Tuesday, May 31, 2011

超级单曲 [super single]

the towering brazilian percussionist valtinho (standing at the back) and the cheeky tay cher siang making funny face

the idea of a super single is an experimental one.

we have seen how cheer chen builds her fanbase using singles and collectibles. it is all very cool and it helps to strengthen her bond with her fans.

we have a great song and we want to record it the best way we know. and we have two good singers. and we want to do two-part harmony, after getting inspired by the solianos.

the production team led by tay cher siang which includes the amazing valtinho anastascio (percussion), joel voo (acoustic guitar), charles wong (drums), vincent ong (double bass) is roped in to do the tracking yesterday at the the ark studios.

valtinho's percussion is amazing, as you will get to hear it soon when the single is released in june.

yes, to get it for free, you need to buy any of the 7 albums from pop pop music! yes, new purchase and not previous purchase ;-)

Friday, May 27, 2011

音乐鉴赏力 [music appreciation]

this is not a review of diana krall's "quiet nights", which is quite a great album released more than a year ago. we bought it quite some time ago and now happen to have more time to revel in its beauty and artistry.

mrs. costello and her team of musicians are some of the best in the business (we mean, in the jazz scene). names like tommy lipuma, john clayton... even doug sax is roped in to do the mastering.

detractors of diana krall's music say she is too smooth, too bland and simply too boring. this is where the intention of this post is.

many musicians, as they age and increase in their virtuosity, tend to slow down and play more delicately, soulfully and with more emotions. we have witnessed the same in roger wang and tay cher siang. in their early days, they tend to flaunt their technicality and skills, much to the delight of the audience. but slowly as they grow, they mellow down and enhance on their the finer aspects of musicianship: sensitivity, emotions, delicacy... all these are part of the virtuosity of being a great musician. it is very easy to play fast and get the audience's foot tapping but it is not easy to play slow and touch the audience's heart.

in "queit nights", diana krall is at her best, with the backing of a lush orchestra. her piano skills are simply delightful. listen to the first 3 tracks and savor the great music-making of her team.

we always educate our singers or music-loving friends to pay attention to production details (who is the producer, who are the musicians, who is the recording engineer, who masters it etc etc) in the inlay which most buyers don't bother to read. (which is also why digital music don't work for us!) from the production details, you can expect what kind of album you are going to get.

next, appreciate the arrangement. appreciate why the arranger presents the music the way he intends to. appreciate the flow of the music, why he uses certain instruments for certain parts and how he gels everything together. arrangement is the heart of music; it weaves everything together. a great song can be spoiled by a lousy arrangement. similarly, a great arrangement may save an ordinary song.

after that, appreciate the individual musician in the band. diana krall has some of the best guitarist, drummer, bassist and she herself is a great pianist. appreciate how they communicate music as a team. a lot of "pseudo" jazz albums (especially those with audiophile disguise) in the market employ "ordinary" musicians which are not musically satisfying or enriching. you can tell when they play together. the singer may be passable but the music can be wanting. individual's musician's calibre is important, especially in jazz, where it shows very obviously like during solo or certain passages.

in this album, diana's has some exquisite piano solos, which is beyond ordinary pianists. it is joyful just to listen to her solos.

we grew up listening to large dose of chinese pop which don't place emphasis on musician's ability or arrangement. if not because of our discovery of jazz and other western forms of music, we would not have learned these critical aspects of music appreciation.

so start by taking out the inlay of your fave albums. read the production details, study the musicians' background, study the arrangement and finally evaluate the recording quality. don't just listen to the vocals :-)

it is only then, music appreciation is most satisfying and complete.

kk爵士音樂節 [kk jazz fest]

the annual kota kinabalu jazz festival falls on 17-18th june, to be held at sutera harbor. guess who has been invited?

incidentally it is my and princess' birthday, so we will be celebrating it in kk with roger wang!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

非平凡的林凡 [not your ordinary freya]

one astute reader commented that we have less album reviews these days. he is right. the reasons are two fold: not many good albums worthy of promotion and we don't have the time to write reviews eventho' we still listen to many albums!

but this one catches our attention lately.

