Quite apart from the Singaporeans who continually demand that the Govt do something for them are the political “observers” who never miss a chance to criticise the Govt for failing to do something for the said Singaporeans.
To them, it is always the Govt’s fault if some struggling artist had to move overseas. Never mind that the said artist has already indicated clearly that his reason for moving overseas is because no one is interested in his work here.
To them, it is always a loss to Singapore if the said artist moves overseas. More grants should have been given. More support should have been provided. The Govt shld nurture and support local talent so that the industry can grow and put Singapore on the world map, etc.
First, the idea that Singapore loses whenever an artist leaves Singapore to pursue his passion elsewhere is hugely mistaken.
Singapore is a small place. Why should anyone think that our artists can make it big here? The reality is that anyone who wants to make it big– whether in sport, music, art or any other field of endeavour– must leave Singapore.
Fandi had to leave Singapore to pursue his dream of pro-football. So did Sun Yanzi. M Nasir. Lee Hui Min. Etc, etc.
There’s no shame in leaving Singapore. We should not see artists who leave as a loss. Indeed, we should encourage them to pursue their dreams on the world stage, not choke them in Singapore.
If they succeed overseas, it’s a success for Singapore too.
Second, while I respect the sacrifices and passion of artists who do non-mainstream work, it is wrong for them to ask for Govt funding or support. I respect them if they don’t want to sell their souls by going mainstream or doing commercial work. But please find your own (private) patrons or fund your art out of your own pockets (like Eric Khoo). There is no reason why they should expect Govt support because of their sacrifices in the name of art.
Third, the idea the Govt should try to nurture an industry so that it may just put Singapore on world map is just plain misguided. One, because it puts an obligation for industry development on the shoulders of civil servants who are not particularly industry-savvy. And second, it commits the Govt to showing tangible results to justify the taxpayer money spent, which means a lot of govt intervention.
We’ve seen the Govt do this before, eg. the govt push to create a “design” industry in Singapore, or to create an “animation” industry in Singapore.
Inevitably it always starts out with some top civil servant saying he wants Singapore to be a “hub” in X years’ time. “Committees” are then formed, an industry “masterplan” is drawn up. Grants are given, “seed” funding or “co-funding” schemes are introduced, “scholarships” are offered to beef up the “talent” in the industry, etc.
Every year thereafter the stat board/ministry releases a glowing report on how “vibrant” the industry has become, and proffers numbers such as jobs created as evidence that things are going according to the “masterplan”.
Is this what indie artists in Singapore really want?
Our sports fraternity have learned it the hard way. If they want money from the Sports Council, they have to submit their annual plans for approvals, meet medal targets and generally do whatever SSC demands.
Theatre companies too have found the same thing. If you want NAC funding, you can’t do works that criticise the Govt. Etc.
Do indie artists in Singapore really want Govt money, knowing these are the rules of the game?
One can’t blame civil servants for wanting to show results; it’s taxpayer money they’re committing. They have a right to demand results from those who ask for taxpayer money. And speaking as a taxpayer, I do not appreciate my money being given just to “nurture” an indie industry if there is no reasonable expectation of real returns to the country.
On the other hand, if public funds are just given without condition, without accountability for results, how can one hope that an industry will grow and blossom and put Singapore on the world map?
That’s the Catch-22 our indie musicians– as well as sportsmen, theatre practitioners, film makers, etc– have to face. If you want public money, you have to show results and follow the rules. But if you follow the rules and show results, you can no longer be indie.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch.