Stephen Mok, 25, is a sound engineer by trade, but he also heads two bands: Per Se and Stereo is the Answer. With both, he has won several awards in local competitions. His songs have been featured on music streaming platform KKbox as the editor's choice. Mok's set to make a career out of music.
The problem? He can't get backing from a major label because his songs are all written in English. Even with financial support from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, where he was studying, it took him three years to drop his first album because money was a problem.
Singer/songwriter Chet Lam Yat-fung has been looking for a solution to indie artists' financial problems. Several years ago, he tried to raise money for his new album on crowdfunding site Kickstarter, but his proposal was rejected because the site thought it wasn't feasible to raise money for a Cantonese album.
Undaunted, Lam got together with songwriters Vicky Fung Wing-ki and Victor Tse Kwok-wai to develop Musicbee, Hong Kong's very own crowdfunding platform.
Musicbee was launched last month, and in just about two weeks, Lam had raised more than the HK$200,000 he needed for his 15th studio album, Crossroads. People are still contributing and he now has more than HK$280,000 to spend on production.
"We hope to increase the choice of music available for consumers. Many indie artists are really good, but they just don't have a product," says Tse. "Major labels don't do small business. They play it safe, so they keep taking the same old path that successful artists have taken."
Fung says Musicbee can help artists prove to major labels that they do have an audience. "It's an efficient way to match supply and demand. It eliminates ideas that don't appeal. It's very cruel, but it's also very truthful. It's a good test for an artist," she says.
After a proposal is submitted to Musicbee, Fung and Tse give advice to the artists to work out a feasible campaign. When the targeted amount of money is raised, backers will be charged through credit card and Musicbee will charge 15 per cent for administrative costs.
Following Lam and singers Eman Lam Yee-man and Jing Wong, singer Michael Lai will be the fourth person to formally launch a campaign on Musicbee this Friday.
"Many people don't make music full time because they're afraid of the risks, but with backers you can do so worry-free," Lai says.
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Lai says many people have the misconception that it's very easy to produce a song, but he says it actually takes around HK$50,000 to make a studio-quality track.
When the indie band Supper Moment - who will be collaborating for a track on Lam's Crossroads - formed in 2006, crowdfunding sites weren't popular. The group had do it the old-fashioned way, and use money from gigs and competitions to fund their recording sessions.
"Getting an album out was as complicated as getting married," says lead vocalist Sunny Chan Shi-sun.
Recording, mixing, promoting and distributing all take a lot of effort without help from a big label. Using a platform like Musicbee can simplify the whole process. By involving backers in the creative process, the platform can also encourage people to buy music.
"It's like buying a belt. You can simply buy one, but some shops hold DIY workshops to teach you how to make a belt," says Chan.
"Your attachment to the belt you made is greater than to the one you bought because you were involved in the creative process."
Just like how YouTube changed the way labels distribute music videos, Fung hopes Musicbee will also change the music industry. "When mainstream artists also use Musicbee, then we'll know we're making some real changes," Fung says. "You won't need to separate mainstream from indie anymore."