How music piracy can stunt the Dayak music industry
Piracy has devastating effects on the Dayak music industry and has to be stopped to enable it to progress and develop, said chairman of Sarawak Dayak Recording Industry Association (Perisai) Embat Lala.
According to Embat, music piracy can bring about 80% in revenue loss for album sales and ringtone royalties, including those received by major music companies including the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) and Music Authors Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP).
“If in the past, we could reach an annual revenue of up to RM300,000, now we only earn about RM25,000 to RM30,000 total of net profit per year.
“Due to the decreasing revenue, the cost to produce an album also has to be reduced from RM50,000 to RM25,000. This cost reduction may result in the lack in audio and video quality of an album,” said the vocal guru when interviewed by The Borneo Post SEEDS recently.
For local songbird Melissa Francis, artists need to go through several processes to produce an album including obtaining approval from the Censorship Board and the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK).
“Apart from that, we also have to pay the lyricists, song composer, music video editor, as well as mixing and mastering just for one song,” she said. “Just imagine, in an album with 10 songs, how much it costs for us to produce an album?
“I am very disappointed with piracy as it makes our hard work and money meaningless with the album not reaching its target. This will cause losses to the recording company too.”
For Gabriel Fairuz Louis, the cost to produce an album on his own can come up to about RM20,000, including paying for recording costs, music arrangement, purchasing lyrics, and media promotion.
“Piracy really affects my income as the revenue I make back can only cover the cost. In the first and second week, the album is sellable, but when it comes to the third week, sales becomes slower due to piracy,” said the 30-year-old award-winning singer and songwriter from Sibu.
Gabriel received awards for Best Dayak Album, Best Iban Song, Best Dayak Pop Artiste, Best Dayak Ballad Artiste and Best Dayak Male Artiste at the Dayak Music Awards (AMD) 2014 organised by Dayak Artistes and Musicians Association (Dama) in 2014. He was also named the champion of Anugerah Juara Rentak Ruai (AJARR) in 2016 and also received the Diploma Award for Best Country Hit during the XXII Discovery International Pop Music Festival in Varna, Bulgaria.
For Rosiana Urai, a 44-year-old singer and composer from the Orang Ulu community in Baram, it is hard to stop piracy when pirated copies come at a much cheaper price.
“I am really disappointed when the pirated copies of my album can be found at the marketplace at RM5 a piece just two days after my official album release,” she said. “But I do not blame it 100 per cent on the buyers because today, the original VCDs look almost the same as the pirated copies and it is hard for them to tell the difference, which may result in them buying the pirated copies. It is very detrimental.”
She has been waiting for responsible parties to take action on the illegal sale and production of pirated copies, “but unfortunately until today, it seems to fall on deaf ears.”
For 26-year-old singer and composer Donny Lang, while it may be possible to lessen piracy, it would be impossible to stop so long as there is a demand for pirated copies at much cheaper prices.
“Sometimes, even some production houses have links with those who make and sell pirated copies. Indirectly, this has a huge impact on artists’ incomes,” said the singer of mixed Iban and Murut parentage from Kapit.
“There is a need for members of the public to cooperate with the artists and production houses to stop piracy.”
Is online the solution?
To combat the issue of piracy and stop pirated copies being sold at the marketplace, most Dayak artists also sell their music online but the response has been very low.
“This is because most of the buyers are aged between 30 and 55 years old, and most of them do not really have time to go online and purchase the album due to their busy work schedules,” said Embat.
“Moreover, the youth that have less purchasing power tend not to buy it online. In a nutshell, only a few in Sarawak and across the country purchase albums online.”
While Melissa has tried various sales methods besides selling it at the marketplace, including online sales, sending albums via postal service, and also selling her songs as ringtones via telephone, Rosiana and Donny prefer the conventional ways of selling an album.
“The positive side of selling online is that we will be able to sell directly to the buyers and fans and we do not need to sell it at shops. This can actually avoid the act of piracy,” Embat said.
Melissa also agreed that online sales encourage artists to deal directly with the buyers and they do not need to pay shops for rental space to sell their albums, “there are also many places that still do not have access to the internet to perform such transaction.”
For Gabriel, there are no drawbacks to selling their albums online, only that they need good online marketing strategies.
“Once posted, only for a short while, you will get people trying to buy the album online. This can help cut costs on budget allocated for transportation as we do not need to send it to shops or agents.
“It also encourages faster returns. If we were to send it to shops or agents, we must wait for a few months before we can collect the payment for the albums because of their principle that the albums have to finish first before we can collect the money.”
For Rosiana, the owner of Urai Records Production Recording Studio, by selling albums online, artists and recording companies will be able to know precisely the returns of sales.
“The drawbacks to online is that there are still lots of people in the rural areas who find it difficult to purchase the albums online and there are also some who have not been exposed to the Internet.
“But it will be no surprise that someday we will be able to sell Dayak songs online with the younger generation being exposed to the Internet, ,” added the Best Performer of Anugerah Juara Rentak Ruai (AJARR) in 2010 and 2012.
