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Digital music thrives in Vietnam, but at a price

Wednesday, December 31, 2014, 22:38 GMT+7
Digital music thrives in Vietnam, but at a price
Young Vietnamese singers Truc Nhan (left) and Thao Nhi are seen performing at the Lan Song Xanh (Blue Wave) award presentation ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on December 19, 2014.

In today’s Internet age, digital music has gained a preponderance in the music market in Vietnam – just as in other countries – but it remains plagued by poor quality and rampant copyright infringements.

The year 2014 has seen a further explosion of digital music, with many songs enjoying huge popularity.

Young singers such as Son Tung M-TP, Truc Nhan, and Truong Thao Nhi have been catapulted to fame with several online hits.

The POPS Awards 2014 was recently launched for the first time in Vietnam by POPS Worldwide – a local company which is a pioneer in the country’s digital entertainment sector – to honor digital entertainment works.

The organizer handed away prizes to young singers during their award presentation ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City on December 10.

Other local music awards including Lan Song Xanh (Blue Wave) and Zing Music Awards (ZMA) also boast digital music prizes.

ZMA’s list of the year’s most notable songs includes online hits such as “Minh Yeu Nhau Di” (Let’s Love Each Other), “Gat Di Nuoc Mat” (Wiping Away Tears), “Bon Chu Lam” and “Nam Lay Tay Anh” (Just Hold My Hand).

“Bon Chu Lam,” performed by young emerging singers Truc Nhan and Thao Nhi, has just nabbed the Lan Song Xanh 2014 Awards’ “Phenomenal Song” prize.

The song also earned Nhan the “Promising Singer” prize of the same awards.

Popular singer Tuan Hung’s music video titled “Nam Lay Tay Anh” earned the most views through the POPS system on YouTube.

A song entitled “That Long Anh Xin Loi” (I Sincerely Apologize) by prematurely deceased singer Wanbi Tuan Anh is currently the most listened-to song on Nhaccuatui, a local music downloading website.

Son Tung M-TP’s songs such as “Em Cua Ngay Hom Qua” (You of Yesterday) would stand a good chance of winning prizes if they had not been removed from Zing Mp3 – one of the country’s most popular music downloading websites – due to alleged copyright violations.

The official version of Tung’s “Em Cua Ngay Hom Qua,” which was uploaded by Zing Mp3 alone, received over 180 million views.

In recent times, these young singers have even transcended the digital music arena to stand on the same stage with their established predecessors, who have organized costly live shows and released well-funded albums.

According to Sai Gon Giai Phong (Liberated Saigon) newspaper, more than 25 million people in Vietnam regularly listened to music online in 2013.

Questionable quality   Despite the robust growth of digital music, experts and veteran composers remain concerned about its quality.

The technology boom has made it considerably easier for singers/writers to incorporate excerpts or demos widely available on the Internet into their songs.

This has resulted in similar, bland songs which are void of creativity and real emotions and thus easily fall into oblivion following their short-lived popularity.

The young singers’ musical competency is also open to question.

According to composer Quoc An, each Vietnamese musical school has only a few dozen singers who can read musical transcription.

Composer Hoang Huy Long estimated that a mere 30 percent of local singers can decipher musical transcriptions.

‘Haven’ for hassles

Vietnamese digital music is also rife with hassles regarding copyright and royalties.

In early December 2014, singer/composer Tran Lap, whose real name is Tran Quyet Lap, sued Ho Chi Minh City-based VNG Co., as he found its Zing MP3 website posting and sharing his song – “Duong Den Vinh Quang” (Road to Glory) – without seeking his prior consent. However, the composer later dropped the court proceedings against VNG after he and the company inked an agreement on the website’s use of his own and his band’s songs.

Twenty-year-old singer Son Tung M-TP recently became involved in a purported copyright breach as his latest song, titled “Chac Ai Do Se Ve” (Maybe Someone Will Come Back), bears striking similarity to “Because I Miss You,” a song composed and performed by South Korean singer Jung Yong Hwa.

The Vietnamese Performing Arts Department in late November arrived at a conclusion that the Vietnamese singer’s song did not violate current regulations in Vietnam.

The department’s conclusion came after it received an email from Kwon Woo Min, a representative of South Korea-based FNC Entertainment, who manages Jung Yong Hwa, who said that they did not consider Tung’s song a copyright infringement.

However, a meeting held in early December ruled that the singer would have to change the beat of his song, which is excessively influenced by the Korean song “Because I Miss You.”

Similarly, local singers My Tam and Le Quyen in 2009 and 2012, respectively, submitted a letter to competent agencies accusing a number of local music websites of violating their songs’ copyrights.

Their cases, however, did not go to court as the sides managed to settle the matter with satisfactory compensation.

In August 2014, singer Dang Khoi – director of Viet Giai Tri Co. – also brought Zing MP3 to court for its reported copyright violations of almost 10,000 K-pop songs by some 700 Korean artists which the company is authorized to use in Vietnam.

The Ho Chi Minh City People’s Court is proceeding with the case.

Dam Vinh Hung, dubbed Vietnam’s “pop king,” purportedly became the first artist in the world to launch his album in the form of a South Korean smart media card to better cope with rampant piracy in mid-October.

The singer then introduced his album “Lam Sao Anh Biet?” (How Do I Know?), which was made using South Korea’s Smart Media Card (SMC)/Kihno technology – completely different from a conventional CD or DVD. 

SMC/Kihno is expected to replace vinyl records and CDs and DVDs thanks to its compatibility with different kinds of mobile devices, including smartphones, according to Hugh Dao, board chairman of H&Dao Corporation – a local company which is exclusively licensed to use the Korean technology in Vietnam.

The smart card also helps curb piracy and illegal online music listening and downloading, as each can only be used on a certain device with a specific ID, Dao explained.

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