What it takes to bring a foreign act to the Philippines
MANILA, Philippines – Are you a One Direction (1D) fan who clamored among the throngs for a Philippine concert?
The long wait is over. You will see the English-Irish pop boy band on March 21 to 22, and you have Celinda De Guia to thank for it.
Celinda, together with her husband Rene, is the driving force behind Ovation Productions.
Entrepreneurship advocacy group Go Negosyo recently awarded Celinda for “bringing world-class entertainment within the reach of many Filipinos over the years” during the 7th Filipina Entrepreneurship Summit held March 6.
Speaking from the sidelines of the summit, Celinda shared the story of Ovation’s early days and how the Internet has transformed the global music industry and concert scene.
“My husband and I were always into music so we started the company in 1978, when we were in our early 20s; fresh out of college,” she said.
The idea grew while her husband was working as an Artist and Repertoire (A&R) manager, responsible for listening to new music from the US and determining which to release to the domestic market.
It used to take a while before international musical trends would make it to the Philippines.
Celinda explained that back then not all hits in the US would work in the Philippines. “Different market, different tastes,” she said.
Ovation started with several shows featuring local artists. They brought in their first international act – former child star Leif Garret in 1979, who was a certified hit among Filipino fans.
Local fans, like those clamoring for 1D to come, are now very quick to pick up trends, and yes, clamor for their favorite foreign acts to perform in the country.
"A few decades ago, a song would be a hit abroad and we’d have older hits. Now it’s simultaneous," Celinda explained.
Unlike in the past, listeners these days are also more inclined to listen to whole albums.
This is because of the Internet whichhas made music accessible instantaneously to audiences worldwide. It has also become the dominant medium for accessing music.
Back then, for any given album there would only be 3 hits and those would be the only ones that people would know, Celinda recalled.
“Right now you’d be shocked, the kids know all the songs of each artist,” she shared.
Now you see relatively unknown artists, as far as mainstream airplay is concerned, to be really popular with kids because they discover the artists on their own, Rene chimed in.
“It’s because of YouTube,” Celinda emphasized.
Since then, picking the “right” artists to bring in has become more challenging.
The Internet has also changed the global music industry by forcing artists to tour more, caused in part by illegal downloads eroding artists’ profits from record sales.
“They make their money on gigs now. Many were lazy, but now they feel like they have to go and work. They have to tour,” Celinda said.
They come all the way abroad to promote their music and this is one of the major reasons why more and more popular foreign acts are coming to the Philippines, she added.
The importance touring plays in artists’ profits has also changed the way the touring market operates.
“There’s no given fee anymore; it’s now what the market will take,” Celinda said.
It is one of the reasons why ticket prices for foreign acts are so expensive in the Philippines relative to their home countries. That is in addition to the extra money artists spend to come over. For instance, a VIP ticket for One Direction was sold for P17,950 ($404.60).
“When you tour in the US or Europe, you’re on a bus. But here, you have to bring all your gear and artists lose dates due to travel time so that’s more expense as well. The crew gets paid whether the artists are performing or not,” she explained.
This caused complications for production companies because demand has become so dependent on individual tastes and is no longer measured accurately by what is playing on the radio.
There is now no dependable gauge for what the listening public demands to see.
Rene said this has turned deciding which artists to bring into the country into a “game of chance."
“It’s tricky, sometimes pockets of fans are so persistent in asking for an artist. Then when you do bring them over, the same 5 people who have been hounding you to bring the artist over are the only ones who watch,” he said.
The ones who make the loudest noise are not necessarily representative of the larger market, he added.
It’s still fun
The De Guias have been plugged into the country’s music scene for a long time and they say this experience has led them to develop a feel for what will resonate with a Philippine audience.
They have also come to rely on their kids in discerning what would connect with the younger crowd.
This has led to them to bring in acts from across multiple genres. “We do lots of really hot trending acts and really old acts: Crosby, Stills and Nash, and One Direction for example,” Rene said.
Crosby, Stills and Nash and One Direction concerts next week set a busy summer for Ovation Productions.
The Crosby, Stills and Nash show on March 16 will be a particular highlight for Celinda as she had been trying to get them to come for years ever since seeing them live in the US in the 80s.
The show is for the “old rockers and hippies at heart,” she said.
They are also set to bring in the Backstreet Boys on May 5, Sam Smith on May 10, James Ingram on May 18, and Pat Boone on May 30.
“I’m after all a music fan so while this business is definitely high-risk, it’s always fun,” Celinda said. – Rappler.com
US$1 = P44.37