Fighting for musicians' rights

Fighting for musicians' rights

Musicians from all backgrounds and across every genre in Singapore now have a professional body looking out for their interests.

The non-profit Musicians Guild of Singapore will provide members with benefits linked to their music careers, like legal advice and professional workshops, as well as in their personal matters, such as health insurance packages.

It will also have a comprehensive database of members for clients and employers seeking music professionals, as well as a database of music-related jobs for members, whether they are singers, instrumentalists or music educators.

The Guild will be launched this afternoon at arts training centre 10 Square @ Orchard Central, with its patron, Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh, as guest of honour.

The company is the brainchild of a group of local music professionals from various backgrounds - classical conductor Adrian Tan, jazz singer Rani Singam, singer-songwriter Bevlyn Khoo, Chinese classical musician and sheng player Yang Ji Wei and bassoon player and educator Aw Yong Tian.

The company was set up in May last year after receiving a $210,000 seed grant, to be given over three years, from the National Arts Council.

Focus group discussions were then held with various communities in the music industry and, from these talks, it was clear many musicians here faced similar issues which include breach of contracts or not getting paid on time.

Tan, the Guild's executive director who is also music director of the Singapore Wind Symphony, Braddell Heights Symphony Orchestra and Saigon Philharmonic, says: "We realised that the only way to effectively address these issues was to first bring people together, communicate at some level, raise awareness, and educate people on what they have to do themselves and what we have to do together as a community and as an industry to protect our livelihoods."

He adds: "We wanted the services and benefits to be tangible and we wanted to look at it from the perspective of the three things that are very important to musicians, which are career, livelihood and professional development."

All five founders are part of the company's board of directors, which also includes other personalities from the arts and entertainment industries such as entertainment lawyer Samuel Seow, actress and former Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh and National University of Singapore's Professor Bernard Tan, who is the guild's chairman.

To be a member, the guild offers three types of paid memberships to cater to the diverse community of musicians that include professionals, amateurs and students. Membership is open to all musicians operating in Singapore. Foreigners and non-residents pay a higher fee.

A full membership, for example, costs $120 annually for Singaporeans and permanent residents and $200 for everyone else. Associate membership and student membership are $80 and $50 respectively for locals. Only full membership comes with extra benefits like legal assistance, exclusive insurance plans and alerts to music related job openings.

Some of the high-profile music professionals who have already come on board as members include Cultural Medallion winners and music veterans Dick Lee and Jeremy Monteiro.

In the past, the local music industry had an organisation, the Musicians' Union of Singapore, that was mostly centred on job protection. Veteran musician Danny Koh, who served as the union's president from 1977 to 1978, believes that there has not been a union since it dissolved in the early 1980s.

Another organisation, The Music Society, Singapore (SGMUSO), which is still operating, organises initiatives mostly for musicians across contemporary genres.

Monteiro believes that membership with the guild is important for musicians here as it will "assist those with real life issues, foster collaboration and stimulate excellence". He adds: "(Being part of a) community is very important and most professions and vocations have them. It creates solidarity and more can be done to interact with the Government, the corporate world and the community to create more understanding and opportunities."

dinohadi@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on April 25, 2015.
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