Image credit: All Is Amazing

This is Part 3 and the final article in a series that looked into the factors influencing how Malaysian music gets selected for radio and the challenges musicians face in the process. You can read  more on that in Part 1 and Part 2 for further context.

Getting more Malaysian music on radio, specifically English songs, is a feat that requires collaboration between multiple stakeholders. Some of the key people involved are local musicians, radio executives, the communications and multimedia ministry and local music fans; that’s you and me!

How can we make this happen?

There are no ultimate answers but based on the information gleaned from our research and interviews, we consolidated 10 key idea points that could be useful and hopefully turn things up and up for the national music industry.

What can musicians do to improve their odds at radio play? 

Idea #1: Craft your brand story 

Humans connect by trading stories and experiences and musicians already know this well from the way fans respond to their performances on stage. Every performer however, is more than just the persona they are onstage. Sharing slices of their personal identity and other forms of expression could be the simplest form of marketing musicians can undertake, especially in the age of social media. This could serve as a building block towards a more sophisticated marketing plan as you save up to hire a professional marketing expert to handle the portfolio as you grow.

What’s the rationale you ask? Well, marketing is the necessary catalyst to turn passion into a business.

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Onn San and the amazing artistes behind Epomania II Time & Space. Image credit Rhysher Park

Idea #2: Adopt a B2B mindset 

B2B stands for business to business. Musicians need to start viewing themselves as a viable business entity to properly engage with their prospective business partner: radio and digital streaming platforms. This might seem like an unattractive proposition for creative souls but the reality is that the music industry worlwide is propped up by economic factors such as supply and demand.

According to the Economic Impact of the Malaysian Music Industry report commissioned by the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM), Malaysia’s music industry contributed an estimated RM12 billion a year between 2011 and 2015.

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Image source: snapshot from Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) report 

Idea #3: Cultivate your social media presence 

Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is any of our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter activity. Since local radio DJs are scouting for potential talents online, having an official and active social page is an opprtunity to be discovered. Social media is also a relatively “free of charge” platform that enables musicians to engage directly with lovers of their music.

Communicating with fans over social media is also a valuable DIY promotion method to publicise gigs, share new songs and get direct feedback about your brand and craftsmanship. These can serve to help you fine tune your brand message, understand your niche market and commercial factor.

Idea #4: Create a repertoire of songs

A limited song arsenal reduces the likelihood of getting selected for radio based on simple mathematics. Providing more choices for radio executives to decide which they like may increase the probability of your song getting selected.

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Image source: Aina Abdul

Idea #5: Invest in professional mastering for product quality. 

Having a professional sound engineer to synthesize songs is a crucial investment that determines whether a song receives radio play or not. This was one of the key takeaways from Hitz Met10 DJ, Basil Joseph, who has more than 10 years experience as among key people helping to decide which Malaysian song qualifies for broadcast.

Idea #6: Register the copyright to your songs

Lawyer and writer, Tina Isaacs shared that although copyright to a song is created automatically upon it being recorded, that does not mean you do not have to do anything to protect your copyright.

Traxx DJ, Julio Michael “Jubz” Singho suggests that you can do this by simply registering online through MACP. (Music Authors’ Copyright Protection Berhad). The bassist for rock and roll band Blister  shared that this can help to safeguard intellectual property rights so as to prevent sticky situations such as riffs or melodies being stolen by other bands.

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Image credit Nadir

Perspectives for radio, Gobind Singh Deo and Malaysian music lovers

Idea #7: Local musicians are a business opportunity  

Featuring local musicians on radio is not a an act of charity, it’s a business opportunity that could tap into fan bases for listenership. Many Malaysian talents already possess a strong followership on social media and digital streaming platforms or have immense potential to appeal to a mass audience. Malaysian radio stations could take a leaf out of Spotify’s playbook in the Philippines, where the digital streaming app teamed up with telco, Globe to break the next big Asian artist into the mainstream.

Idea #8: Public and Private Partnership necessary to level the playing field. 

Have you heard? The Malaysian government is going to tax foreign digital services such as Netflix and Spotify “to provide a level playing field among local and foreign companies, as well as between online and offline service providers”.

If this type of uneven playing field is obvious in the digital service industry, why is it not given as much recognition in the music industry?

Afterall, the reason the tax came into place is due to the wide demand of Malaysians for the foreign, which is not unlike Malaysia’s preference in music.  This propensity for international content was also identified as among the challenges and issues plaguing the local music industry in the aforemention RIM commissioned report in 2016.


Idea #9: Invest local to spur growth

You might have noticed that the best of Malaysia’s talents usually find fame and fortune only after they exit the country. These include Yuna, Zee Awi and Namawee to name a few. These stars become the mainstream preference in Malaysia after they are embraced by markets in other countries. Perhaps it is in some part due to the larger population size of foreign markets like America and China, that contributes to the commercial viability of Malaysia’s niche market talents.

But doesn’t this only indicate that Malaysian talents have the potency to command a slice of the international market? Why do we wait for foreign players to capitalise on the potential of our talents before we start betting on them ourselves?

This vicious cycle needs to stop. If our talents can become mainstream staple after they are picked up by foreign labels, then it’s obvious that Malaysians could actually conjure its own profitable local music industry.

Personally, I think it could be the difference in talent drain or a music industry that contributes more significantly to our GDP.

Idea #10: Use social media to curate your radio playlist 

Most radio stations have a general number for public to call through, Whatsapp and even tweet to send in requests of your favourite songs. Our feedback helps them to be informed on the type of songs that we like and want to hear. So if local music is what we love, we need to start putting in our requests for those more frequently and consistently. Don’t stop at trying just because of the general (and misinformed) perception that radios not gonna play your jam.

So anyway, here’s hoping to a bigger budget for the arts in 2020.

Here are the first two parts in case you’ve not read them yet:

From money to connections, here’s why good Malaysian music is not on air

Are Malaysian bands really not good enough to be on the radio?

Care to spar with us on this topic? Share your comments below or send an email to 

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