Friday, 23 March 2007

CEO Message : The IFPI Hong Kong Group 40th Anniversary

Having been fortunate enough to witness the inception of IFPI (Hong Kong Group), organised both its 30th and 40th anniversary celebrations, and be a part of the Hong Kong recording industry myself, I feel honored to write something from my personal experience about the recording industry, highlighting what the association has meant for the industry. There were many talents and un-sung heroes in building Hong Kong’s illustrious local recording industry, where names I missed, please forgive me.
Hong Kong was indeed -- and still is -- blessed with the right elements to become a key music creation centre in the global Chinese community. These elements included free flow of information, freedom of expression, easy market access as well as sound copyright laws. With the influx of Chinese people from many provinces of the Mainland in the ‘50s, Hong Kong truly became a culturally rich territory. The generation that grew up in that era was immersed in all types of Chinese music. With the introduction of Rediffusion TV and pop music programmes from Radio Hong Kong, the youngsters were further exposed to foreign music. At the turn of the decade, the guitar bands and the Beatles phenomena drove the post war generation to emulate that music. In the mid ‘60s, free-to-air TV led by HKTVB and the local movie industry provided a great catalyst to fuel the development of the first local pop scene, where bands started to produce popular recordings, mostly from Diamond Music under Lal Dayaram, a local entrepreneur. The famous bands included Teddy Robin and the Playboys, Joe Jr. and the Side Effects, the Lotus, the Mystics, the Menace, Anders Nelsons and the Continentals, the Checkmates as well as the Top Notes, to name just a few. The first radio star was “Uncle Ray”. The record companies felt it was time to group together as an industry to sustain growth. A letter sent to the London IFPI office by Crown Records, on behalf of the local companies, resulted in the formation of the Hong Kong Group as a federation member in 1967. It was a significant era as many of the mentioned band members remained key figures in the Hong Kong recording industry for many decades to follow.
The cover band scene was not meant to last. After 4 years, it was displaced by popular Chinese music from Taiwan and Singapore. Polydor Records, established through the acquisition of Diamond Music, took notice of this development and decided that local indigenous music and local dialect would one day rise. When Taiwan recordings began to lose market dominance in 1972, Polydor (HK), headed by Norman Cheng and a local company Life Records started to re-develop local recordings. A very significant development happened in 1973, with the concurrent successes of Cantonese TV and movie soundtrack recordings preformed by Sandra of Crown Records and Sam Hui of Polydor respectively, the two-pronged success as well as Sam’s new lyrics style changed the attitude of Hong Kong people towards local Cantonese music. EMI and other local companies joined and fuelled new developments. Super recording artistes like the Wynners, George Lam, Roman Tam, Paula Tsui (to name just a few), gave rise to a new type of music known as “Canto Pop”. Yet the key to 15 years of Hong Kong’s recording industry’s unimpeded growth was the HK Government’s triumph over music piracy in the year 1977. The IFPI Hong Kong Group’s unity in fighting piracy paid off. It was time for real investment from both local and international players. The IFPI Hong Kong Group began to proudly certify Gold discs for its members. It led the industry to produce the first industry annual award in the territory, with the held of HKTVB, the IFPI Hong Kong Gold Disc Awards Presentation in 1977.
IFPI Hong Kong Group saw its second decade in the golden era of Hong Kong’s music history. With piracy behind, investors grasped every opportunity. Hong Kong saw the establishment of the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong (CASH) as well as the Music Publisher Association and the phono-rights association which collectively enhanced copyright value. More multi-national music companies like Warner Music, SONY/Epic, as well as in the ‘80s, RCA/Ariola/Arista (BMG) established local office and invested heavily in the territory. The television industry and the movie industry invested endlessly in serial dramas and films, featuring theme songs by local recording artistes. By the end of the ‘70s, all major broadcasters had begun to organize own annual music awards. Radio Television Hong Kong was the first to introduce the Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs in 1978. Commercial Radio had committed its CR2 to be the pre-eminent music radio. All these propelled Hong Kong’s recordings to overseas markets.
With all this help, music took an all time high in freedom. Different variants enriched Canto Pop, including City Folk ballads (popularized by Michael Kwan, Albert Au, etc), Chinese traditional melodies driven by philosophical lyrics by the likes of James Wong and Lo Kwok Jim, singer-song writers like Danny Chan and later Beyond, etc and Joseph Koo remained local’s top song-writer.
