This year, Ear Up Music stepped up their core programme – “Ear Up Incubation” – into “Ear Up Plus 2022: Indie Label Sponsorship Program” (“Ear Up+”). Sponsored by Create Hong Kong of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, “Ear Up+” provided 18 music units with professional support including dedicated small group mentorship sessions about label management, music production, brand building and marketing strategy to assist their sustainable development in the music industry.
Among the 18 “Ear Up+” finalists, 8 shortlisted indie music units were entitled to a “label sponsorship” of HK$450,000 max. for music production and promotion. They were able to bring their music to the market with passion and strategic tactics in partnership with a commercial music company. The finalists displayed their talents at the Ear Up Music Festival in January. The remaining 10 finalists were entitled to a “production sponsorship” of HK$60,000 max for producing one song.
Startup Music to stand out from the mainstream
The 8 shortlisted performers (in no particular order) included Charming Way, Lester Lam, The Hertz, FIESTER, XTIE, Yack Studio, Prune Deer, and Virgin Vacation. Many of them were alumni of Ear Up Music programmes in the past.
With their label sponsorship funds, they created two songs and two music videos, as well as executed their own promotional plans. The overall outcome was in line with Ear Up Music’s mission to create a more diverse music ecology and encourage rising young musicians to experiment with creative promotional ideas, while injecting a new impetus into the local music scene and creating a multi-media dialogue.
With high circulation and streaming rates from certain indie musicians, it has been proven that the music industry in Hong Kong is no longer just a mainstream culture. Indie music has evolved over the years into a multicultural creative industry through the endless efforts of musicians.
A bright future for indie music
In recent years, local indie music has been thriving with indie musicians successfully attracting a wide range of fans with their unique music styles and genres and gradually forming an unprecedented music scene with its own unique vibe. This in turn influenced mainstream music labels to reposition themselves.
Without the support of major record labels, indie musicians lack the essential capital and connections which limits their development, connections within the industry, and exposure. From songwriting, post-production and music video ideas, to filming, hunting for performing opportunities, and marketing, their projects are either self-financed or rely on their own limited connections.
However, there are still many indie musicians who, through their own endless creativity and enthusiasm, overcame all these obstacles to produce great music with its own character. Ear Up Music is proud to support indie musicians in all aspects through “Ear Up+”. This project is not only about music, but also about the entire operation of a brand so fans will know more and fall in love with local indie music culture through more professional production and promotion.
All Ear Up+ performers rock the stage and extend the creative music industry
- The MV for indie rock band Charming Way’s new song “Imagine Imagine” is a montage of different scenes and surreal video spaces to express the richness of the scene and an imaginative dream world. The immersive new song release event was a cross-media event, using screen projections, lighting design, virtual reality, and mixed reality. At the same time, the band actively engaged in musical exchanges with Cantopop and R&B singers, sharing the delicate relationship between music and life through IG live broadcasts and inviting the KOLs popular with young people to film IG reels.
- The all-female heavy metal and electro rock band FIESTER collaborated with local video production team The Sumerian Studio to produce music videos for their new songs “It’s Time” and “Torrent Butterfly”. In addition, they launched a publicity campaign to attract more attention, such as advertising on public transport, collaborating with the social welfare sector for community activities, holding record release parties, selling related merchandises, holding Giveaway events, and collaborating with online media targeting teenagers.
- The Hertz is an indie-pop band with a diverse mix of funk and rock. Its self-financed independent label 852 HZ handled all aspects of production and marketing, organizing offline activities such as calligraphy or illustration exhibitions and collecting stories on social media platforms to interact with audiences. The band also collected pre-written time capsules from the participants during the song release event, which they will send them out on their behalf a year later.
- Singer-songwriter Lester Lam presented a multi-sensory immersive experience in his concept concert titled “Rainy days in the Blue Whale”, blurring the boundaries between reality and surreality, including hearing (music, sound design, etc.), sight (set design, lighting, dance, animation) and sensory (rain, snow, fog, wind, etc.), presenting a re-imagined version of The Blue Whale Jazz Club in Los Angeles.
- The instrumental rock band, Prune Deer, focused on artistic activities as local promotion, extending the MV story about the worldview “past, present and future” to reality, and collaborated with local art photographers to cross artistic boundaries. The band adopted the Arena Stage style in their release event to enhance the sensual excitement of instrumental rock to the audience at close range. The band also worked with overseas music curators to promote their music in Taiwan and Japan and collaborated with renowned Japanese sound mixers to further expand the reach of Prune Deer’s music to new markets.
- The experimental instrumental rock band – Virgin Vacation – teamed up with musicians, artists, and designers to produce new songs and MVs showcasing their unique musical style. These creative talents included Li Chi Tak, Lai Tat Tat Wing, Overloaddance, Romers Quartet, MV Director wootwoot and Aberto Gerosa@Thy Lab. The new songs were released at The Room in Freespace, with the participation of Fountain de Chopin. The show offered a unique experience for the audience to immerse in the music of Virgin Vacation through their performance, visuals, and lighting effects.
- XTIE is a new generation singer-songwriter who promotes body positivity through art and music. The music video of her song “Skin” was a combination of music, modern dance, and improvised performance. XTIE partnered with lifestyle brand Slowood to broaden her audience base. A charity sale was hosted for her new song to sell natural handmade soaps by Soapmum. Donations were made to non-profit organisations dedicated to researching allergies, skin problems, or promoting body self-love. In addition, XTIE also hosted an immersive song release event to share thoughts and feelings online and offline with fans through her music.
- Yack Studio is a Hong Kong-based hip-hop collective label that combines literature, rap, performance and fashion design. The lyrics of their music incorporates poetry to hip hop music with a mixture of local culture. In addition to the two founding rap artists Novel Fergus and SoWhat, Novel Flash from SMOB also joined Yack Studio last year, and his two songs “I’m Not Surprised” and “Underdog” featured his rap buddy Novel Friday and indie singer-songwriter Anna hisbbuR. The former’s MV was set in an art gallery reflecting on the value of art, while the latter is a visually stunning animated music video.
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About Ear Up Music
Ear Up Music is a music label that spotlights new music of Hong Kong to its neighbouring regions and beyond. The label, established by Renaissance Foundation Hong Kong in 2016, runs numerous projects from talent development to showcase events that connect with global music networks. These projects include Ear Up Incubation*, Ear Up Global*, Ear Up Tour* and Ear Up Gig On*.
In 2018, Ear Up Music founded Ear Hub to curate the latest developments in the Hong Kong, Asian and International music, media, production and interactive industry. Ear Hub is an international music conference and festival that offers an audiovisual feast as well as a cordial environment to initiate cross-border collaborations for music lovers and professionals.
*Sponsored by Create Hong Kong of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
About Create Hong Kong
Create Hong Kong (CreateHK) is a dedicated office set up by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR Government) in June 2009 to spearhead the development of creative industries in Hong Kong. From 1 July 2022 onwards, it is under the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau. Its strategic foci are nurturing talent and facilitating start-ups, exploring markets, and promoting Hong Kong as Asia’s creative capital and fostering a creative atmosphere in the community.
Disclaimer: The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region provides funding support to the project only, and does not otherwise take part in the project. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials/events (or by members of the project team) are those of the project organizers only and do not reflect the views of the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the Culture, Sports and Tourism Bureau, Create Hong Kong, the CreateSmart Initiative Secretariat or the CreateSmart Initiative Vetting Committee.