Starting out as an independent musician in Singapore is no easy feat. It is not uncommon for new artists to be faced with the confusion and frustration of not knowing where to start. Most of the time, they begin their creative journeys from scratch – having to research and educate themselves on the various aspects of the music business on their own, from production to promotion. Making matters worse, resources on how to kick start one’s music career are scarce and hard to find.
That’s the issue that independent Hip-Hop artist Kristian Pineda (aka. P_NEDA) and his friends, Zeen Tng, Hazel Tan, and Ryan Chua, aim to tackle with the Make Your Mark campaign. What started out as the Final Year Project for these four students from the Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information has evolved into something that’s been the talk of the Singaporean music scene. The project aims to empower the local music community by equipping independent local musicians with marketing and business skills to elevate their career.
In this interview, P_NEDA breaks down what Make Your Mark is all about, how the group put the campaign together, and where it could possibly take them in the near future.
Tell us more about Make Your Mark and what it’s about.
Make Your Mark is a communications campaign that my friends and I started to equip local musicians with music marketing skills and strengthen their business acumen. As part of our Final Year Project for school, we had to come up with and execute a communications campaign for any topic or cause of our choice. We decided on the specific cause of supporting the local music scene because we’re all big fans of local art and music, and especially because of how the pandemic has affected the scene, we felt compelled to do our part in pushing local music too. However, instead of just running a campaign trying to convince people to listen or “support” local, we opted to appeal to musicians instead, empowering them with the knowledge and skills they need to spread their own music.
You’ve identified that there is currently a lack of knowledge and resources when it comes to music marketing. How does Make Your Mark plan to address the issue? What does the blueprint look like?
After speaking with various people in the music scene, from musicians to label owners, executives, journalists and even academics, we ultimately felt that there’s a need for greater access to knowledge and resources for local musicians. Sure, there’s a ton of places online and even programmes in local institutions, but we feel that especially for newer artists, it can be intimidating to sieve through everything and find what’s both up-to-date and relevant to the Singapore context.
This is where Make Your Mark comes in: Through our bite-sized educational content on Instagram as well as events like our Mark Parties and Mark Mentorship Programme, we want to create more learning opportunities and a supportive community for local artists. In these spaces, we hope that not only do they learn more about music marketing, but also get to connect with and learn from the veterans and more experienced players in the industry who’ve graciously joined us as partners.
So far, you’ve had two industry dialogues (aka. Mark Parties), and you have your mentorship programme running concurrently until April this year. What went into curating the speakers and mentors for this campaign? How did you get them on board?
Honestly, when we first started planning this, we were worried that it would be difficult getting people on board, especially on a voluntary basis. However, most of the partners we reached out to were so forthcoming and willing to help. Many expressed their support for our cause, and that what we’re building here is something important. We’re extremely heartened by the warm response and grateful for everyone who believed in us and made this campaign possible because I think they, too, saw the need for more support for local musicians.
On top of that, we also wanted to work with people who may not be directly in the music scene, but have a lot of experience in marketing. Our awesome Project Supervisor, Mr Ferdinand De Bakker, also helped us reach out to some really awesome people in marketing and PR, who have a wealth of knowledge in getting people to pay attention to brands and companies.
Are you able to give us a peek into who the mentors and speakers for subsequent dialogues are?
The next few Mark Parties will be touching on the community aspect of music, both for artists looking to build their own community of fans and for those who want to learn more about different programmes in Singapore. We’ve got a host of really amazing partners on board for these sessions, one of them is Tan Peng Sing from M1LDL1FE and Where Are The Fruits, who’ll share his experiences with applying and leveraging on grants, which I think a lot of local artists would be interested to learn about.
In your opinion, how has the reception to the campaign been so far? Any notable participants that we should keep an eye on?
We’re really heartened by the warm reception from musicians here — we see many of them interacting with our posts frequently and joining our events, so that’s always good. One thing that’s been surprising too is the wide range of people who’ve been to our events so far: we’ve got seasoned musicians like Masia One and Ffion who attended our Mark Parties, as well as upcoming talents like UTCPLUS8, Sidharth and anny, among many others who are part of our Mark Mentorship Programme.
Any plans to expand the campaign into something that’s done more frequently and possibly on a bigger scale? If so, how?
This is a question we’ve received a lot from our many partners as well as people in the music scene, and it’s great because that means they do see the value in music marketing education. The team is definitely exploring different ways of sustaining this movement beyond our Final Year Project period, and this also means more opportunities for local musicians to hone and improve their music marketing skills.
Being an independent musician yourself, what else do you think can be done to boost independent musicians, on the individual, community, and national levels? What can people and organisations do to support the music community?
Well, as a musician, I think a lot of this boils down to more people consuming and sharing local music. There’s a plethora of really talented artists in this country, with stories that many Singaporeans can relate to. The number of people I know who do listen to music made by local artists has been increasing over the years, which is encouraging and the number should only grow from here.
But at the same time, I think we’re doing the many talented people here a slight disservice by reducing all of the different genres, sounds and subcultures to just “local music” that we need to support by virtue of being in the same country.Kristian Pineda aka. P_NEDA
That’s kind of what Make Your Mark strives to overcome as well – by helping musicians sharpen their brand and find the tools and confidence to convey it to the masses, I believe more people will start to take notice of the music being made here. This is what I hope other organisations and programmes do as well – uplift more musicians and give them more spaces to showcase their music and tell their story, such as live shows and events when possible.
Oh, and another thing would be greater visibility in the many career opportunities in the entertainment industry that aren’t just being an artist. As we put this campaign together, the team and I got to speak to many passionate A&R managers, music executives and journalists who are often unsung heroes as well in keeping local art and culture alive. I think once more people see these routes as ways to not only support independent musicians, but also put food on their own table, we could do many great things here.
For more interesting interviews with Asian artists, check out our Music section.