Bhutanese musicians seek support as millions of views do not result in earnings

The music industry in Bhutan has a large audience with millions of view on YouTube and attracts people who have a passion for singing, composing songs and creating music. However, many find it hard to make a living out of such a passion, and the industry is in a dire need of support from the government.

Almost all the musicians point out that they have never undergone any voice training or any music training. Besides the occasional local fame and few opportunities to sing in the pubs and hotels, they have no other platform to showcase their talent and make a living out of their talent.

A popular singer and musician, Ugyen Panday, said that he could not set up an independent office because of the lack of budget. “I never had an opportunity to learn music. I have been singing through the inspiration of Bollywood songs,” he said.

Ugyen added, “I had an opportunity to meet many artists worldwide and they were quite surprised with different genres of music, and how Bhutanese are naturally born with the talent in the music field. Having said that, the immediate support we need is an intervention from the government through the musical institutes from all over the world, and that can be a huge asset to an Individual artist.” He said that in order to live a healthy life as a musician, one need to monetize their art.

Monetization is another challenge faced by the musicians in Bhutan, as they are not paid well for their art or for performing in various pubs and clubs.

A singer in a band, “The Yellow Pencils”, Jamyang Rinchen, said that the little money that they earn is from performing in bars, cafes and hotels, which is only enough to feed an average citizen for a couple of days. Therefore, being a fulltime musician is not very practical, and the reason why many talented musicians have given up.

 “We hope that someday, Bhutan would be a place that respects and recognizes amazing talents, and hopefully these talents would get what they deserve,” he added.

Sonam Wangchen, a talented youth singer and musician, said that Bhutanese music has come a long way, and with youth taking over the music scene in Bhutan, there is need for more support and a proper platform, whereby artists can showcase their talent more than ever.

“Few of the recording studios and platforms, such as M-Studio, Yeshi Lhendup Films and Mojo Park, provide the platform for budding artists, like me, but we still have long way to go,” he said.

He said that it is difficult for an artist to pursue a career as a full time musician. In order survive, one has to have a secure job, and government help in encouraging creative music and assisting the growth of talented artists will go a long way.

Kunzang Chogyal, a popular rapper known as Chogo, sells his music through an international record label known as Royal Heir Entertainment across different places like Europe, America, China and Asia.

He said that the music industry in Bhutan lacks proper resources, a strong music association and support. He added that the government has made no substantial effort towards helping the musicians so far.

“Government should treat musicians equally as the film associations, and provide good resources for the musicians,” he said.

Department of Information and Media (DOIM) under Ministry of Information and Communications conducted the first consultative meeting with the music producers, singers, songwriters, videographers, musical bands and rappers in Thimphu on 20 April to discuss the achievements, challenges and the expectations of the music industry.

The Chief from Media Development Division of DOIM, Monira Tsewang, said that the meeting was productive as it realized that the musicians deserve equal rights and support, same as the film association. DOIM is positive that, henceforth, more focus will be given to the musicians. In order to overcome the challenges, the very first solution is that musicians have to form an association in order to work on the issues facing them, she added.

She said that to keep the youth engaged in a positive manner, it is a good platform and opportunity, and the focus is more on creative arts now.

“Creative arts provide a major source of income for people around the world. It has been neglected in Bhutan, but we are ready to do everything possible and give opportunities for the artists like musicians,” she added.

A major issue raised by the musicians is the copyrights issue. The musicians said they are paid very less amount for their songs and music. They said radio stations play their songs without any royalty fees.  They said such a loss of earning is due to the lack of proper association to channelize the issues.

A senior Intellectual Property (IP) Officer, Ugyen Tenzin, said that they are ready to give the awareness program as and when the creative art industries require it. He said the main problem in Bhutan is due to the lack of an association in the music industry, which is why the management is very poor.

“If the musicians can form an association, they can protect their songs and charge accordingly, even if their songs are being played on the radio stations, and since it is an individual’s property the individual has to claim their rights as it does not need to be registered, like for the other IP protections, it is automatic protection according to the Act. We can, at the most, just create awareness and the creator has to claim their rights, that is why it is important to have an association,” said Ugyen Tenzin.

The musicians are now expecting an upswing in support from the government and are hopeful that their passion can also be a viable mode of earning.

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