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Hong Kong gigs

Music summit in Hong Kong aims to send message of hope to bands in Asia struggling to be heard and to perform

Three-day gathering of indie bands and Asian music industry figures in Hong Kong this weekend for gigs and seminars aims to change the agenda from one of complaining about problems to working together to find solutions

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 12:49pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2018, 2:44pm

There’s safety in numbers – that’s the message the organisers of Ear Hub 2018 want to spread to the music industry in Hong Kong and internationally.

“We’re hoping to spark up the scene,” says James Chan, of the inaugural three-day music conference in Hong Kong, which will run from June 10 to 12.

“If there is more support and resources for artists, the benefits would spread across the cultural sector and we can show that Hong Kong is more than just a financial hub,” says Chan, who has spent more than 20 years helping develop artists and distribute their music, and working in event management.

Ear Hub’s aim is to turn attention away from the problems facing the music industry in Hong Kong – from a lack of venues to insufficient support from the authorities – and get people working together to find solutions. To that end, Ear Hub is reaching out to “music enthusiasts, artists, labels, event organisers, music industry influencers and international delegates”.

There will be performances by 12 bands and artists from around the region at the Kowloon Bay International Trade & Exhibition Centre (Kitec) to show the diversity of talent that’s out there, and the performances will be backed up by seminars discussing the state of play in the Asian independent music scene, and booths promoting the services offered by industry players.

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Guest speakers will include Fuji Rock Festival director Jason Mayall, Zhang Xiaozhou, from China’s Modern Sky music festival, and Mike Hill and Justin Sweeting, from Hong Kong’s Clockenflap festival.

Most of all, Chan says, the event is designed to inspire hope.

Hong Kong’s independent music scene has suffered a series of well-publicised blows in the past 10 years – think back to the dramas surrounding performance venue Hidden Agenda and the struggles other venues have had in keeping audiences and staying legal.

“I am an optimistic person,” says Chan. “If you have passion and belief, then your efforts are worthwhile. One thing is for sure: there are more and more bands and independent artists producing music of an international standard in terms of production and of performance.

“The future is bright and will remain that way if we have the support of existing venues and expanding digital music platforms. In the end, we hope what we are doing will help ignite some changes in policy from the [Hong Kong] government regarding music and the creative industries.”

Hong Kong acts set to perform include Ellen Loo, GDJYB, Phoon and OIivier Cong, while international guests include the likes of Chinese synth grinders Re-Tros, Korean rockers Goonam and Japan’s Dubjuana Midnight System.

“We are trying to showcase bands we think will be interesting to a broad audience,” says Chan. “And when people get together, the idea is that we promote communication between all corners of the industry.”

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Chan’s musical journey began when he started helping out brother Tommy Chan back in the 1990s at his indie label Love Da Records, which has been a long-time champion of a diverse range of independent Hong Kong and international artists.

Eyebrows were raised when the label opened with a mandate to dig deep into a scene that has always struggled in the city. But its resilience has shown that independent music in Hong Kong is alive and kicking.

“I was inspired by my brother and by the work he was doing,” says Chan. “I think it has shown that success is possible if the work is done and the independent music scene is supported.”

Time spent studying in Toronto exposed Chan to the international music scene – and he also picked up part-time work in a record shop there.

In his time in the music business Chan has seen a major expansion in the platforms available to artists and in the options for how to present and distribute their music.

In the end, we hope what we are doing will help ignite some changes in policy from the [Hong Kong] government regarding music and the creative industries
James Chan

Still, he says: “There is so much to explore beyond this DIY spirit that has been created and inspired by the internet. We hope people will come along, talk freely and network, exchange ideas, and share their experiences in person rather than just across social networks. That personal connection is still really important.”

Chan believes having a platform where people in the industry and those who support it can share experiences will have a positive and lasting impact.

“We hope the opportunity we’re creating will increase communication between everyone who attends – not just artists themselves,” says Chan. “We have to be humble and see things from a different perspective and that will enable us all to grow.

“We’re not looking to tell artists what to do. We see the event more as an opportunity to explore what’s happening in our part of the world, what’s going on in the music industry, and what’s going on in Hong Kong music.”

Ear Hub 2018, June 10-12, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$300-HK$1,000, Ticketflap