Why singer Karen Tong funds her own Canto-pop album
Karen Tong Po-yu found Canto-pop singer fame when she performed the duet, Love in Wind and Rain with Jacky Cheung Hok-yau in 1992.
Recording under the PolyGram label in the early 1990s, she had several hits including I Have a Date with Autumn, Sky of Serendipityand Cold.
More than 20 years later, instead of earning her fortune from albums financed and sold by a recording label, she has to fork out HK$600,000 to produce her own album this year.
Q: Do albums no longer make money?
A: We were actually prepared to make losses. Since the emergence of digital downloading, people don’t pay for music. Many singers release singles only. This is very different from our experience in the 80s and 90s, when people were willing to pay for an album.
People can now buy the singles on digital platforms, without buying the whole album.
Q: Why did you pay to produce your own album?
A: I decided to produce a Canto-pop album because I had not done so for a long time. My friends told me that if I wanted to continue my development here, I should produce a Canto-pop song. I feel that Canto-pop is a valuable culture.
I wanted to manage the production myself, from lyrics to picking the right songwriter. There are not many recording companies either. Many singers finance [their albums]. This is a very common trend.
Q: Is the album just to help your development and to make money?
A: I just wanted to produce a good song. Many of my colleagues had quit the industry because they felt that they could no longer make money from music.
I don’t believe Canto-pop will die, though many people listen to foreign songs. To restore Canto-pop’s glory, singers should produce Cantonese, and not Mandarin songs. Hongkongers need to unite and opt for Canto-pop.
Recording companies have told me that concerts are the main money makers now, not albums. I felt that the concert market is saturated, as there are sometimes as many as four concerts a month. The high ticket prices, at least $600 each, and other expenses have limited the number of concerts that people can go to. Concerts should not be staged for the sake of doing so.
The music industry is of course, not in a good state. I don’t see any sign of the industry recovering to its glory days, considering how advanced technology has become.
Q: Can you earn money from selling songs on digital platform?
A: If you consider platforms such as Moov and iTunes, songs are released as singles. Some allow you to listen to them first...if you don’t like it, you won’t buy it. Some people are not even willing to pay HK$8 for a single. They’d rather share it.