An online network has allowed two artistes to not only survive but to thrive in the highly competitive music industry.
MANY companies today are looking to use New Media to promote their offerings. Independent music label, Prodigee Media, has already done it – and to good effect, too.
A small outfit, Prodigee, currently has only two artistes under its umbrella but both are big-time online sensations in their own right.
Karen Kong might not yet be a household name amongst the English-speaking market but she has close to 170,000 online friends who are members of her Friendster network.
Mention her stable-mate, Namewee, and you might get some empty stares but say, “Negarakuku” and everybody knows who you’re talking about.
Prodigee founder Fred Chong says that effective use of New Media is what has allowed his two artistes to not only survive but to thrive in the highly competitive music industry.
“It’s an efficient way to reach out to the fans,” he says. “But more than that, it reaches out to the right target audience – the young, Internet-savvy, college crowd who would appreciate their music.”
Chong discovered Kong through a university talent contest where she won first place.
She later went on to represent her university at the national level and won that too.
“We invited her for an audition and she floored us with her rendition of Siti Nurhaliza’s Bukan Cinta Biasa,” he recalls.
“I’ve never heard any Malaysian Chinese artiste who can sing with such power.”
But it wasn’t just her vocal prowess or her wholesome good looks that convinced him that she had great potential. It was also her attitude.
“Nowadays it’s pretty hard to find young individuals with the determination and patience to go the extra mile and put in the effort needed to excel,” Chong says.
“I saw in her a rare individual who not only has the talent but also the personality to make it in this industry.”
At Chong’s urging, she took singing lessons, dance instruction and personal relations coaching while still in college. Her first album took two years to record because she had to squeeze in studio time while doing her studies in accounting.
Her first album, Mulakan (which was entirely in Malay) was released in February 2007, the same month she graduated from university.
Although she was a newbie to the music scene, she had something going for her. She had a Friendster account – and an extremely popular one at that.
Like many college students, she opened a Friendster account just to keep in touch with her social network of online friends and also to meet new friends.
As she started recording songs in the studio, she posted up publicity pictures and demo recordings, which became very popular.
So much so that it caught the attention of the Friendster head office in San Francisco, which placed her as a “featured profile”.
Her page views skyrocketed, thousands of members joined her network and the rest, as they say, is history.
She currently has more Friendster fans than anyone else in the entire network.
Mid-last year, Friendster decided to host a special online concert for her, dubbed the “Unbreakable Spirit” concert.
That concert, which was sponsored by Sunsilk, won the Gold award at the Malaysia Media Awards last month for Best Digital Advertising Campaign (Maybank and BMW came in second and third respectively).
Where Kong is sweet and wholesome, Namewee is in your face and rebellious. The only thing they have in common is that they both used New Media to promote themselves.
And that’s good enough for Chong, although it must be said that he signed Namewee before he became famous for his rap rendition of the national anthem.
“Namewee is a very talented musician whom I got to know in early 2007 through my staff who is his ex-school mate,” says Chong.
“We were already working on some musical projects with him when his YouTube video suddenly launched him into the national spotlight.”
Recently graduated from a university in Taiwan, Namewee is about to embark on a New Media journey back to Malaysia where he would videotape interviews with Malaysians living in the various countries he will be passing through.
He will be travelling through Macau, southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand before arriving in Malaysia on Aug 31, the National Day. Naturally, the documentary will be made available through YouTube.
Meanwhile, Kong will be launching her new album in Taiwan very soon, marking her first foray into the regional music scene. It won’t be easy making it big overseas but Chong will fall back on his secret weapon that has worked so well for his artistes so far.
“We will continue to utilise New Media to reach out to more people regionally,” he says. “It’s the best way to do it.”
Oon Yeoh recently created an online slideshow of pictures from Kong's live performance. You can check it out at www.oonyeoh.com.