Updates on helping musicians & how to apply for Social Security in Hong Kong.

​Please read last week’s blog post, so this week’s post makes more sense 🙂

Just to clarify, I am talking to many different people about helping full-time musicians NOT those lucky enough to have a day job and play music for fun.

Since 31st August, we have been invited to meet one Executive Councillor and five Legislative Councillors: Mr SHIU Ka Fai, Mr Leung Yiu-Chung, Mrs Regina Ip, Mr Cheng Chung-Tai and Mr Ma Fung-Kwok.

Last Friday, Neil and I met with Ms. Regina Ip and also Mr Cheng Chung-Tai. This is all part of our ongoing mission to bring AWARENESS and an URGENT plea to the Government that there are musicians in Hong Kong that need help as they are no longer permitted to work. Over and over again, there is surprise that there are hundreds of local musicians as well as Western musicians who work as musicians full-time AND are permanent residents of Hong Kong. At each meeting we brainstorm on ways to financially support the musicians that is fast to execute and easy to apply for and also on how to get them back to work quickly.

We met with Mr Ma Fung-Kwok who informed us that he will be proposing a scheme for all self-employed people (not just musicians) to get something similar to ESS scheme for salaried employees ( a small payout per month over a period of six months). If THAT is approved by the Government, that would be fantastic.

Mr Ma also asked us to submit a proposal, so we did! We suggested a system for working self-employed musicians operating in a similar manner with which the Hong Kong Government has been using for massage parlour applications(! )
We also proposed for live music venues and bars to REOPEN with quota restrictions, social distancing rules, masks etc. and immediately allow bands to perform INSTRUMENTALLY without waiting for several more weeks, as that would start to put a number of working musicians back at work. (Previously the Government had allowed venues to reopen but it was another six weeks before live performances were permitted)

For those who think I’m being political, I’m not. I’m meeting any and all politicians I can. I have no idea who will be able to help bring awareness about the musicians’ plight and who will be able to help. I’m driven with the pain of knowing that some musicians are now homeless and others are being evicted and that their lives are upside down with no way to earn income.

Now let’s hope & pray that something is prepared for the self-employed musicians in the 3.0 Pandemic Fund, which will be announced in the near future.
I have also been researching the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (SSA) here in Hong Kong. This will be of interest to those of you who have spent all your savings and have very little assets.
If you live by yourself and your total assets (including all cash, bank savings, stocks and shares) is less than HK$33,000 (and you don’t own any property!) You are eligible for the scheme. There is a small monthly allowance as well as a rental allowance and possibly some other allowances whilst you cannot work. You do need to be a HK resident for at least seven years and have been continuously in HK for at least one year immediately before date of application (they count up to 56 days absence, as OK btw)

It takes about a month to get the first payment and meanwhile you can have access to the food bank instantly for up to 6 weeks. The food bank will supply you with supermarket, Fairwood and bakery vouchers and you can also get rice and tinned food. Once you start receiving the money, you no longer get access to the food bank.
All the information is on this page

There are different allowances and asset allowances for families and couples, it’s all on the website. The best suggestion would be to call the hotline
and explain your situation, the person should direct you to the nearest social security office and food bank. It’s all walk-in so there is no need to make an appointment.

IF this is all too overwhelming, I’m happy to talk to you and help you with applying. For some, just being able to eat will solve some of your problems.
There are ALREADY some musicians on this assistance scheme, so don’t be afraid to apply if you and/or your family needs help.
My number/whatsapp is +852-94864648 and my email is contact@undergroundhk.com

Live Streaming Tips for Hong Kong Musicians

As more and more bands and musicians dip their toes into live streaming, I decided to compile five handy performance tips. On the technical side, my only tip would be – it’s best to test your live stream works well and SOUNDS great and that YOU and/or YOUR band looks great BEFORE you stream. Test on phones, computers, browsers etc. that everything is working BEFORE each event. Don’t don’t DON’T start your event with “I don’t know if you can see or hear me….”

  1. Act like you would for a real gig.
    This means having a poster promoting the event ahead of time and promoting the same way you would for a physical gig (facebook event, press release, promotional images, videos etc.). This also includes thinking about the background when you perform, what lighting to use, what camera angle makes you look your best and of course, what are you wearing for the gig.
  2. Be ON time and start performing (not talking) at the start time.
    It makes people turn up on time for your future live streams.
    (You can start the live stream a few minutes before your intended start – this helps the audience to know they are in the right place)
  3. Keep the focus on the songs and your performance.
    Of course, it’s great to interact with your audience too. Play a few songs, and then pause to have a casual chat with the audience for a few minutes as you read through the comments to shout people out and answer questions. People love to feel heard and connected. Another option is, if you have a band helper, they can help to gather comments and requests for your band during the gig.
  4. If possible, give your live stream a hook.
    Are you going to play a new song? Will you have a special guest? Do you have anything to giveaway to the audience? Can you make up a song on the spot, by asking the audience to give you a subject/theme?
    Think out of the box to make it extra fun for your audience.
  5. At the end of your live stream, ask the audience to “Like our facebook page” or “Come back on June 13th for another live show”. This gives them something to do after enjoying your performance. If you would like to earn some money, you can even suggest they buy something from your store or bandcamp.

It’s definitely worthwhile honing your live streaming skills as this is another avenue for your fans to watch your performance in the future, even when live music events resume back to normal (or whatever becomes normal.)

REMEMBER: This may be someone’s first time to see you perform and hear your songs, so make it great!

How to support Hong Kong musicians & songwriters?

All through March 2020, I was writing and rewriting this blog post daily. Then after each day, I would revise what I wrote and update or even change my point of view. Like almost everyone I know, I was overwhelmed with Coronavirus this, Covid-19 that. I also spent almost every day, second guessing if we could go ahead with events or not and then debating postponing them and then actually postponing them. It will not surprise me, if I have to postpone more postponed events soon…

I got told by a friend, that The Hong Kong Arts Development Council received some funding, from HK Government’s Anti-epidemic Fund, to share with the arts & creative sector. Sector D is for Individual arts practitioners who can apply for HK$7500 for work cancelled due to the epidemic. HKADC require you to have been using a “legitimate art venue” which does include the Fringe Club so this maybe helpful to some musicians. Each individual may receive a maximum of HK$7,500.
The only fund which The Underground might be able to apply for is Sector C which is entitled ” Arts projects not funded by HKADC ” which gives you HK$15,000 per event. It seems to have some unfair requirements though; you have to have been hired or collaborated on a Government related event at a Government (or HKADC-approved) venue in the past two years…

I then went looking for other possible avenues of support within Hong Kong.

First thought was C.A.S.H. (stands for Composers, Authors Society of Hong Kong – a perfect acronym for Hong Kong) where I’m a registered member. C.A.S.H. collect royalties on behalf of their members – registered songwriter and composers – from radio, TV, events and venues all over Hong Kong. They are affiliated with overseas societies such as PRS in the UK and ASCAP in the US. Sadly, C.A.S.H. don’t seem to be doing anything for songwriters or composers in Hong Kong despite having a large membership and er wads of cash. They ARE nobly cancelling their Annual Dinner (which takes place in November each year!) but no word on what they will do with the funds, that they normally use for the Annual Dinner. In comparison, PRS have a specific Covid-19 fund to financially assist UK songwriters and ASCAP have a bunch of resources and help guides for funds, for musicians and songwriters in the States. Although I just heard that ASCAP are delaying paying royalties too due to the virus…

The Hong Kong Musicians Union Group sent out a facebook post asking musicians who are facing challenges in their employment to contact them. This group seems mostly useful for Hong Kong musicians who are Filipino.

Music producer Adrian Chow has a survey for practitioners in music & entertainment in HK as he is working on collecting information to try and collect some funding for all those practitioners who cannot claim from HKADC. His survey expires on 9th April, so hurry over and complete the form now.

There is a Hong Kong Musician alliance organisation but they honestly seem to be an alliance of mostly older musicians and their focus is on hosting charity events, collecting money for charities; with no evidence of the alliance actually doing anything in support of financially-challenged musicians.

Jerry Sun has setup a HK Musicians INCOME Support Group which aims at using youtube to generate some additional income. Worth checking out as many local musicians are posting their youtube channels and you are encouraged to share their channels too.

In Singapore, six strangers across various industries heeded a call to action, volunteering their own diverse skill sets and time to launch ilostmygig.sg, a website dedicated to tracking the impact of the COVID-19 in the creative and cultural industry. So far 2400 people have shared their stories (with over 27 million Singapore dollars in lost income!) I especially like the “I want to help” page.

As The Underground, I have been asking Hong Kong musicians & bands to send me their upcoming live-stream performances, so that we can help to promote them. I am really really excited to see, how creative musicians can get, from inside their homes! I’ve heard some live music venues will be testing out live streaming (without an audience) so that is more to look forward to.

For me, I have to stop wondering, if I will ever be able to go to gigs and mosh again. I’m sure I will be! And I hope that day comes sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will keep on creating and promoting live music events, as well as working on Mellow Yellow Music Festival, my outdoor festival, which I hope will be able to proceed on 12th September 2020.

This week I left a band

This week, I left a band that I only joined in September 2019.

The bass player of this band, is new to HK and as a trailing spouse, he has plenty of time on his hands, unlike the rest of us, especially me! He has a concept and it seemed quite cool at first, when he pitched it to me. We had one rehearsal where it sounded possible, musically speaking.

Unfortunately it soon started to feel stressful. For example, he sent tracks from his previous band and asked me to either learn the lyrics (which he didn’t know) or to write new lyrics. First it was three songs and then gradually he sent new songs that he composed and recorded digitally and ask me to write lyrics for them. With some of these new songs, he dictated what the subject of the song should be about….

Then he wrote a band biography for us that simply mentioned “Chris B (Underground HK) as the singer” then detailed six paragraphs about himself. 🙂
Admittedly he has accomplished a lot with his previous band in another country prior to moving here but it’s not feeling like a band, but rather like I’m a singer in his solo music project. I’m not expecting other people to sing my praises, but it doesn’t feel right that he’s expecting me to spend my money, my time and my creativity to develop ‘his band’.

This week, he whatsapped me and asked “if you don’t have enough time for this band, would you start to send me contact details of other female rock singers in HK?” 🙂 🙂

I would so love to sing and play in a guitar again. It could be with Thinking Out Loud or with CHRANG! or with a new band. So fingers crossed!

Poster Girl Day

Today, I was in Mong Kok, delivering some posters for Funk Ska Nation (I get the A2 and A3 posters printed there as I get better pricing than at e-print!) and was chatting to the guys who run the various band rehearsal rooms and I wasn’t too surprised to find out that business has been tough for them too.

Here in Hong Kong, since space/land is a premium and almost everyone lives in a flat, no one has a ‘garage’ or ‘basement’ to rehearse in, so many bands and musicians hire a rehearsal room to practice in.

The ones in Mong Kok / Prince Edward are more affordable – around HK$80 to HK$120 per hour (when split four or five ways is dirt cheap) – you eventually get used to squeezing five people into a tiny room and making sure you don’t whack your guitar neck into someone else 🙂 It’s good practice for playing gigs in small venues 🙂