freya lin fan 林凡 is some sort of modern day sandy lam. she has a great great voice (makes us want to sign her up!) with a bit of westernized delivery. she projects a modern and sassy city girl image much like sandy lam in her heyday.

what catches our ears is that freya's music is far remove from the typical formulaic mandarin pop. her melody is very fresh and original. it is not run-of-the-mill like 99% of the chinese pop music out there. sorry la, we reject formulaic chinese pop, as readers know very well.

she also has a cool attitude and signature delivery, which separates her from the rest.

we haven't got the chance to read the inlay credit notes yet but we are impressed with the production quality. her production team must be made up of stellar musicians.

freya is actually not very mainstream but she more than qualifies to be a worthy successor of sandy lam.

we hope to write more as we listen more to this good album.

note: just found out the producer is the mighty jim lee, the ace producer who produces eason chan (mandarin albums) and wang lee hom, no wonder!!!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

cdrama 成功的因素 [cdrama: a simplistic case study]

this is the 3rd and final part of my report and analysis on the retail market.

being the giant of music retail, the success of cdrama is built on many factors. we wouldn't want the competitors to know too much but here's our dissection:

1) niche market

cdrama does not place much emphasis on mainstream pop because they are fickle and they don't last.

instead, cdrama focuses on audiophile, new age, oldies... genres which are long-lasting and appeal to the older and lower middle-class and middle-class crowd.

2) album focus

when cdrama wants to push an album, they have a single-tracked mind: they spin the album many times in a day. in fact, to our knowledge, they even compile (burn) their own CDRs for the ease of targeted song selections!

3) strategic tie-up with labels

this is where cdrama makes the most money. we won't elaborate much.

4) customer focus

cdrama's clientele is casual music lovers ("casual" being the keyword) who won't mind much about the singers or the labels, they just buy the CD if they happen to like the music while shopping for books in popular book store.

some of cdrama's perennial best-sellers are new age compilation music, voices compilations and music that soothes the soul and aims for relaxation.

5) annual book fair and music carnival

their bargain department draws huge crowd every year. no other music retail companies organizes such events.

6) good margin

cdrama's marketing department is managed by shrewd and business savvy people. they always squeeze the best margin from the distributors!

7) hard-working staff

yes, they are hardworking! how else can you explain for the number of marketing and promotional events they organize every year?

like it or not, cdrama is the anchor retail chain in malaysia, without which the music retail business would collapse overnight.

超级单曲 [super single]

we want to experiment with something fun.

we are going to record a super single, a song we like very much and issue it as a single with a bonus minus-one track. the singers would be winnie ho and zyan, these two lovelies are going to duet for the first time. it is an enchantingly sweet bossa nova song that promises to get a lot of fans!

the cd will be a 1,000-copy only, not-for-sale, limited edition promotional cd with a unique serial number.

you can get it for free if you buy any CD from the pop pop's catalog (any 7 albums).

we are also considering releasing it as high-res studio master file for those who are into CAS (computer as source), provided you buy any one of our CDs, of course.

its release will be middle of next month, timed perfectly with cdrama's book fair in KLCC conventional centre.

we are starting the recording next monday!

we miss going into the studio so much, so this is the perfect excuse!

Monday, May 23, 2011

愁云密布 [doom and gloom]

it is a monday and i am saddened by further gloomy news on the retail front.

one major record shop in a major mall pocketed only Rm300 in their till, making it the lowest taking in their sales history. imagine a major mall's record shop only sells 6 CDs a day. their previous worst record was RM900.

their rental is RM20K a month. go and calculate. remember to add staff's salaries and EPF.

i am not sure what the bosses of victoria music, rock corner and CDRAMA have in their minds but if i were them, i will be panicking and devising a plan B to counter this frightening situation. or planning to sell the business altogether!

fact remains: the spiraling downfall of CD is faster than you think! a supporter in singapore already reported that music retail is SG is long dead and buried, except for a few specialist audiophile CD outlets in adelphi.

against such a miserable backdrop, what could the retailers do? actually that's nothing they could do. people are just not buying.

the biggest and most powerful retailer in malaysia is popular's CDRAMA, having 60+ branches nation wide. CDRAMA is a retail chain even major labels would "kowtow" to. imagine if the accountant or CFO (chief finance officer) of popular books decides one day that their CDRAMA outlets are no longer profitable, eventho' they could complement their books business well, that will be the doomsday for malaysian music retail. habis. kaput. R.I.P! MPH and border closed their music section exactly due to reasons like this. the CFO has the last say!

so it is scary to think when the CFO of music retail companies presses the panic button.

we predict it will happen within the next 5 years.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

隔夜冷饭 [overnight cold rice]

can you see what's happening the music market now, with retail sales largely diminished and people buying so much less CDs?

many labels are digging deep in their back catalog hoping to get the most sales with the least investment!

it is so apparent and even proliferating now: every major label are releasing compilations, some even exclusively tied to a particular record shop.

so you have the following very "creative" titles:
  • 101 love songs
  • 101 songs for romance
  • 101 songs for lovers
  • 101 jazz for beginners
  • 101 jazz supreme
  • 101 late night jazz

so on and so forth.

what does that tell you? you make your own conclusions la.

to be fair, some of these compilations are really good, with good selection of songs at an affordable package. but some unscrupulous ones (not necessary major labels but one label with presence in malaysia and singapore) has this very mischievous tendency to pull a fast one on buyers. they do the following:

1) take one song and repeat in many compilations, sort of cunning "permutations"
2) buy cheap cover versions of famous songs by obscure singers from overseas for peanut, normally with dubious recording quality.
3) always claim some sort of "audiophile" mastering meant to mislead buyers
4) very few new titles from this label, 90% are compilations of this sort (mix and match permutations)

you know what we call this sort of music compilations?

overnight cold rice. because you cook it over and over again.

Friday, May 20, 2011

为音乐发言 [speak out for music]

in an hour's time, i will be interviewed by the edge financial weekly, marking my first time getting an interview with a major business newspaper/magazine. it is truly an honor as i regard the edge highly. its editorial is of very standard and its lifestyle pullout "options" is my favorite section as it focuses on interesting topics outside the financial industry. guess i will be featured in "options" section too!

i suppose i have too many things to say about this gloomy situation in the music retail market and the global music industry.

how does pop pop music survive in this bad climate? how do all my musicians and singers survive? what's my strategy? would i quit or would i stay?

oh, btw, there will be a big article on the solianos in the edge tomorrow, do get a copy if you want to know more insights on the amazing musical family!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

原始的美[accidental hero]

who could have predicted this?

following the honorable listing in HK Audiophile 【发烧音响】 "CD bible" magazine for being "the best 500 audiophile recordings of all time", 2v1g-1 has scored another major home run this month! now it is being listed as "the top 100 audiophile recordings of all time" in taiwan's audio art 【音响论坛】. no two chinese hifi magazines can be bigger and more authoritative than these. according to our taiwan distributor, 2v1g-1 scores almost full marks in many categories in the evaluation criteria.

this essentially means 2v1g-1 will be selling for the next 10-20 years or even more.

this is, frankly, beyond our wildest dreams.

next month june 2011 will be the 3rd anniversary of this totally-over-achieving album and we are talking to chow kam leong (our ex-partner and producer of musictoxin) about hosting a celebration party with the media. we will bring back the original team of roger wang, regine tai and winnie ho to grace the occasion. kind of excited even talking about it!

amazing how a tiny dream turned into a success story.

thanks to you, our supporters!

for pure sentimental reasons, shall we listen to the album again, shall we? ;-)

Monday, May 16, 2011

靡靡 [jazzy teresa]

we have begun our preparation for august's concert "the decadent sound of teresa teng"!

wonder why there are so many teresa teng concerts/events this year. dama orchestra is having one now (18 shows, beat that?) and in july there is a teresa teng singing competition.

we remain unperturbed. our version of teresa teng is young, vibrant and westernized, one that not everyone can accept, especially hardcore teresa teng fans and older folks but we want to open them to a different interpretation of teresa teng, since everyone is trying to sound like teresa in the past.

with roger wang, winnie ho and tay cher siang, you can expect a totally different teresa teng.

we are never the conformist so don't expect the us to be traditional in our music.

as we have said in our promo: our concerts is for sons and daughters to bring their parents along to expose them to a new flavor of chinese music!

let's get decadent!

他妈的! [WTF!]

hebe tian (from SHE), whose debut solo album has been one of the best-selling and favorably received last year, has been denied of a golden melody award nomination because according to the judges in the panel "her engineers used too much auto-tune"!


this statement is akin to telling married couples: you are bad because you have sex!

p/s auto-tune is the de facto pitch-correction software used by recording engineers all over the world to correct pitching issues in singers (especially pop singers) , which are universal problems no matter how great a singer you are

瞧! [take a look!]

guess who made it into the cover of the 20th anniversary's edition of CD BIBLE 2011 as well as being listed in coveted "best 800 CDs"?

最佳广告 [best ad of the day]

please enlarge the pix to see the ad in the centre

年齡不是問題 : 婆婆也可以用震盪器

age does not matter: grandma can also enjoy using vibrator

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

爵士光年 [jazz light year]

another album in the pipeline!

if there is no accident, we will be bringing one of our fave jazz/bossa albums from taiwan, "jazz light year" by lynn lee yun ling【李昀陵】 into malaysian market under the exclusive license of pop pop music!

"jazz light year" is one of those rare jazz album from taiwan that had us smiling in appreciation the first time we heard it. it is one of the albums we refer to when we made "brasileiro: z yan". lynn is a veteran who has worked with who's who in taiwan. you can read all about lynn here.

we have been talking to lynn's label, click music, for months but busy schedule on our side delayed the progress of the licensing.

we will be heading for hk for a business trip tomorrow, once we come back, we would put up a mp3 player for "jazz light year" for your listening pleasure!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

李宗盛生气了 [jonathan gets angry]

jonathan says: let use karate to chop off trashy pop music

we didn't actually attend the talk because we attended a gala dinner the night before which had jonathan talking about the same subject, i.e. chinese pop music in malaysia.

according to a friend who attended. it was quite a "hot" discussion as jonathan was quite pissed with some of the questions thrown at him by the audience and a couple local singers in the panel.

basically, he main address is: how to rescue malaysian chinese pop industry.

the gist of jonathan's talk are as follows:

he thinks good malaysian compositions must have the following elements:

1) local flavors. not necessary by purposely throwing in local terms like "mamak", "pasar" but avoid using words like "snowing", "autumn" which do not apply in malaysian context

he does not want to see a chinese singer sounding like a westerner the moment she opens her mouth!

2) a sincere heart: only a song which touches your soul can have a chance to touch others

3) everyone is struggling with limited budget, shrinking market etc. so, malaysian singers/composers shouldn't bitch about these cos it is a level playing field where everyone gets the same chance to sing and write.

4) the future market is in mainland china. everyone should target there if he wants commercial success.

ok, here's our contentions:

1) we conclude that jonathan would not approve singers like joanna wang, olivia ong and khalil fong because they don't sound chinese at all! in fact, we are about to review khalil fong's new album "15", which is far remove from typical chinese pop music!

2) today's music is gearing towards "international" flavors, what local flavors do you want from malaysian singers/songwriters?

3) even if jonathan were to write songs for today's market, he may not succeed because today's listeners don't subscribe to this kind of music anymore

more importantly, we think jonathan missed out this point, a very important point. true, chinese pop music has gone down the drain in the last 10 years, both in standards/quality and album sales, and malaysian chinese pop is not spared but what's the real cause of the downfall?

we have said it many times before in this blog. it is the proliferation of entertainment options available to today's youth that has relegated pop music listening to a very low-priority pastime! it is far sexier to spend on an iphone or ipad than buying a cd or a hifi system, what more if you can listen to your music downloaded into your iphone. who needs to buy CDs????

not that there is no chance for success but it is getting 1,000 times tougher now than it was 10-20 years ago. you need to be the trend-setter like khalil fong, or superb singer like eason chan. mediocre singers/music, you will not have a chance!

nowadays music labels/singers produce CDs for the sake of keeping a portfolio, a name card, which can be used for concerts, gigs, live performances, commercial, sponsorship purposes etc etc. hence the "malpractice" of releasing EPs, singles, which essentially are cost-savings ways to produce this portfolio/name card.

10 years ago, there may be 50,000 (just for argument's sake) music lovers who buy CDs. today, this number is reduced to 1,000 at most. and these are hardcore music lovers who will stick to buying CDs or whatever physical format that prevails, for the love of music.

and this 1,000 buyers are what we are targeting at, never mind the figure is pathetically low. but we are also trying to attract non-CD buying crowd to go for concerts that have mass-appeal theme like our chinese oldies revival concert series.

for more like-minded sharing by industry people, check out stereophile's blog on the same subject.

Friday, May 6, 2011

在月光下 [dibawah sinar]

many, many people like this song in the solianos pusaka album, sung by tricia d'cruz!

do you know that the original song is a keroncong??!!

thanks to the wonderful arrangement of salvador guerzo, the song is transformed beautifully.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

roger wang 的幽默[roger wang's humor]

roger wang just posted this photo in his FB with the caption: "Preparing for the Roger Wang & Friends Concert this weekend".

yes, this man has plenty of sardonic humor.

that's why it is fun working with him!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

请比较 [let's compare]

here's a simple contest to test your discerning power.

tell us the 3 major physical differences between our CDs and local pressed CDs (pick any titles).

for the uninitiated, all our CDs are pressed in hk's high-end factory, sony dadc.

the first 3 winners with the most observant and discerning answers will get either a copy of:

1) the economy editon of solianos pusaka priced at RM39.90


2) brasileiro z yan priced at RM49.90

it's your choice!

please submit your entries to poppopmusic@yahoo.com before 12pm 9th may 2011.

let's have fun!

老歌不发霉 [oldies but not moldy]

a very young jiang yu heng

many people near to us know this: the pre-requisite of becoming a singer of pop pop music is an indepth appreciation in chinese pop music. you just can't be a pop singer knowing only pop songs. that's too shallow. you have to know chinese oldies, jazz, bossa nova and many genres beyond the chinese pop.

the most heartening thing to us is: our singers, as they get influenced by us, are really opening up their listening boundary and start to listen to things they don't normally listen. their increased appreciation in chinese oldies is one of the things that pleases us the most. at their young age, these oldies shouldn't mean anything to them, yet they are learning to like them and sing them. one reason they begin to like oldies is: today's chinese pop music is largely forgettable!
even jonathan lee says so!

someone close to us, another young lady, passed this to us last night: jiang yu heng's greatest hits 【姜育恒】, a veteran taiwanese singer in the early 80s. he is actually a korean by birth but he was famous in taiwan. he had many many hits that are worth cherishing.

here's two songs that had us pressing the "repeat" button. hope you like them.

the original singer of this great ballad is tracy huang, the one featured here is fei yu qing!

shall we cover them in the upcoming 2v1g album? ;-)

oldies are not moldy, the are gems!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

好料 [some good stuff]

these are some new stuff from hk worth anticipating:

1) ellen loo 【盧凱彤】, a young but veteran singer-songwriter from hk.

this single is her entry to taiwan.

she is not bad, check out the MV.

2) khalil fong, "15"

well, khalil has been accused of plagiarizing jim hendrix, john mayer and eric clapton in this bolder and edgier album which sees him departing from his usual smooth style. he boldly admits that those are his influences and he is not ashamed of that.

there is no such thing as bad publicity, we expect this album to create some waves in this weak market.

well, we are going to hk next week and we shall pick these albums up for sure!

花樣年華的现场录音 [live recording album]

some great news for our supporters!

we may be releasing the live recording of "my glorious years" as a gift CD , which you can redeem if you meet any of the following conditions:

1) if you own at least X number of our albums from pop pop music. proof of purchase is required, of course. you have to present/show the CDs to us.

2) if you buy any X number of our CDs (can be from the same titles) from CDRAMA in one receipt.

3) if you buy at least X number RM105 tickets for the "the decadent sound of teresa teng" concert in august.

this is a collector's item which is not for sale!

watch our for more announcement on this!