100 Plus Music: A Homegrown Music Success

07 2015 | Issue 7
Text/Jason Leong, Fong Son Wa and Leong Chan Iok

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Gaby Ho, also known as “Drumstick” within the sector, is a key member of 100 Plus Music Ltd. He is a band musician who started his career in the 1990s and hence has experienced first-hand the golden era of Cantopop songs. Early on in his music career, he tried out his hand in songwriting.


“In 2002, I composed ten songs in just two months’ time. In the end, I could only sell one of the songs, at MOP3,000.” The venture made him realise the importance to make a living. If he were lucky, he might earn another MOP3,000 in two months’ time, but still, such modest income would not suffice.”


“With the outbreak of SARS soon after, the government undertook to revive the economy by increased arts funding. In that period I was given the opportunity to work in music concerts coordination, helping organise concerts.” He admitted that his career was a matter of luck and the right opportunities. “A good music concert cannot do without good lighting and sound, and with this in mind, I decided to develop myself in this arena.” From 2004 onwards, he and his partner set up 100 Plus Music and Venus Audio and Lighting Engineering Company Limited respectively.


Over the last 11 years, 100 Plus Music has established itself in dubbing, recording and song production, while it also engages in music concerts production. “Every year, we participated in the Cultural Centre’s annual ‘HUSH!! Full Band Marathon Music Festival’. Moreover, we were also commissioned to undertake dubbing or studio recording by organisations such as Macao Science Center and other entertainment venues. Nevertheless, while music production remains the core business of 100 Plus Music, the biggest source of income came from equipment hire for lighting and sound effects.


“It is hardly feasible to earn a living in Macao from song arrangement or songwriting. While most people in Macao enjoy music made by local artists, they tend to support only those that they are familiar with.” It is not hard to imagine the challenges in Macao’s pop music scene. In other words, the popularity of musicians depends not so much on the innovation or theme of their music, nor on the performance style of artists, but the connections and level of familiarity with the audience. After all, the people in Macao are not yet ready for homegrown music. On the other hand, 100 Plus Music persevered with their strategy of songwriting as well as music concert production, which proved a recipe for success. “To speak the truth, song-making is just one part of our work, and we are still unable to make much money out of it.


Nonetheless, 100 Plus Music took on two bands: Blademark and Catalyser. He believed that hard work is the key to success. “This year, we have hired a professional team to do publicity for the two bands. The young adult band, Catalyser, has gained considerable experience by touring in Macao, while the more mature band, Blademark, has taken part in Taiwan, Tunghai and Beishan music festivals, spreading their works outside Macao.”


Macao’s pop music has always followed music trends overseas, but now that Chinese music across the whole region has reached a bottleneck, its future development has become a matter of concern for both musicians and the audience. Ho admitted that he too could not anticipate the outcome. “In my opinion, Macao’s music can be divided into four phases, with a focus on imitating Hong Kong-style music before 1995; followed by the homegrown pop music scene from 1995 to 2005; developing and improving our own creative output or product from 2005 to 2015; and now we have entered the phase of ‘strangeness’.”


So what does “strangeness” entail? “We are transforming music composition, for example, by creating songs that are as short as a minute. At the same time, we hope that the lyrics are meaningful and can correspond to some aspects of reality, so that the audience will find it easier to connect with it. In this way, the songs are a response towards what happened in the society,” Ho said.


“In my opinion, it is almost impossible to promote Macao’s music to overseas markets by relying on avenues in the past. Even for a talented artist, the ability to secure many concert performances requires an unlimited promotional budget. In other words, in pop music, a breakthrough cannot be achieved without reforms.”