Getting better with time

IT TOOK a leap of faith for Darren Choy, the current managing director of Warner Music Malaysia, to join the music industry 30 years ago after obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and Management from Purdue University in the US. Choy told theSun: “I got into the music industry by accident, and at that time the head of EMI Malaysia – a highly experienced and respected industry figure, Mrs Beh Suat Pheng – was looking for a manager to oversee and run Virgin Records in Malaysia, where Virgin Records was a licensee to EMI Music then. “After the interview, I thought to myself, I may have failed … perhaps I should look for a job in the sports industry. But a few hours after the interview, I got a call and an offer was on the table. I suppose the rest is history.” Choy added: “My two passions and loves in life have been sports and music.” When he took a break from the music industry in 2004, Choy was quoted as saying that “music will never die, it will be consumed in a different way.” He spent about six years heading up Adidas Malaysia and Singapore, and a year-and-a-half spent with the Lotus Racing F1 team, but life inevitably led him back to the industry where he had been such a familiar face for so many years. He joined Warner Music Malaysia in 2011, and his ‘sabbatical’ of close to eight years away from the business gave him a fresh perspective on the music industry. Choy can now say that he has seen its rise, decline and is now helping to oversee its resurrection. He believes it is his own competitive nature that played a part in him being able to run many different organisations throughout his varied and prolific career. His experiences in other fields also allowed him to adapt to the arrival of digitalisation in the music industry. “Marketing and promotions are now very different,” he said. “Previously, we relied on traditional media such as print, radio and television. Their influence has been reduced because of the emergence of new media and social media.” Choy sees the need for traditional media to continue to evolve, and to keep up with the emergence of new apps and media platforms that deliver exclusive content. Music labels used to fight the emergence of new platforms such as streaming services, but for the past decade, the two have been working hand-in-hand for the good of the industry. Choy said that social media has given rise to even more talents, not just singers or artists but creators. The advent of platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Soundcloud, Facebook and now Tik Tok can translate exposure into “fame and fortune.” Reality TV shows such as American Idol and locally, Akademi Fantasia, had a big part to play in the rise of talents via social media – anyone can be a star. So does that spell the end for record labels? Choy explained: “The record labels will help catapult and accelerate such talents’ careers. Music labels have the experience, the know-how, the expertise and [the] machinery to bring artistes to a different level. “One of Warner Malaysia’s recent signings, Elizabeth Tan, is a perfect example of a talent that [transitioned] from YouTube to become a genuine star with the help of a music label.” Record labels can also help manage their artiste. Choy said: “Professional artiste management is still in its infancy stage here, but there is a need for such an existence, and the great thing is that we do have a massive pool of talents and that will eventually give rise to good managers. “We will get there, but in the meantime, the music labels can be the custodians of this task.” Choy said that these days, music consumption is very affordable and accessible. “We [used to spend] RM35 to RM40 for a CD, but now [by paying] RM14.90 to RM17.90 a month (which is cheaper than the cost of one’s lunch) to a streaming service, you have access to millions of recordings. You can never even finish listening to them in a lifetime. “We don’t need to go out to a store to buy a CD, everything is at our fingertips, on our mobile phones and our desktops, making [discovering new music] so easy.” Choy said that in the past, if an album/single was not released physically in a particular country, that artiste’s music will never be known, but streaming has given everyone an almost level playing field. The music industry has gone through so many changes over the past few decades, and hopefully in the capable hands of stewards like Choy, it will continue to grow and adapt for future generations of music lovers.

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