Wondering what all the fuss surrounding the #SaveMusicSG movement is about? We break it down for you.
Do you remember the last time you enjoyed live music and nightlife in Singapore? For many of us, these simple pleasures have been left behind in the days before Covid-19 – thought about and reminisced only on occasion. However, for those who work in the industry, the last two years have been an agonising wait.
“We haven’t been able to work since March 2020, and the support has been virtually non-existent,” says Matty Wainwright of The DJ Dispensary, and founder of recent online movement #SaveMusicSG. The initiative is an outcry to bring attention and support to the struggles of those in the industry.
Before the pandemic, Matty was a music director at several key venues in Singapore and had frequent local and international gigs in the pipeline. But the past two years have seen him and others struggle to survive.
“The toughest part is trying to earn revenue through tickets for live events, something we’re almost completely unable to do,” says Jon Chua, founder and creative director of Zendyll Studios. “Studio bookings have dropped due to the closure of the borders, and we’re unable to open bookings for international artists.”
Throughout the last two years, heavily impacted industries like F&B, retail, and sports have managed to receive aid from the government and the general public to keep afloat. Even live in-person sporting events have made a comeback, if only at a fraction of what they once were. The recent AFF Suzuki Cup 2020 was held in our city just last December, with more than 7,500 spectators. And the upcoming FIA Formula One World Championship will be held in Singapore later this year.
However, despite the loosening of restrictions on several sectors, DJs and musicians who count on live performances for their rice bowl have barely seen any adjustments to the ongoing regulations. Live performances, live music and singing in F&B premises are still off-limits, which severely lessens their options for work.
The demand for live entertainment remains
Over the past two years, event organisers in the local music industry have observed demand for the return of live music and performances with local audiences.
“We wanted to support musicians and production crew during the circuit breaker period in 2020,” says Danny Loong, CEO of Timbre Group. “So we started the #KeepMusicAliveSG campaign, an online stream series where we saw more than 600,000 views across YouTube and Facebook Live.”
Timbre also hosted Goodbye Garden, a four-month event held in April 2021. It live-streamed several musicians and bands at The Substation Garden before the venue’s closure. “40 of the 66 shows were sold out,” Danny shares.
Despite facing cancelled live shows and an unprecedented closure during the circuit breaker, Esplanade has continued to host live and virtual performances in the last two years. This includes the recent 20th edition of Baybeats and this year’s PopLore – A Year of Singapore Popular Music. Ticketed and free programmes have all seen good attendance, according to the team.
“Our audiences and artists have consistently been hopeful and appreciative of our efforts to bring live performances back,” says Amy Ho, Head of Music at Esplanade.
If anything, these numbers demonstrate a hunger for the return of live music and a hope that Singaporeans can come together as a community to support the local arts and culture scene.
So, why hasn’t live music been allowed to officially return?
For many DJs and musicians based in Singapore, life pre-Covid-19 is worlds away from the dismal present. While there hasn’t been a dip in terms of content produced by local artistes, the current regulations have almost completely phased out opportunities for those who work in the live music scene.
Places of worship, gyms and restaurants have resumed operations under safe distancing measures and health guidelines, but the live music and nightlife industry has remained in limbo. Potentially, this can be traced to the underlying notion that all live music events result in loud and large crowds that can evolve into a super-spreading incident.
However, those in the industry backing #SaveMusicSG hope for a change in perception. “The movement aims to highlight that the role of a DJ is nuanced and diverse, and it can be more relaxing than riotous,” says Matty.
Local Mandopop singer-songwriter Marcus Lee Jun Wei adds, “DJs and musicians in this line are quite puzzled at the current regulations. I hope they can be relooked so they may have a proper roadmap to recovery.”
Authorities can safely bring back live entertainment just by tapping on the nuanced and diverse skill sets of DJs and musicians, and working alongside them to produce safer shows. “We desperately want to add to the rich tapestry of culture in this amazing country once more, not take away from it or act dangerously,” Matty says.
He also shares plausible solutions such as allowing laidback sets in the day at outdoor venues with vaccinated and socially-distanced audiences. These shows can be gradually reintroduced to bars and nightclubs after some time, once health and safety measures have shown to be effective.
Why you need to care about #SaveMusicSG
To those who work in the industry, the importance of saving our music and nightlife scene all comes down to the fabric of our culture. “Live music and performances create shared experiences amongst us,” says Jon. “Our Singapore culture is embedded in food, music and entertainment – that’s what connects us as a society.”
“Music is just like the air we breathe. In these confusing times, it’s a way to provide us all with consolation and encouragement,” says Danny.
To support the initiative, follow and stay tuned to the SaveMusicSG Instagram page for details on an upcoming 24-hour live-stream that will feature local and global DJ performances. You can also support the music community by listening to and sharing local music, and purchasing tickets to live-streamed or physical shows.
Our presence makes a difference! Let’s #SaveMusicSG.