DIGC330 · KarEly

Internet Music Culture and OPM

When I started recording internet duets, it was because I wanted to do something fun with a friend who I happened to have known online.  The internet has created a platform where I am no longer limited to interactions only with those near my geographical location.  Instead, my experience as an Australian online looks into many cultures all at once, simply by visiting a website where someone from anywhere else in the world is present.  If we as people are interacting through this medium, does it mean we are experiencing that different culture, while they are experiencing ours, or does it merge to create a globalised internet culture which is a mix of cultures from all over the world?  When I interact with Kariann, where does my Australian cultural influence stop and her Filipino cultural influence start?  So far, we have covered 2 songs, the first written by Jonathan Larson, an American playwright and composer from New York, and the second by the band My Chemical Romance, from New Jersey in America.  Neither of these artists come from our areas, yet that have reached us and had an impact on us nonetheless.  Although I’m sure that the universal themes covered by these pieces (jealousy/defensiveness in relationships, and death respectively), the internet has had a huge impact on what we have access to within our own culture.

Does this globalised approach to music therefore mean that OPM (original Pinoy/Philippines music) is dead?  Upon asking Kari, she said definitely not, then suggested a few bands for me to listen to (which I will discuss in my next post).  Doing some research however, there seems to be quite a debate going on about whether OPM is dead or not.  At first glance, it looks to have a similar structure to the argument of whether rock is dead, or punk is dead.  In the end it comes down to perception and how willing one is to allow for change in this genre.  This is not just something which is associated with OPM, from my experience, the stylistic qualities from band Blink-182 have evolved from being punk rock, into pop punk, alternative rock, and skate punk over the years, not because their particular sound has changed, but because fans have attempted to categorise music into their own micro niche so as to find more artists which fit into that micro niche.  Furthermore, you often find that artists will evolve with the times, adjusting their musical style to reflect not only their growth as a band, but the current musical market, enabling them to obtain a larger audience.  For most bands, if you listen to a song off their first album as compared to their latest, there is a vast difference in musical style.  Music evolves, and if we want to keep up with the times, we must evolve with it.

Moving away from my musical evolution tangent, which is a very interesting thing in itself, OPM is a genre which is not dead because it too has evolved.  The people arguing it’s death are those who are not willing to accommodate the change.  Interestingly enough, Pinoy star Don Jaucian is one of those arguing for it’s death.  In his article, The Life and Death of OPM he states: “Here then is the grave of Original Pilipino Music: a repository of yesteryear’s hits sung to death by variety show singers. Young emerging artists have to struggle to get their original material released.” (Jaucian 2012).  He then justified this with an observation from pop duo Krissy and Ericka who mentioned their label, MCA believe that original music is not worth the effort it would take to get the radio to pick it up when revivals are the trend in modern OPM. (Jaucian 2012).  The problem with this is that it seems to have failed to account for a whole new area: the internet as a distributor for indie bands/artists in the OPM music scene.  Online music consumption seems to be overtaking more traditional forms of consumption such as CDs (with the exception of Japan I believe, but that’s a whole other interesting research project in itself) and the radio.  Record deals, while they are quite useful, aren’t as necessary as they used to be, and if one decides that OPM is dead because it doesn’t distribute the way they are used to or sound exactly like Freddie Aguilar or Eraserheads – think AC/DC to Australian rock: prominent figurehead and everyone loves the sound/aspires to their style, but the rock sound has changed with time, and although you still get allusions to their style in modern pieces, it’s not ‘the same’ (Kariann, 2015, pers. comm., 23 September).  As consumerist and blogger, Rain Contreras points out, “OPM is alive, and it has many, many forms.” (2012).

Carlo Cassas who has been apart of the OPM music scene since 2002, hates that people are dumb enough to think that it could be dying.  A lot of the critics argue that the loss of local station NU107 in 2010 is the result of a decline in the genre, but Contreras argued that the station consisted of poorly chosen songs which were paying the station for extended air time, rather than allowing the station to provide real exposure. (Contreras 2012)  Cassas on the other hand, admits that the loss of the station was a blow to the genre, however we have the internet at our fingertips, so surely we can approach the musical genre through this medium, either as a consumerist or as an upcoming OPM band.  “You have the internet.  You all have what all of your heroes of your teen angst years didn’t: The world at your fingertips. Share your music on social media.  You have things like Soundcloud, Facebook and Twitter.  USE IT.  Don’t sit there and complain that OPM is dead because no one came to your gig in Guijo that you didn’t really promote.” (Cassas 2012).

When I was discussing this with another online Filipino friend, Tara, she mentioned that pop does no favours for the OPM industry.  Mainstream media offers a variety of singing shows akin to our version of X Factor or The Voice, however it doesn’t showcase the local talent (Tara, 2015, pers. comm., 23 September). Artists sing songs by globalised pop artists rather than Filipino songs, and this makes me wonder whether I am getting a true experience of the culture when covering these songs from our collective popular culture.  Although there is no denying that we have both been exposed to these artists, are we no better off than one of these singing shows where we regurgitate a pop song from the Western World?  Upon hearing this insight from Tara, I suggested to Kari, also in the chat, that perhaps we should cover a Filipino song for our next show.  Her reaction seemed quite excited excited about the proposition, however it was interesting to note that her agreement was worded with “Why not, let’s take a risk.”(Kariann, 2015, pers. comm., 23 September)   Even outside of the record industry within the context of an online fansite radio, songs of different cultures outside of the pop sphere are considered a risk.  This is something I know from experience at this fansite, because I refuse to play into the pop music sphere most of the time, playing alternate songs ranging in genres, styles, age and language.  Sometimes I’m met with open arms by the community that listens, while other times the listener count is almost non existent.  But if I was to not take these risks, I wouldn’t have the chance to expand the audience I am broadcasting too. Recording a Filipino song cover is a risk in two aspects – it is often difficult to promote a song within the listener pool we broadcast to, despite being an optimised time for those within the Australian/Asian region, and recording covers for these fansites which try to present themselves as professional radio stations (despite the fact that they clearly are not) is often met with mixed opinions.  Personally, I’d love to try to delve a little deeper into the Filipino music culture, and doing so through this practical outlet would be the perfect way to immerse myself into the alternate style to discover how it works as a musical piece in itself.




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