If you ask 10 people to explain the differences between Canto-pop and alternative music in Hong Kong, chances are you will get several different answers. To a young Nicolas Tse Ting-fung fan, the latter may simply be about smashing your guitar in front of a bunch of screaming young girls. And to the members of a radical underground heavy metal band based in Mongkok, pop music might simply be another term for hypocrisy and censorship. It is filled with soulless sounds and repetitive melodies that real music fans should despise. Wong Chi-chung, an ex-disc jockey at Commercial Radio who now works for the EMI Group, said he believed Canto-pop had in the past few years become more receptive to new ideas and that the line separating the two 'kinds' of music was fading. 'Pop in many other parts of the world has always comprised different elements. It is only Canto-pop that has long been equated with songs that are created only for karaoke purposes,' he said. 'But one encouraging thing is that now, when you listen to a Canto-pop album, you have a great chance of hearing different musical elements.' He said he was pleased with the development of the local music industry, adding that it was common to see a musician working in both areas. 'Around 10 years ago this was unthinkable. Now there is a trend among those who were labelled as indie musicians to work in mainstream musical productions,' said Wong. 'If you add the ones who have come back from overseas, the local music scene is undergoing a quiet evolution.' Yet some people might go as far as to ask whether this division means anything at all. This is the view held by Chan Fai-hung, managing director of EMI Group Hong Kong, which represents local singers such as Denise Ho Wan-sze and teen groups Shine and Cookies. 'Take us who actually produce music as an example. When we decide what we want to include in a record, we never even bother to consider what type of music we are putting in,' said Chan. But Yuen Chi-chung, veteran music critic and founder of local magazine Music Colony Bi-weekly, said dividing music into different categories was necessary for both critics and listeners. 'If we do this, it will just be much easier for us to teach people who don't know much about music what they are listening to and how different genres compare with each other,' said Yuen. And while he agreed with Wong that Hong Kong's music scene has in the past decade been injected with fresh ideas, Yuen played down suggestions that major changes are just around the corner. 'Even though I can sense that there are now a lot more alternative music lovers in Hong Kong, the whole industry is still pretty much dominated by artists who know very little about music,' said Yuen. 'It is still an unhealthy music industry because most people can still make it just by gaining a lot of exposure instead of producing good music.' He added it was exactly the same culture that had harmed the quality of local music. 'A lot of people have the impression that Hong Kong music is improving because the production quality is better than before. But if you listen carefully, the quality of the music and the singers themselves haven't improved much. It's as simple as this: When you have to spend all your time worrying about exposure and, in some cases, making TV dramas and movies, how can you work on your music and voice?'