Making it Global

In an interesting 2008 study entitled “KEY SUCCESS OF MALAYSIAN MUSIC MARKET TOWARDS GLOBALIZATION” by Rita Mardhatillah, Nurul Hamimi and Adee Arrifin from UiTM, a few artists has been pointed out as having penetrated the foreign markets such as Siti Nurhaliza, Datuk Shake, Raihan and others. Okay, the study is available online up to page 28, so I am left with no further hindsight and pearl of wisdom from that seminal study.

Now, we can add to that list, artists of international repute to artists such as Zee Avi, Yuna Zarai, Paperplane, Pop Shuvit and Shila Amzah. Of course, we have also heard that Datuk Sheila, Zainal Abidin and Datuk Siti is internationally renowned, so, to be of perhaps international repute. Other Malaysian nuanced performers includes Che’Nelle and Australian Guy Sebastian. In terms of record labels, Bryan Christopher Tan’s Lakefront Records Sdn Bhd managed to sign up US hip-hop act Chrome Cats after spotting them on social networking site MySpace. This makes Lakefront the first and only Malaysian record label to-date to have signed a US act and gotten it into the US Top 40. ( The Star, 21 Feb 2014).

The global music share is estimated as to be worth around USD25 bil according to a Spotify research,  derived  from music copyrights. International Confederation of Authors and Composers Societies (CISAC), covering musical works, estimated another USD40 bil derived from live acts. And there are more even to those twos ( Glenn Peoples, Billboard).

As opposed to album and ticket sales, digital streaming  showed significant growth in 2014, with over 164 billion songs streamed on-demand through audio and video platforms ( Nielsen).

Our local music scene, at it’s highest grossing peak, earned around RM400 mil, and has since shrunk to RM190 mil, according to RIM stats recently shared. According to statista, USD16 mil was derived from digital sales in 2016. Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2016-2020) of 14.00% resulting in a market volume of mUSD 27.4 in 2020. The market’s largest segment is the segment “Music Downloads” with a market volume of mUSD 10.2 in 2016. User penetration is at 22.86% in 2016 and is expected to hit 37.04% in 2020.   Interestingly, the Indonesian market also has shrunk from it’s USD50 mil heyday to USD26 mil, around RM100 mil, a much smaller market in terms of monetary value though bigger in terms of it’s audience and reach.

Another study we can take some hindsight is from Dr Allan Watson of Staffordshire University who researches the economic geographies of the creative and media industries. According to his study, London is one of the world’s most successful exporters of music. In 1997/8, the UK’s media industry created £112.5 billion in total revenue, of which £4.6bn (4%) was generated by music. During the same year, 122,000 people were employed in the UK music industry (

What I have shared so far is only a smallish stats about what it means to go global. The pie is certainly bigger but as the industry has been lauded as shrinking, record labels has taken contracts more seriously and contracts that takes Malaysian artists to go global are but scarce, because of the ROI arguments which may slant towards nil or scant. Hey, I’m not being negative here, it’s just what I observe. The reality is that, it takes a lot and helluva money to break into the international scene. Spot buys and launches, plus other publicity stunts all cost money, and as Malaysian ringgit is at it’s lowest in recent times, we can only hope there are more international labels that are keen to take local  stunts outside and make it happen.


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