Passion not enough to make ends meet, indie artists find

By Hoang Nguyen   November 18, 2022 | 04:59 am PT
Passion not enough to make ends meet, indie artists find
Indie band Ngot perform in a concert to promote their album in 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Dat Phan
Young indie artists passionate about their music are unable to make a living off it and have to work different jobs as they pursue their dreams.

In 2017, Ho Tram Anh released a dream pop track called "Haze" that found attention and praise from the indie community. But it took her five more years to put out her first studio album – "The Poetry of Streetlights" – with 11 tracks.

Asked why it took her so long after her first single to release a full album, Anh said there were several reasons. First, she had to invest a lot of time because it was her debut album. Then she had to deal with a very tight budget. As an indie project, she couldn’t access a lot of resources and had to do most of the work herself.

Many indie artists share Anh’s struggle. They have to cover all the expenses for studio sessions, music videos and album promotion, which is not easy for young people just hitting their creative strides.

Quoc Trung, one of the most influential music producers in Vietnam, said young artists, especially non-mainstream ones, making it big on the local music scene was a rare thing because they have to strike a balance between making ends meet and making music.

"I’ve heard some indie artists say that they have to work some other job for 2-3 months to return to music," Trung told the Thanh Nien Newspaper.

The 56-year-old music producer said he sympathized with young indie artists having to work different jobs because not being able to focus fully on their passion would affect the quality of their music.

"If you don’t focus (fully) on music, your music won’t be good enough and you won’t make money. You need to know what you really want," he said.

Trung also advised young indie artists to find ways to take their music to a wider audience. They need to to promote their music in as many places as possible, without being concerned about the audience number.

Ngot Band is an example of indie artists making the most of their chances. The band was formed on November 11, 2013. Then unknown, with an original lineup of three members, Ngot began their journey performing for free at coffee shops in Hanoi.

Four years later, 3,000 tickets for their live show sold out in just three days.

Young indie artists can approach distributors to help take their music to digital music platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube and SoundCloud to reach both domestic and international listeners.

For her debut album, Anh called for crowdfunding to cover the production costs. In 2020, indie band Bluemato also used crowdfunding for their debut album "The Wind Blows".

While crowdfunding has become an indie way for indie artists to improve their music quality and reach a greater audience, many continue to walk a tightrope, balancing their passion with putting food on the table.

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