ko susulat ako ng isang kanta, yung iyak ng isang mahirap na maramdaman na sila may puwang sa society,” said Saturno of the song that started it all for him in the industry.

He would eventually find more success in composing hits for singers, emerging and established, such as Be My Lady, Sana Kahit Minsan, Mula Sa Puso, etc.

Thus, Saturno advised artists who are still in the early stages of their careers to persist.

“Sa akin, any singer-songwriter and musician, tuloy lang. Given Jose Mari Chan is a very good songwriter and very good singer and a very successful businessman, yun ang pagkakaiba.

“But alam mo ang puso ng isang musikero, hindi pera eh. It’s not about the money. Kung hindi passion niya, mapakita niya, what is inside, ano ba yung magawa ko, what can I really pursue. So, sa akin lang, ang masasabi ko sa mga aspiring songwriters, singers or musicians, tuloy lang kung kakayanin.”

Saturno, nevertheless, noted that there’s truth in what Chan said. “Of course, totoo naman yung sinasabi ni Jo, kung wala ka financially, kung wala kang pampabuhay ng pamilya, mahirap din.

“But, of course, think wisely, kung papaano ka makakatawid duon, na masaya ka pa rin, given na hindi ka talaga equip with everything. So puso pa rin at pagmamahal sa musika, yun pa rin ang importante.”

For Ogie Alcasid, who successfully made a name for himself as both songwriter and singer, everyone is entitled to their opinion and there are certain points of Jose Mari Chan that he agreed with.

“Kanya-kanyang opinion yan ‘di ba. But I agree with him in the sense before kasi when you write your own songs and produce and they have physical sales of a record and a CD, magkano ang plaka? Ipag-palagay mo lang na P26 or P50. Bumenta ka ng ang Gold nun is 20,000 copies, how much is that? P10 million. Hindi mo kikitain yun sa download. I think that’s what he said, that’s what he’s saying,” Ogie said.

“I used to say, nami-miss ko ang radio and naabutan ko yung time na yun that radio really was the deal breaker. When your song becomes popular on the radio, then you have a hit. Now it’s very genre based so it doesn’t mean if kilala mo yung Raining in Manila, everybody else knows. There will be a segment of society that knows because they listen to the song. Is that good? Yes. But then we miss the times when the song was really a huge hit, the world sang. I think yun pinupuntirya niya. Dahil sa radyo lahat nakikinig dun. Ang streaming is curated. You have your own playlist.”

Nevertheless, Ogie urged artists to continue streaming.

“But I would still strongly urge our artists to keep streaming. Because the good thing naman that streaming did, everybody is a content creator. You should think of it as also content creation, your song is your content. The world is your market. Makikita mo naman sa metrics mo… There’s direct effect, you’d know right away so I would still encourage them. It’s just different,” he said.

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