Donny, who has also acted in an Iban drama called ‘Iban Taiko’ added, “The positive side of selling albums online is that cannot do pirated copies of the albums as they do for albums at shops. It can be purchased by the public wherever they may be. On the negative side, selling albums online also encourage fraud as there will be hidden charges involved.”
Moving beyond record sales
Good marketing strategy is essential to keep artists alive in the music industry.
Embat says artists cannot just rely on sales but also need to depend on royalties from major music industry bodies.
“This includes the Music Authors’ Copyright Protection Berhad (MACP), Recording Performers Malaysia Berhad (RPM), and the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM).
“I encourage composers and authors to register and become a member of MACP so that they will be able to receive the royalties from songs being played on the radio, TV, and other entertainment centres including karaoke and business premises that use their songs.
He also encourages artists and musicians to register with RPM so that they will be able to receive annual royalties from them.
“For recording companies, I encourage them to register with RIM and MACP so they will be able to receive royalties whenever songs from their recording company are being played on the radio, TV, and other entertainment centres. Artists will then be able to seek more revenues from shows that they make when they are being invited to perform in an event,” he explained.
Melissa also encourages all parties to work together through the correct channels to combat piracy.
“The ministry should give the correct steps to facilitate the process of arresting those who are involved in piracy.
“Apart from that, the artists or recording companies can sell their albums directly to fans whenever they perform so that the fans can purchase original albums from them,” she added.
Gabriel reminds himself and other artists in the Dayak music industry to always produce good quality material.
“It is important to be brave enough to expose themselves, possibly outside of Sarawak. It is always good for an artist to have their own portfolio and apart from that, they need to take care of their attitude and discipline,” said Gabriel, while adding that it is also important for the artists to cooperate with related bodies including the NGOs, government as well as other singers and producers.
Rosiana pointed out that it was also difficult for entertainers to become as financially successful as their Peninsular Malaysia counterparts due to the low payment received by Dayak artists including for shows.
“Throughout my 21 years in the industry, I can say that my income is enough to get by. The strategy to get through this depends heavily on your own effort and wisdom to continue to become an entertainer who is able to last and be accepted by your fans. It is important for an artist to be able to socialize well and be aware of their songs and music in line with the demands of their fans and listeners from time to time,” she said.
Entering its fourth year in the Dayak music industry since 2011, Donny pointed out that discipline was the key to being able to survive in the industry.
“It is also important to note that quality is more important that quantity,” the recipient of Best Cover Album at Anugerah Muzik Dayak 2012 and finalist of Anugerah Juara Rentak Ruai (AJARR) 2013 added. Donny pursues singing as his part-time career and currently focuses more on his job as a banker at RHB Bank Berhad in Mukah.
The strength of Dayak music in Sarawak
Despite the impact of music piracy on the local Dayak music industry, ethnic songs here in Sarawak still has a higher commercial value.
“We are more towards Dayak songs for its higher commercial value in the State and we produce less Malay songs since it is already plentiful in Peninsular Malaysia.
“On average, Dayak songs are more ethnic-like including Dangdut, Twist or Joget when compared to Peninsular Malaysia that focuses more on the Pop, Ballad, Slow Rock and Hard Rock genres of music,” said Embat, adding that the Dayak music industry is still able to ensure the cost price of an album does not rise steeply while maintaining its quality.
Because of that, the Dayak music industry is still capable of producing a solo album for an artist with 8 to 10 songs in an album.
“This becomes a pride for Dayak artists here in Sarawak because we can still produce a solo album,” he said, adding that in Peninsular Malaysia most of the artists focus on producing single albums due to higher costs that they need to bear to produce a solo album for an artist.
For Melissa, although there are still many aspects that need to be improved, the Dayak music industry seems to be moving forward.
“We now also have several awards that will be able to measure how good an artist, a composer, a video editor or any of those involved in the industry is. Such awards can fire up their passion to work their best in the industry, producing much better artworks and compete in healthy competition.
“If all the fans can appreciate our work and love their favourite artists, then support us by purchasing only our original albums,” she added.
Gabriel pointed out that the Dayak music industry is very different and is still growing.
“Dayak artists are now more aware of the production of high quality songs and music videos. The number of independent artists is also growing, making more choices of songs genres be made available to the Dayak music fans, not to mention the awards that help to elevate the Dayak music industry.”
As for Rosiana, she sees that the number of good artists is looking to a better development.
“If we were to make a comparison between Dayak and Western artists, we are very far apart. Nevertheless, it will be no surprise that one day the Dayak music industry will be on par with music industries from outside Sarawak. With strong talent and interest and also keep on working our best equipped with positive attitudes, surely we will be on par with other foreign artists,” she added.
The Dayak music industry has come a long way in establishing itself as an important part of the Sarawakian consciousness, and deserves to be supported to keep it alive for years to come.