We did it! Sing50 is now offering “honoraria” to their “community performers”!

Screen capture on 19 Jan 2015

Screen capture on 19 Jan 2015

Congratulations, all you online netizens, denizens, and Citizens of the World! Sing50, who were initially not going to pay the majority of its performers, will now offer honoraria to their “community performers”! (See this post and this clarification for more background information.)

Screen capture on 14 Feb 2015

Screen capture on 14 Feb 2015

Of course, labeling the payment as an “honorarium” is a sneaky way of saying that Sing50 still treats its performers as volunteers. (Honorarium: A payment given for professional services that are rendered nominally without charge.)

There is a horrible, toxic culture of not paying musicians in Singapore. When I played in Perth, festival organizers were thoroughly apologetic that they could only pay my band a small amount (only in the hundreds of dollars). When I played in Copenhagen, festival organizers were similarly apologetic that they couldn’t pay me anything, but they gave me tickets that I could sell (I would keep all the money from any of those ticket sales). There is an understanding in these cities that musicians should be paid, and that it is a shameful, shameful thing when musicians are not paid.

In Singapore, people act as if musicians should be grateful for the opportunity to perform.

Of course, this isn’t the only problem that musicians face in Singapore. This may sound a little strange, but if we want Singapore’s music industry to thrive, we need more social safety nets, and we need to be more forgiving of “failures” in our local system.

When people dare to fail, they often succeed. We need to have some kind of safety net for entrepreneurs and artists who try for their entire lives to accomplish something, but who eventually end up in a financially dire situations. Yes, a welfare system is tricky to create and to maintain — but I don’t think it’s an accident that countries with solid welfare systems (the Nordic countries, US, and UK come to mind) also have very healthy music industries.

It is absolutely ridiculous that being in the “Normal (Academic)” or “Normal (Technical)” streams in secondary school is seen as a major life failure. These are teenagers we’re talking about, with their entire adult lives ahead of them. Why do we need to condemn these children as failures when so many of them have the potential to excel in other fields beyond the academic?

Everything is connected, and our local music scene is inextricably connected to our local politics.


Everything is connected, and this post is connected to this post, where you will be able to find Mr Seah’s (Kevin Ghosty’s) music 😉

A clarification: the PAP-led government didn’t buy the 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos.

In my previous post, I complained bitterly about what I saw as a S$1,300,000 waste of money. Apparently some of my readers misconstrued what I was saying and thought that I was blaming the PAP-led government for this S$1.3m waste of money. This is simply a misreading of my text. Perhaps it’s because people have the (erroneous) perception that The Straits Times, SPH, and the PAP are all part of the same “government”? Hmm.

What I wanted to allude to was the fact that legislation like the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, together with regulatory agencies like the Media Development Authority (MDA), work together to create a monster like the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). SPH publishes the two newspapers that are organizing the Sing50 concert: The Straits Times and The Business Times.

Going by Straits Times reports, there seems to be no tax money going towards the Sing50 concert, which is linked to but separate from the larger SG50 celebration. This reminds me: SPH is linked to, but separate from, the PAP. As Cherian George has observed:

Singapore’s news industry is dominated by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), a corporation created by the merger of two newspaper groups. While not government-owned, it is closely supervised by the political leadership. (link)

To recap: the PAP is not responsible for the Sing50 concert, but it is responsible for creating the conditions conducive to SPH’s current shape, which has resulted in 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos being purchased for the Sing50 concert organized by two newspapers run by SPH, for S$26,000 each, at the total cost of S$1,300,000.


Now, one might ask: why is Mr Seah getting so angry over S$1.3m being spent, since this isn’t taxpayer money? Good question — even though I asked it myself. Ha!

Here’s why I’m so upset — I think spending taxpayer money implementing lousy legislation is just money badly spent. This money with evil powers (if I may use a really strange metaphor) has resulted in our current media landscape, one lacking the voices of the Breakfast Network and Sintercom, two casualties of censorship in Singapore. The absence of loud competing voices has allowed SPH to grow as it has, and has thus allowed it to Sing50 as it has.

In my previous post, I observed that there was a shortfall of S$952k. I added:



Let me make a point in a more civilized manner.

The general elections in Singapore are coming soon, and our social media feeds will soon be full of GE-relevant articles and essays. But discussions about politics shouldn’t just be contained to election periods. All of us need to be politically aware and active so that we don’t end up having shit like this our taxpayer monies misused, or having policies enacted that few of us actually are happy with.

Everything is political. If we appear apathetic about our politics, politicians can and will assume that they can get away with anything, because no one’s watching, and no one cares.

Nowhere did I say that the government was funding this using taxpayer money. I’m just hoping that not one cent of my tax money goes towards ST’s and BT’s Sing50 event.

It’s enough that my government uses my tax money to create conditions that end up having my country rank 149th out of 179 countries in the 2013 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. Therefore, I repeat my point.

Everything is political. If we appear apathetic about our politics, politicians can and will assume that they can get away with anything, because no one’s watching, and no one cares.

I think the rage that people are expressing over the 50 Steinway-designed Lang Lang pianos stems in part from the frustration over the lack of press freedom here. Of course, it’s much easier to say wah piang waste money la! than it is to say the legislation that has allowed SPH to thrive is inappropriate given current conditions and citizen sentiment.

So I’ll say it again… WAH PIANG WASTE MONEY LA!!