THE DARK SIDE OF HONG KONG NIGHT LIFE 1

THE HONG KONG 'LIVE' MUSIC SCENE AND A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES 1

Like the boy who cried “Wolf” one too many times, when are those in Hong Kong involved with, especially the local “indie” music scene, and other venues for ‘live’ music, going to grow up, and understand that, yes, even music is a business? And as a business, why there’s a need to do proper due diligence before hurtling themselves into that giant abyss of all that fine print that often brings about the sound of silence?

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When even an organisation as powerful as the Hong Kong Jockey Club is reined in by government sound ordinances and various licensing issues, why should all those Mork and Mindies and indies constantly whine and play the aggrieved party? To even those who have offered support and solutions, it’s become a bit of a time waster, and starting to look like rebels without much of a cause or a legal leg to stand on.

Video: Hong Kong indie music venue Hidden Agenda raided by police and officials – HONG KONG FP

Nine times out of ten, these people have not done proper due diligence nor read the fine print. Instead, they’re flying by the seat of their pants and often running around trying to exude this “indie” spirit without even trying to get a decent sound system in place.

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If there are legally binding rules and regulations in place, sorry, but that’s the law. And to naively believe that these are insignificant and rules are meant to be broken, well, two words: wise up.

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No one is beyond the law. If these laws have not changed since the days of tea dances at places like the Mocambo and Golden Phoenix, put forward a compelling case as to why they should and take this to the court of public appeal.

With social media available to all of us, here’s the chance to embarrass the hell out of those living in the past, and holding back progress, because music- ‘live’ or dead or comatose is not a priority to them.

Making music in ALL its many incarnations a priority in Hong Kong is the starting point and Refresh button. Remember the saying, Walk, don’t run? But to flagrantly break laws thinking no one will notice is just plain naive thinking. Keep doing it over and over again and it shows short-sighted thinking at work.

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It’s like Peel Fresco having to stop all ‘live’ music by midnight. Sure, this does nothing to help make something resembling a ‘live’ music scene in Hong Kong happen, but why open this venue in what has always been legally known to be a residential area? And even if it’s only one Canadian who’s being the party pooper by calling for the police if there’s even a triangle played after midnight, this person is exercising their rights as a member of the public.

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Hands are tied every time someone with an axe to grind, for whatever reason- jealousy, business motives, a shakedown etc- sees any law being broken and reports it to the authorities.

If a fast food restaurant is doubling as a venue for ‘live’ music and which is against what is stated in their lease, the authorities are forced to act. It’s an official complaint- and it’s breaking a law. Again, it’s about priorities and focus and knowing who’s doing what. Turn it into a weak cause célèbre and everyone loses.

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The music “scene” in Hong Kong is so splintered and dysfunctional with those with a passion to make things work for the good of the end product, and others with all the funding to make things work, but end up cocking things up by organising events that come and go with very few having even heard about them. It shows that there’s actually a helluva lot happening here for a small city with a handful of venues when it comes to music, but there’s no “artist organisation” bringing everything together and with a deft understanding of the law. Collection agencies like CASH, don’t count.

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A small case in point, but a personal bugaboo: Around ten years ago, small restaurants and bars were bullied/harassed/bluffed by two organisations working for the big boys in the music industry to pay for licenses if venues were playing recorded music. This was tried to be imposed until the digital revolution happened and music fans gave the music companies the two finger salute.

With there now being Spotify and other music streaming services, small restaurants and bars are simply using their various playlists. But last week came a letter to certain restaurants that they needed a license to play this music. But think about this: Shouldn’t this be something discussed between a music streaming service and the music companies? How is anyone who’s trying to eke out a living running a restaurant and bar and with other things to worry about to keep their businesses afloat also supposed to understand online music laws? Through a letter threatening legal action? Sounds like someone clutching at straws and hoping for the best.

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And this is the point: There are laws in place, but which should have changed decades ago. When faced with these and those behind them, think before whining that The End Is Nigh. Hardly.

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This could be the most appropriate time for there to be the art and skills of negotiations- and reworking those ancient parables. Don’t be still my beating heart. Be brave. Don’t blink first, but understand the enemy. And why they’re the enemy.

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It’s about having that ace in the hole before trying to create another umbrella movement and have everything rain on your parade.

It’s about getting back to the fundamentals of music with some new partners to ensure that the song plays on without irritating false stops and starts. It’s about doing due diligence before even opening an envelope, let alone a venue for ‘live’ music.

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