Legendary rock band Dewa has never strayed too far from the news. May it be through new releases, epic collaborations or even controversies from its members, the presence of this Surabaya band is always felt by music fans in Indonesia. Recently, they even worked together with Pamungkas, in which they performed in an online concert, playing hits from each other’s discographies.
The show was followed by the release of re recordings for some of Dewa’s most famous songs, done by Pamungkas as well as Dewa themselves. The news doesn’t stop there for Dewa as they also announced a new member: Marcello Tahitoe, AKA Elo. Marking the first time they are joined by lead vocalist since parting ways with Once. However, despite all these developments that surely excite all the Mahadewas, we argue that these aren’t even the biggest Dewa related news to have recently emerged. This one piece of new info does not only involve Dewa, but could also potentially shake the entire Indonesian music industry. What is it exactly?
Ahmad Dhani, songwriter, keyboardist, and self-proclaimed “part-time musician, full-time politician” appeared as a guest in a YouTube talk show hosted by fellow musician David Bayu, ex-front man of Naif. The episode showcased Dhani’s colorful personality and life. Discussion topics ranged from family, ancient Javanese history, South Korean automobile industry, western conspiracy and of course, politics. However, music still dominated the conversation. Dhani expressed his deep love for the band Queen, Dewa’s early years as a fusion band, and the current state of the music industry in Indonesia.
A highlight of the episode was when Dhani outlined the importance of copyright to a musician. Rights are crucial for artists, yet they are mostly owned by labels. “When musicians can no longer sing, or make art, copyright can be their source of passive income” explains Dhani.
Near the end of the episode, David Bayu asked plenty of questions about Dewa’s upcoming 30th “anniversary”, counted from the release of their debut album “19” in 1992, which partners must surely remember for containing classic such as “Kangen” and “Kita Sedang Tidak Bercinta Lagi”. Dhani then revealed some upcoming projects to commemorate the event. Among them are plans to collaborate with Dewa Budjana, Indra Lesmana and the host himself David Bayu. As exciting as that sounds, the other project seems to be even more intriguing: a joint project with other musicians to launch a brand new digital streaming platform, similar to Spotify.
Dhani has not yet disclosed details about this upcoming platform, but this project does reflect Dhani’s feelings about copyright as he stated earlier in the episode. He explains how he wants the new platform to be a new ecosystem where musicians have full control over the copyrights for their work, replacing the old tradition in which labels dominate royalties. Furthermore, Dhani also expressed his ambition in improving the welfare of musicians, especially in retirement.
The concept of streaming platforms headed by musicians isn’t new. Considering how much controversy there is concerning major platforms and their handling of royalties, as we have covered before, it’s not a surprise that some artists would want to create their own platform. The best example is Tidal, a streaming service that is co-owned by some of the biggest names in music, such as Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, Chris Martin, Daft Punk, and many more.
Sadly, Tidal’s success did not match its ambitions. Many critics were directed at their subscription prices, which is far higher than other services. They were also involved in lawsuits involving royalties, incredibly ironic for a platform that proclaims themselves to be pro-artist. In 2016, Yesh Music, LLC and John Emenuele of the band The American Dollar launched a class action lawsuit worth 5 million USD against Tidal, in which they claimed that Tidal failed to give them royalties from 116 of their songs. The suit also accused Tidal of using faulty numbers to payout artists while also having undercut these same individuals by 35%
We still have to wait for its launching, or at least further details to accurately predict how this new platform will perform. Let’s just hope that it will fare better than Tidal, and that Ahmad Dhani and his colleagues, however the method, could realize their ambitions in helping their fellow musicians of Indonesia.
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