Musicians engage fans online as pandemic takes center stage

By Do Linh   April 16, 2020 | 09:23 pm PT
Musicians engage fans online as pandemic takes center stage
Artists perform in a live show of singer Tuan Hung streamed on Facebook on March 28, 2020. Photo courtesy of Tuan Hung.
From a burst of coronavirus-themed songs to soaring online viewership and live-streaming, the music industry is having a good time during social distancing.    

As the world buckles up under the attack of Covid-19, here in Vietnam, the virus is playing a muse of sorts by inspiring an outburst of songs to encourage people to stay home and support government efforts. 

The first gunshot was fired by songwriter Khac Hung on the order of the Ministry of Health: adapting his 2017 hit about jealousy, "Ghen" (Jealous), featuring singers Min and Erik, into "Ghen Co Vy" (Coronavirus Song) about Covid-19 precautionary measures.

The song has gone viral worldwide and even spawned an English version plus subtitles in 25 languages.

After "Ghen Co Vy" follow a series of similar efforts like songwriter Bui Quang Minh’s adaptation of his earlier hit "Vietnam Oi" (Viva Vietnam) into "Vietnam Oi! Danh Bay Covid" (Viva Vietnam! Fight Covid); songwriters Dat G and Du Uyen’s adaptation of the song "Banh My Khong" (Sandwich?) into "Diet Giac Corona" (Terminate Corona);

Meanwhile, singer Huyen Trang’s brand new song "Nguoi Me Ao Trang" (Mother in White Blouse) pays tribute to female doctors; singer Nguyen Phi Hung’s MV produced especially for the occasion, "Bao La Nhung Trai Tim Hong" (Immense Pink Hearts), is also about doctors. Composed by Nguyen Phi Hung himself, the song features 18 singers from different generations. 

Singer Viet Tu, who has lamented diminishing revenues because of the pandemic, seems to be occupying himself in the most productive way possible by releasing not just one, but two new coronavirus songs, "Ngu Mot Chut Di Anh" (Please Take a Nap) and "Nhung Bong Hoa No Giua Mua Dich" (Blossoming in Pandemic), to pay tribute to government officials and doctors on duty. 

Besides new songs, social distancing during the pandemic has also helped push online viewership across-the-board and propelled musicians to explore live-streaming.  

According to two consumer surveys carried out in February by market consultant Asia Plus Inc.’s Q&M Vietnam Market Research, 80 percent of respondents said they are going out less frequently these days to avoid contracting the new coronavirus.

Consequently, Internet use and TV viewership has increased with YouTube the most popular streaming platform, FPT Play the most popular paid service, and music the second most favored content after films.
This is a good sign for busy music-streaming sites in a period where theaters, clubs, cafes and more traditional venues had to shut, according to industry insiders.

For many musicians, live-streaming performances has become an inevitable alternative to cancelled stage performances, press conferences, fan meetings and other public activities.  

Singer Dinh Bao for instance is live-streaming a series of performances in different settings titled "The Story" on YouTube.

Singer Tuan Hung has also taken a bold step by charging fees for access to his live-streamed shows on Facebook yet gone on to donate much of his proceeds to help fight the pandemic.    

Other artists like saxophonist Tran Manh Tuan and singer Hong Nhung also turned to live-streaming to honor the late musician Trinh Cong Son’s death anniversary on April 1.

Perhaps more so in music than in film making, using online platforms to launch new songs or live-stream new shows has become a norm, as it is relatively cheap, highly interactive, and can reach large swathes of fans compared to traditional methods.

In Vietnam, the first artists to live-stream included pop star Son Tung M-TP with his performance of the song "Am Tham Ben Em" (Stand Silently By You) in 2015; the rock band The Wall with their 2016 live show "Buc Tuong Va Nhung Nguoi Ban: Doi Ban Tay Thap Lua" (The Wall and Friends: Hands Lighting Fire), which was live-streamed on YouTube and VTV Go, and singer Ha Anh Tuan’s pioneering live-streaming series "See Sing Share" in late 2016. Ha Anh Tuan’s project was remarkably successful with each episode attracting about 10 million views.

In 2018, FPT TV launched "Music Home", the first interactive live-streaming project of its kind in Vietnam. Broadcast on FPT TV, FPT Play and social media, the program allows audiences to choose their own multi-cam-empowered viewing angles and leave feedback.

Featuring popular singers such as Ha Tran, Thu Phuong and Uyen Linh, the show has attracted 25 million views after its first season. Diva My Linh also delivered her first performance for Music Home during the coronavirus pandemic.

With audiences, artists and others flocking online and Internet surfing almost doubling within a month, like elsewhere in the world, Vietnamese network services are being put to the test.  

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