It was as though Hong Kong couldn’t have enough good things happening. In 1979, the Mainland gradually opened up its market. Record companies like Wing Hang and Fung Hang led the market success in China concept releases. One major signing by PolyGram became a very significant singing icon in all Chinese communities: Teresa Teng’s angelic voice was graced upon tens of millions of Chinese people, and of course, brought in record sales for Hong Kong companies. The digital revolution in the form of the compact disc allowed record companies to re-sell their analogue catalogues. One local company made its label NAXOS a worldwide renowned classical music name. The introduction of NTSC standard Karaoke discs by Hong Kong entrepreneurs forever changed the markets so that all TV sets sold in Hong Kong would be multi-system units. TV-driven super stars like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung were introduced. The media’s crowning of the four celestial kings (Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Leon Lai and Andy Lau) and the many divas drove Hong Kong’s music to the top of regional music markets in the ‘80s.
Hong Kong had by then become a matured music market. Quarter-million unit local sales recordings appeared yearly. Metro Radio and satellite broadcaster began to operate here. IFPI Hong Kong Group was asked by its members to start collecting sales statistics. The highest revenue ever recorded in Hong Kong was in the year 1989, when it reached HK$2.5 billion. Over 80% of records sold locally were Hong Kong repertoire. Local music was believed to have generated another HK$2.5 billion revenue for Karaoke entertainment.
The third decade saw the impact of music piracy resurging. CD piracy emerged in Hong Kong in 1991. In 1993, just the local music sector alone declined 30% in sales. Certainly, the Hong Kong Group shouldered the responsibility to deter pirated imports. The imports were controlled by 1995 and Hong Kong recorded sales in revenue of HK$1.7 billion. Local music still accounts for some 70% in units. In 1996, VCD was introduced as new and cheap carrier of contents. Naturally, high volume sales local recordings and movies were targets of pirates. With such demands, Hong Kong experienced an upsurge in manufacturing capacity from 15 plants to over 80 plants in just one year. From 1996 to 1999, the Hong Kong music dived to a new low. Record companies had to slash their budgets for artiste development and turned to re-mastering of golden hits to sustain business. The Copyright Laws were reviewed in 1997. As parallel import restriction was under threat, the Hong Kong Group members looked for actions from the Association.
The actions in averting opening in law made the record producers aware of the importance of local association in copyright protection and legislative matters. The decade just passed was spent paving a future for the industry against a difficult environment. The Hong Kong Group was very involved in making that future. The parallel import right remain protected under law in 1997 through the subsistence of a local contents industries, the recording and film industries.
The recording industry was not alone in the fight against retail piracy. The local movie industry needed to fight back as by then they had a sell-through market affected by pirates. On 17th March 1999, they teamed together, assisted by the broadcasting sector, to rally for the support of the Chief Executive, Hong Kong SAR Mr. CH Tung in taking action to prevent the demise of the Hong Kong contents industries. It was answered with swift government action. It drove the pirate outlets down from over 800 to less than 100. The industry celebrated a brief recovery in the year 2000, with recorded revenue of HK$1 billion for music. The anti-piracy success gave rise to a legitimate business of VCD/DVD retail and products were sold at unprecedented low prices.
From the year 2000, the technological advancement in internet communication up-rooted the way music is consumed. With the popularity of the internet and mobile phones, the contents have become highly used, but unfortunately very few people pay for it. The users have taken the view that everything on the net is free and that they can upload, share and download at will, at the same time hiding behind the maze of internet connections. It is a hard attitude to change.
The Hong Kong Group has been active in working with the members to avert online music piracy and is focussing its attention on education, legislation, enforcement, public awareness and promoting legal download. It is an uphill battle, but the members are as united as ever to work for the day that people will choose to pay for legal music online. In the meantime, paving the way is key. The Top Sales Music Awards and the Hong Kong Music Fair are only some of the stones on this path. The belief in music has to be in the hearts of everyone involved. No matter in what form, music must live on.
I hope I can be in the position to thank on behalf of the IFPI Hong Kong Group all the people who have contributed their expertise, time and efforts during the last 40 years to the Group, in particular the past and current Chairmen and committee members, ifpi for the legal and policy guidance, government support, business partners and of course the artistes, the media, the creative people and music buyers that have given life to music.
Ricky Fung Tim Chee
CEO of IFPI Hong Kong Group

CEO Message 

The IFPI Hong Kong Group 40th Anniversary

Having been fortunate enough to witness the inception of IFPI (Hong Kong Group), organised both its 30th and 40th anniversary celebrations, and be a part of the Hong Kong recording industry myself, I feel honored to write something from my personal experience about the recording industry, highlighting what the association has meant for the industry. There were many talents and un-sung heroes in building Hong Kong’s illustrious local recording industry, where names I missed, please forgive me. 

