The 1st edition of Wired Music Week [WMW], Malaysia’s very first electronic music conference, held at Cyberjaya’s Tamarind Square, is a huge move towards the country embracing one of the most popular music genre to date. Held 11-13 May, the 2018 event is organised by RBRN IDEAS founded by John Beh and Michael Mah.
The conference saw the attendance of label executives, artists, aspiring new DJs in the field, event promoters and other service providers from around the region including Brunei, Jakarta, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Japan, Malaysia, and as far as Japan, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Australia.
“Wired Music Week exceeded all expectations by curating the right mix of speakers and content, bringing some new and old faces together and most importantly created positive platforms for people to have great conversations about the electronic music industry. I hope this is the start of a regular homegrown and relevant fixture and meet-up to for the SEA-specific scene,” said Adam Mathews from Plural Asia.
The event set a high standard curating topics surrounding issues plaguing the current state of the electronic music scene. Apart from the panel discussions, master classes, demodrop and 1-on-1 advice sessions saw an assembly of international labels meeting local and regional creators for the first time. This precise set up solves one of our digital era’s largest concerns: condensing the music world; connecting regional creators and labels, and cultivating entrepreneurial spirit among the younger talents.
Just like everywhere else, Malaysia and its surrounding region continues to bear similar challenges faced by the West around 2 decades ago. Despite the growth of international touring DJs, issues surrounding careers in music and much more so, as a DJ continue to be a stereotypical misconception deeply rooted in the Asia culture. However, if seen from a 180-degree perspective, this could also be the best time for amateur creators to test their creativity and naturally allow only the fittest to prevail. So, a maturing idea from the West isn’t so bad afterall ‘cause we get to choose and learn from mistakes and failures and be a better version of ourselves.
Joshua Tan, Managing Director of Troopers Malaysia and co-organiser of WMW also sees positivity surrounding the growing interest of electronic music and their creators, commented: “Issues that we are currently facing now is the huge booking fees paid to talents coming from overseas. So, the burning question would be – why are we not grooming our own talents and expose them [to the world]? There are many talents right at our doorstep waiting to hone and develop their skills. We believe Malaysia and other Asian countries have huge potential. And as the saying goes, ‘Potential remains potential until you fulfil it’”.
Goldfish & Blink’s popularity soared after performing at Tomorrowland 2017. Leading the ‘Building Artists Profile’ panel with 22Bullets and Slumberjack, they praised the power of social media that have helped them reach unprecedented followers and the ‘pay-offs’ of making strong content. “ The new youth of today are listening to all kinds of music and they are open to all sorts of genres. There’s no genre in music anymore ‘cause at the end of the day, it’s all about making good music for people. It is also about believing in your own product,” said Goldfish.
Kenny Wee from Ohrvurm called the need for Malaysia’s underground community to be more curious towards the line-up curated by promoters. The panel agreed that there are demands for the existence of more venues to promote creativity and discipline; by allowing DJs more space for creativity, and ‘brushing up their music’. Under the decision of club management to fulfil its capacity, DJs have been pressured to ‘play safe’, so, rather than playing their own music, mainstream mixes of popular artists were demanded – not very original.
In order to see a healthier underground scene florish again, Wee also stressed the importance of the younger generation’s attention towards local gigs. “Spending power at clubs in Kuala Lumpur is at an all-time high, although not very much attention was put towards the DJs performing on the deck. We need to see more people go to clubs for the music,” Wee added.
Ayudita Hariadi from Djakarta Warehouse Project commented on meeting the demands in the fast-paced Indonesian market and how other regional country could also play the same game. With niche and lifestyle festivals gaining popularity in the region, Indonesia is proving to its counterparts its ability to sustain and stay within the scene. “The Indonesia market is constantly changing. Undeniably, it is our responsibility to promote new acts and keeping it fresh in order to keep up with the game. Thankfully, we have built solid relationships with promoters and goverment organisations over the years who are constantly evolving and changing with us.”
WMW resonated a spirit of trepidation but also of unequivocal change felt among the concrete walls surrounding Tamarind Square at Cyberjaya. Bracing a team all the way from the Netherlands, the convention featured 52 speakers and high-profile partners including AEI Group, futurehousemusic, Goldsounds, DJ City, V-Moda, Splice, and more.
Jason Vandal, Founder of Hip Hop The Blockchain commented: “We were unable to make it for the first day, but the second day was exactly what I would have expected from an Electronic Music Conference. With panel discussions and production workshops going on, the crowd was eager to learn, network and participate. There have not been enough of these events in Malaysia, so Wired Music Week is doing something great for the industry in Malaysia. All in all it was a great event!”
Will there be a second edition to Wired Music Week? Well, as John Beh, founder of WMW puts it, “Our second edition would definitely include a more sophisticated programme and preparation for that is already underway.…In the western world, sharing and building each other up is very much the culture. It is a practice that’s lacking here [Malaysia]. The ‘jaga kampung’ mentality (every one is looking out for themselves), needs to go ‘cause you’ll only grow stronger if you are together.”
Aspiring change, WMW would be the beginning of an educational journey for many. Its DNA follows similar bloodline of ADE, Sonar and EMC. Opening it’s door to regional creators in SEA may just be what it needs to kick start Asian talents hungry to learn, create, and get their music heard.