Global music firms tuning in to S'pore

Many setting up bases here to promote talent

THE music industry here has been moving to a livelier beat over the past year as global firms tune in to the region's growth potential.

Heavyweights such as record label Sony, digital music streaming service Rdio and artist management company Amuse have recently made Singapore their base for grooming and promoting local and regional musicians.

They join a host of other household names in the music industry that have also set up regional headquarters here, including record labels Avex and BMBX and digital music streaming service Spotify.

While the local market is small compared with other countries in the region, "it punches above its weight as a music market", said Mr Elvin Tan, head of Asia at Rdio. The firm officially opened its flagship office in an Ann Siang Road shophouse last month.

"Trends tend to start in Singapore and then spread widely. We believe streaming music will be one of these trends," Mr Tan added, noting that music streaming remains "very nascent" among mainstream consumers and presents "massive growth potential". Streaming is a way of listening to music digitally without the need to download audio files.

Rdio's regional headquarters here will carry out marketing and content acquisition, as well as manage relationships with record labels and artists in the region.

There are major shifts taking place in the way music is consumed, and Singapore is positioning itself to take advantage of these changes, said Ms Kow Ree Na, director of the lifestyle programme office at the Economic Development Board.

In line with global trends, Singapore's recorded music market is shrinking, according to research released last year by accounting giant PwC. Total recorded music revenue fell from US$34 million (S$45 million) in 2009 to US$21 million in 2013, and is forecast to drop to US$19 million in 2018 - an average decline of 2.2 per cent a year.

Meanwhile, takings from digital recorded music have been growing slowly but steadily. Total digital recorded music revenue overtook physical recorded music revenue in 2012, the year iTunes arrived, PwC noted. Revenue from digital music here is expected to rise to US$18 million in 2018 - an average growth rate of 3.1 per cent a year - while physical music sales are tipped to fall to under US$1 million.

As a whole, Singapore's music market is forecast to grow 1.6 per cent a year to reach US$80 million in 2018, said the same report.

Mr Gavin Parry, Sony Music Entertainment's executive vice-president of digital and business development for Asia, said the New York-based company's regional headquarters here houses its first music brand consultancy.

Mr Parry noted that the development of local artists "is at the core of a music business".

"We have already made a strong commitment to the Singapore music industry by signing exciting local acts Seizari, Trick and The Sam Willows," he added.

Even as made-in-Singapore music gets a lift, Singaporeans will also be able to take on regional roles at these global music giants, said Ms Kow. These range from traditional headquarter functions such as marketing to specialised roles involving talent scouting, and managing relationships with music labels and publishers, among others.

chiaym@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2015, with the headline 'Global music firms tuning in to S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe