Rock On! Indie Bands in Taiwan – 2152期


Indie Bands Need More Stages

   The 2015 Taiwan Indie Music Festival(2015臺灣樂團潮)was held on October 31st in Huashan 1914 Creative Park(華山1914文化創意產業園區). Indie bands(獨立樂團)were funded by indie music record subsidies(硬地音樂錄製補助)and enjoyed their time on the stages. This music festival was held by the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development(文化部影視及流行音樂產業局), a.k.a BAMID, to promote indie bands in Taiwan. With many indie musicians and BAMID’s efforts, lots of Taiwan’s original music works have accordingly been noticed by people in Taiwan and all over the world. However, there are some opposing voices in the industry.

   Some indie musicians point out that the policy of BAMID simply can not help resolve the problems they currently have. Although the government had already pour in lots of money, indie bands still don’t have many opportunities and money to publish their works. “The main problem is that there is no one from the decision committee who can come out and make overall arrangements and understand the needs of this industry. Therefore, the government copes with the issue inefficiently and helplessly even though each department does the best on their works.” said Guo-hong Zeng(曾國宏), the guitar player in Come! Bei Bei!(來吧!焙焙!). Zeng added, “Our advice to BAMID, is to revise the policies on the indie music subsidies. For example, there should be no restriction on the sum of money applying from bands. The conditions are that bands have to pay back with low interest or even no interest. The advantage of this method is that bands will take responsibilities for their works. On the other hand, the money invested by government could reach maximum utility.”

   The other problem is that indie music is still less prevalent than pop music. The reasons are that the legality of live houses, the music venues featuring live music, is still in grey area with lots of parents having negative conceptions. Yen-chi Chen(陳彥奇), the bass guitar player in Monkey Pilot(猴子飛行員)said, “The opportunities of performance in live houses is important to indie bands, and the government should promote the culture of indie music to the public through some introductory courses in schools.”


Comments from Musicians

   Taiwan Indie Music Festival is one of the best examples of how the Ministry of Culture promotes independent music. However, the subsidy program has been criticized severely as many music bands complain that they fail to meet the minimum requirements and are unable to apply for the funding.

   Unable to find suitable business registration, live houses in Taiwan, the music venues featuring live music for indie bands and artists, have in result faced an awkward position over a long period of time. Moreover, according to the 2013 Production of Flagship Pop Music and Integrating Promotion Plan for Marketing industry(一○二年旗艦型流行音樂製作與整合行銷產業促進計畫), applicants who want to apply for subsidies must at least have been nominated once for the Golden Melody Awards between 2008 to 2012. Those who have benefited from this program also included well-known artists. In short, there are too many music bands in Taiwan but subsides are limited. Therefore, each band only receives a small amount of money. 

   Some bands think that the government is apparently heading towards the wrong direction for they do not have deeper insight into what they really need. To get subsidies, indie bands would have to submit their works to the government hastily in a short period of time. This not only affects the quality of their music, but also causes a negative effect on Taiwan’s music industry.

    Aside from the environment in the music industry and the government's policies, the lead singer of band 1976, Ray-kai Chen(陳瑞凱), also claims that low birth rate is one of the causes as well. “Low birth rate is a great impact to us. We don’t have a large population in our country, and students are the majority who have the habit of listening to independent music, which is why our market is shrinking.” It is very difficult to run a livehouse in Taiwan. With mutiple restrictions to establish livehouses in Taiwan, Chen believes that Taipei’s independent music industry might be centralized in one specific area. “Kaohsiung might also face the same situation in the future, having to go to a particular place to listen to music.” said Chen. He also noted that cities might lose their cultural diversity if the bands of independent music industry only do their performances in some specific area. “There were no policies on this industry during 1990 to 2000. Yet, we all paid our taxes, passed the fire safety inspections, and we indeed cultivated many talents.”

   The Ministry of Culture, livehouse owners, and indie music bands have all reached an agreement. They all hope that indie music industry can be successful both in Taiwan and even overseas. They also discussed their future plans together. “I have been told that a great number of people in Taipei work in the music industry I also think that we should have more young artists working in this industry. However, the young musicians have to carry the value that this is a career, and they might actually make a living by devoting in bands, you just never know.”said Ray-kai Chen, in a cautious but optimistic tone.


How It All Began


   The controversy of live house issue originated from the incident that Taipei City Government(台北市政府)ordered the livehouse, The Underworld (地下社會), to stop business in July, 2012, leading a series of protests held by many supporters, accusing the government of oppressing the development of independent music.

   In response, Department of Culture Affairs(台北市文化局)stated, “This incident is not just a single case, but it reflects the problem we currently face. We are looking forward to that the Ministry of Culture(文化部)could invite officials from the other departments to figure a way out” Shirking responsibility to the Ministry of Culture.

   Also, The former Minister of Culture(文化部長), Ying-tai Lung(龍應台)had been questioned the livehouse issue as she reported in the Legislative Yuan, promising that they would collect relevant regulations from different countries and continue to find solutions. However, as the fever slowly faded, the issue of livehouse is still left unsolved.

   When Taipei Mayor Wen-je Ko(柯文哲)took office this year, he proposed some solutions to the issue and declared to establish more livehouses within three months. The current director of the Department of Culture Affairs, Chong-hua Ni(倪重華), explained in a previous statement that it is impossible to solve the livehouse issue within three months. “Such a rush, we are all in a hurry. Nonetheless, cultural issues cannot be handled in such haste.” Ni also pointed out that the problem of Taiwan's popular music industry is the music content, not stages for bands. Ni believes the problem lies in insufficient numbers of music group in Taiwan and the lack of adequate competition among each other. Also, people are not like Westerners who are willing tospend money watching the performances of some independent bandsin the leisure time. 

   As for the practical solutions, Ni suggested that owners of livehouses could change their operation patterns. Stop sticking onto the same form of performance and start welcoming more performers to the stage. Moreover, the government should amend the lawand have some plans for the whole pop music industry.