“To sum it up: if the strongest shall fall, what can survive?” asked Elliott Wan, in search on more thorough research in his graduate studies. 「最強的也會倒下去,那麽能生存下去的可以是誰?」溫啟朗在完結篇留下了這問題,看來,繼續深究是必須的。

 

The closure of This Town Needs, formerly known as Hidden Agenda, may signify only one thing – even venues that are fully licensed and play by the rules cannot survive if they choose to focus on independent, non-mainstream music and artists within their mission. The significance of this event also pushes similar, smaller venues further into obscurity and into their own niches. If This Town Needs cannot survive, what can?

Furthermore, with the rise in popularity of localist thought, audiences of the local independent music scene may identify closer emotionally and physically with artists using Cantonese as their language of expression, no matter their style or genre. It is also observed that Cantopop may be more prevalent in local culture due to the rise of the local identity.

Artists, consumers, the middlemen alike should recognise the notion that the coexistence of ‘independent’ and ‘commercial’ music can not be avoided. With the lines blurred between the two, independent artists can become commercially viable, while commercial artists can retain independent control of their music. As COVID-19 draws on, the Hong Kong music industry – commercial or not – have adapted new ways to operate regarding the production and distribution of music. These new ways include the rise in popularity of bedroom studios, digital live shows, live streaming, and on-demand streaming services.

However, in contrary to the current trend, importance must be put back towards in-person, face-to-face interactions. Whether it is festivals, album release parties, or promoter shows, it would be beneficial to the healthiness and sustainability of the independent music industry for the event to be held in person at a venue, rather than online.

While the academic nature of the thesis provides a non-biased, objective view of data via literature reviews, the use of interviews, field visits and personal observations may not be comprehensive within context and can only provide a glimpse into the area of study. Personal bias may be introduced within these methods of data collection. However, cross-referencing was an integral part of this research, minimising the amount of bias and subjective opinions within the thesis.

On a more personal note, I was propelled to write this thesis because of several reasons. Firstly, recent events have caused a lot of changes within the independent music industry. Secondly, I was personally involved within various positions in the ecosystem. I was involved in various musical projects internally as an artist and creative director, and externally as a manager and producer. I also co-formed the local promoter initiative Ying Dak Collective, hoping to promote local independent music and bands to a wider audience. With these experiences, I would like to discover more about the scene I am operating within, such as the relationships between bands, promoters, labels, and venues, and what steps one can take to ensure the sustainability and growth of said scene.

To better understand the implications of this research, further studies could address the use of ‘indie music’ as a marketing label within Hong Kong’s music ecosystem, as well as the commerciality of independent music within Hong Kong, as this topic was out of the scope for this thesis.

To sum it up: if the strongest shall fall, what can survive?

 

Biography. Creative media graduate Elliott Wan is a co-founder of local promoter group Ying Dak Collective as well as the front-person for local indie rock act Strange Lives and post-punk project KVYLE. Elliott ended their bachelor’s studies by analysing how events in recent years, namely the closure of This Town Needs, the rise of localism, and the pandemic have affected the local independent music industry. They has just begun their postgraduate studies at the University of Leeds fall 2021, aiming to continue their studies and research regarding the sociology, economy, and psychology within the music industry and ecosystem.

 

To read all previous articles in the series [link…to author Elliott Wan] OR [link 2…to Elliott Wan’s HK indie music report]