Hong Kong was indeed -- and still is -- blessed with the right elements to become a key music creation centre in the global Chinese community. These elements included free flow of information, freedom of expression, easy market access as well as sound copyright laws. With the influx of Chinese people from many provinces of the Mainland in the ‘50s, Hong Kong truly became a culturally rich territory. The generation that grew up in that era was immersed in all types of Chinese music. With the introduction of Rediffusion TV and pop music programmes from Radio Hong Kong, the youngsters were further exposed to foreign music. At the turn of the decade, the guitar bands and the Beatles phenomena drove the post war generation to emulate that music. In the mid ‘60s, free-to-air TV led by HKTVB and the local movie industry provided a great catalyst to fuel the development of the first local pop scene, where bands started to produce popular recordings, mostly from Diamond Music under Lal Dayaram, a local entrepreneur. The famous bands included Teddy Robin and the Playboys, Joe Jr. and the Side Effects, the Lotus, the Mystics, the Menace, Anders Nelsons and the Continentals, the Checkmates as well as the Top Notes, to name just a few. The first radio star was “Uncle Ray”. The record companies felt it was time to group together as an industry to sustain growth. A letter sent to the London IFPI office by Crown Records, on behalf of the local companies, resulted in the formation of the Hong Kong Group as a federation member in 1967. It was a significant era as many of the mentioned band members remained key figures in the Hong Kong recording industry for many decades to follow. 

The cover band scene was not meant to last. After 4 years, it was displaced by popular Chinese music from Taiwan and Singapore. Polydor Records, established through the acquisition of Diamond Music, took notice of this development and decided that local indigenous music and local dialect would one day rise. When Taiwan recordings began to lose market dominance in 1972, Polydor (HK), headed by Norman Cheng and a local company Life Records started to re-develop local recordings. A very significant development happened in 1973, with the concurrent successes of Cantonese TV and movie soundtrack recordings preformed by Sandra of Crown Records and Sam Hui of Polydor respectively, the two-pronged success as well as Sam’s new lyrics style changed the attitude of Hong Kong people towards local Cantonese music. EMI and other local companies joined and fuelled new developments. Super recording artistes like the Wynners, George Lam, Roman Tam, Paula Tsui (to name just a few), gave rise to a new type of music known as “Canto Pop”. Yet the key to 15 years of Hong Kong’s recording industry’s unimpeded growth was the HK Government’s triumph over music piracy in the year 1977. The IFPI Hong Kong Group’s unity in fighting piracy paid off. It was time for real investment from both local and international players. The IFPI Hong Kong Group began to proudly certify Gold discs for its members. It led the industry to produce the first industry annual award in the territory, with the held of HKTVB, the IFPI Hong Kong Gold Disc Awards Presentation in 1977. 

IFPI Hong Kong Group saw its second decade in the golden era of Hong Kong’s music history. With piracy behind, investors grasped every opportunity. Hong Kong saw the establishment of the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong (CASH) as well as the Music Publisher Association and the phono-rights association which collectively enhanced copyright value. More multi-national music companies like Warner Music, SONY/Epic, as well as in the ‘80s, RCA/Ariola/Arista (BMG) established local office and invested heavily in the territory. The television industry and the movie industry invested endlessly in serial dramas and films, featuring theme songs by local recording artistes. By the end of the ‘70s, all major broadcasters had begun to organize own annual music awards. Radio Television Hong Kong was the first to introduce the Top Ten Chinese Gold Songs in 1978. Commercial Radio had committed its CR2 to be the pre-eminent music radio. All these propelled Hong Kong’s recordings to overseas markets. 

With all this help, music took an all time high in freedom. Different variants enriched Canto Pop, including City Folk ballads (popularized by Michael Kwan, Albert Au, etc), Chinese traditional melodies driven by philosophical lyrics by the likes of James Wong and Lo Kwok Jim, singer-song writers like Danny Chan and later Beyond, etc and Joseph Koo remained local’s top song-writer. 

