The disruption of the music business by the internet has reshaped the industry landscape. And while vinyl may have made a comeback with DJs, compact disc production is fading as digital-formatted music sells through multiple platforms on the web. By Albert W Nonto
It would need a lengthy book to tell the full story of the struggle of the Indonesian music industry as it has been confronted by the challenges of technological change. Those challenges have been as varied as the many genres of music to be found across the archipelago.
The disruption of the internet has changed the music industry landscape yet again. Companies are still producing compact discs but output has dropped significantly. Despite all the changes, the industry continues to grow in line with the diversification of marketing channels through the multiplicity of platforms offered on the web.
Music fans are as important as ever, presenting niche markets for performers and determining their status in the ranks of the mass market. A host of reality shows for aspiring musicians present a launch-pad for new talent and nurture images and appeal, and with them the sales of albums or songs over the internet.
The music industry has been repackaged as part of a multimedia entertainment business that thrives not only on the music itself but also on strong visual elements. The stories behind the vocals, lyrics and music are often as interesting than the song itself.
Music shows dominate TV programs: Indonesia Idol, Rising Stars, The Voice Indonesia are franchised, while a home-grown program such as Indosiar’s Kontes DangDut Indonesia consistently ranks at the top of the TV ratings.
Despite all the changes, the industry continues to grow in line with the diversification of marketing channels through the multiplicity of platforms offered on the web.
The quality of music may no longer be a dominant factor to measure success. The management of image is just as important, such as the clothes a performer wears in daily life. Every moment is show time.
Annual events such as Peter Gontha’s Java Jazz attract thousands of people every year and make good business. Jazz festivals have become an integral part of promotions for tourism destinations. And while new singers and artists come and go, some old-timers retain their ability to market their music.
The past five years have witnessed the ascension of the internet and its disruptive power and the accompanying decline of the compact disc (CD) format. Industry sources interviewed by GlobeAsia agree that the boom of the CD album is now just another sentimental note in the progressive technological transformation of the industry over the years.
Only a few bands such as Noah have been able to sell over a million copies – its Second Chance released in late 2014 sold 1.2 million copies, the last to hit the headlines. Over the past two years, Isyana Sarasvati has been one of the top popular female artists but sold only about 65,000 copies of her CD Explore – but some of the songs have been downloaded some 20 million times and her YouTube channel has attracted millions: her cover of Sam Smith’s La La La has 1,508,317 views.
Isyana’s active multimedia presence demonstrates that an artist’s life is no longer composed of studio and live gigs. To be popular, you have to be ever-present on the web. Musicians produce in digital format and market their work through the internet, while continuing to produce CDs or now even vinyl for their dedicated fan base.
Wisnu Surjono of Universal Music Indonesia agrees that a musician’s fans remain the most important factor in the market. Millions of fans still consider owning the physical album as a matter of pride, binding their emotional attachment and intimacy with the artist. Nowela, winner of the eighth series of Indonesia Idol last year, made a hit with her first album.
The golden period of Indonesia’s recording companies peaked in 1996 with the production of 77 million CDs and cassettes, according to Recording Company Association (ASIRI) data. Since then figures have fallen steadily, with production crashing to 8 million in 2014 and 5 million the following year. As with the photo business, physical music stores have struggled to adapt, with many forced out of business.
There is no reliable data on song downloads either for personal collections or as ring tones. But the more popular a song the more likely it is to be heard and viewed on a variety of platforms. Geisha’s ‘official’ video of her hit Lumpuhkanlah Ingatanku (Forget Your Memory) on YouTube has been viewed 60 million times, and Isyana’s single Tetap Dalam Jiwa (Still in My Soul) has made it to 61 million YouTube views with 15 million downloads for ring tones.
ASIRI claims that music sold through the internet made about Rp1.1 trillion in 2014, falling to Rp960 billion in the following year.
Inu Numata, spokesperson for Sony Music Indonesia, notes that some labels still produce physical or conventional products to sell in the physical marketplaces such as shopping centers. “But how many people buy CDs there, when normally customers come only for food?” he asks.
Inu compares music digitalization to water supply. At the moment, everybody can enjoy and download music for free, but over time stronger law enforcement tends to help labels and musicians, keeping money flowing to sustain the industry. Positive signals are coming from the government, which sees music as a creative industry worthy of protection. After all, artists and studios cannot live on water alone.
Another challenge is how to deliver product to customers. Digitalization in the music industry remains in its early stages and players are still searching for a business model to make their work profitable. Inu sees radio and video channels like YouTube helping to promote albums or songs, but says quality and characteristics of the music remain the main factor in achieving sales.
Performers still have hope
Over the past decade, performers have grumbled that they receive next to nothing from their recordings, forcing them to tour to create cash. But that may change as the internet disruption continues. Bedi Gunawan of Kahitna Band sees the digital era bringing benefit for musicians. The internet era has made it easier to market music and upload video clips.
Bedi adds that while it is obvious that digitalization has changed the way people produce music and CD sales have dropped off the cliff, sales through multimedia platforms are growing, while the market for live shows is stable.
Multi-platform channels act as an aid to promotion, helping the industry grow and creating employment. Music is no longer a single product that can only be enjoyed by listening to it or going to a live concert. It is beyond lyrics and music, becoming a total entertainment commodity that binds together music, showmanship, design, public relations and marketing.
Warner Music Indonesia director Toto Widjojo claims that music is no longer a stand-alone product but part of a bigger entertainment business that demands fascination in quality of appearance. In his drive to make Warner Music the leading label in the Indonesian music industry, he plans to formulate music and shows as a total entertainment business.
Customers no longer only listen but also watch shows that dazzle with the glamor of wardrobes, make-up, lighting, cosmetics and most importantly the concept of the show. No wonder that talent shows on TV consistently rank high in TV ratings. Music is no longer just for the ears.