It was as though Hong Kong couldn’t have enough good things happening. In 1979, the Mainland gradually opened up its market. Record companies like Wing Hang and Fung Hang led the market success in China concept releases. One major signing by PolyGram became a very significant singing icon in all Chinese communities: Teresa Teng’s angelic voice was graced upon tens of millions of Chinese people, and of course, brought in record sales for Hong Kong companies. The digital revolution in the form of the compact disc allowed record companies to re-sell their analogue catalogues. One local company made its label NAXOS a worldwide renowned classical music name. The introduction of NTSC standard Karaoke discs by Hong Kong entrepreneurs forever changed the markets so that all TV sets sold in Hong Kong would be multi-system units. TV-driven super stars like Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung were introduced. The media’s crowning of the four celestial kings (Jacky Cheung, Aaron Kwok, Leon Lai and Andy Lau) and the many divas drove Hong Kong’s music to the top of regional music markets in the ‘80s. 

Hong Kong had by then become a matured music market. Quarter-million unit local sales recordings appeared yearly. Metro Radio and satellite broadcaster began to operate here. IFPI Hong Kong Group was asked by its members to start collecting sales statistics. The highest revenue ever recorded in Hong Kong was in the year 1989, when it reached HK$2.5 billion. Over 80% of records sold locally were Hong Kong repertoire. Local music was believed to have generated another HK$2.5 billion revenue for Karaoke entertainment. 

The third decade saw the impact of music piracy resurging. CD piracy emerged in Hong Kong in 1991. In 1993, just the local music sector alone declined 30% in sales. Certainly, the Hong Kong Group shouldered the responsibility to deter pirated imports. The imports were controlled by 1995 and Hong Kong recorded sales in revenue of HK$1.7 billion. Local music still accounts for some 70% in units. In 1996, VCD was introduced as new and cheap carrier of contents. Naturally, high volume sales local recordings and movies were targets of pirates. With such demands, Hong Kong experienced an upsurge in manufacturing capacity from 15 plants to over 80 plants in just one year. From 1996 to 1999, the Hong Kong music dived to a new low. Record companies had to slash their budgets for artiste development and turned to re-mastering of golden hits to sustain business. The Copyright Laws were reviewed in 1997. As parallel import restriction was under threat, the Hong Kong Group members looked for actions from the Association. 

The actions in averting opening in law made the record producers aware of the importance of local association in copyright protection and legislative matters. The decade just passed was spent paving a future for the industry against a difficult environment. The Hong Kong Group was very involved in making that future. The parallel import right remain protected under law in 1997 through the subsistence of a local contents industries, the recording and film industries. 

The recording industry was not alone in the fight against retail piracy. The local movie industry needed to fight back as by then they had a sell-through market affected by pirates. On 17th March 1999, they teamed together, assisted by the broadcasting sector, to rally for the support of the Chief Executive, Hong Kong SAR Mr. CH Tung in taking action to prevent the demise of the Hong Kong contents industries. It was answered with swift government action. It drove the pirate outlets down from over 800 to less than 100. The industry celebrated a brief recovery in the year 2000, with recorded revenue of HK$1 billion for music. The anti-piracy success gave rise to a legitimate business of VCD/DVD retail and products were sold at unprecedented low prices. 

From the year 2000, the technological advancement in internet communication up-rooted the way music is consumed. With the popularity of the internet and mobile phones, the contents have become highly used, but unfortunately very few people pay for it. The users have taken the view that everything on the net is free and that they can upload, share and download at will, at the same time hiding behind the maze of internet connections. It is a hard attitude to change. 

The Hong Kong Group has been active in working with the members to avert online music piracy and is focussing its attention on education, legislation, enforcement, public awareness and promoting legal download. It is an uphill battle, but the members are as united as ever to work for the day that people will choose to pay for legal music online. In the meantime, paving the way is key. The Top Sales Music Awards and the Hong Kong Music Fair are only some of the stones on this path. The belief in music has to be in the hearts of everyone involved. No matter in what form, music must live on. 

I hope I can be in the position to thank on behalf of the IFPI Hong Kong Group all the people who have contributed their expertise, time and efforts during the last 40 years to the Group, in particular the past and current Chairmen and committee members, ifpi for the legal and policy guidance, government support, business partners and of course the artistes, the media, the creative people and music buyers that have given life to music. 

Ricky Fung Tim Chee
CEO of IFPI Hong Kong Group