BandLab CEO Meng Ru Kuok in a Swee Lee music shop.Picture copyright
BandLab Singapore

As an already reeling music trade is hit by the coronavirus, the proprietor of UK publication NME says the pandemic has introduced challenges and alternatives.

Singapore-based BandLab additionally owns music manufacturers starting from guitar-making to retail and digital platforms.

The virus got here at a time of already seismic change for the trade as corporations search new methods to make earnings.

In recent times, the recording trade has been revolutionised, whereas instrument and journal gross sales fell.

The final 20 years have seen the enterprise mannequin of conventional report labels massively disrupted by digital downloads, whereas the marketplace for musical devices and magazines has been hit by radical adjustments in shopper behaviour.

Because the coronavirus pandemic compounded this already hostile enterprise setting, many firms within the music trade have seen their companies hit onerous.

BandLab Expertise’s chief govt, Meng Ru Kuok, says that whereas components of his music-focused agency have confronted coronavirus-related disruptions, different areas of the enterprise have thrived.

He says that through the pandemic, his music gear retail enterprise has seen its finest e-commerce efficiency since he purchased it in 2012, as social distancing measures imply folks have had extra free time.

“We have seen a 300% rise in month-to-month on-line gross sales at our South East Asia music instrument retailer, Swee Lee,” he mentioned.

Print vs digital

A few of BandLab’s most high-profile investments have been in music journalism, an trade that has been turned the other way up by internet-driven adjustments in how folks eat information.

Though the reside leisure and publishing industries have been hit onerous by the coronavirus, NME – which BandLab purchased in 2019 – was launched in South East Asia final month.

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Media captionWhat may post-lockdown nights out seem like?

That announcement got here after NME entered the Australian market on the finish of final yr.

At the same time as plummeting promoting revenues and circulation numbers power rising numbers of publications to desert print, NME has not too long ago restarted bodily publishing with a month-to-month journal in Australia, its solely present common print version.

Mr Kuok says he has a way of obligation to guard the NME’s legacy: “We really feel there’s a accountability not simply to the model, but additionally there’s a accountability of being a reputable model.”

And he hinted at new NME-related launches each within the UK and internationally, with bulletins anticipated later this yr and in early 2021.

The corporate purchased a 49% stake in US rock journal Rolling Stone in 2016, however offered that holding much less three years later after failing to purchase the remainder of the enterprise.

Mark Mulligan from MIDiA Analysis sees potential for NME as a digital model: “When NME went totally digital, it was seen by many because the demise of the model. However after all, within the digital period, print can truly be a hindrance, lowering your capability to achieve actually international audiences.

“BandLab has a chance to thoroughly re-imagine the model for a brand new era of music followers, with a world attain it beforehand lacked,” he added.

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NME launched in South East Asia in August

Digital development

Similtaneously the corporate is constant to broaden NME, it’s also seeing vital development in customers of its digital music manufacturing platform, BandLab.

“Immediately we’ve greater than 22 million people who find themselves utilizing our product world wide. Greater than eight million songs are being recorded and launched a month on the platform,” he mentioned.

In one other signal of how the music trade as a complete is having to adapt to the brand new regular of social distancing, BandLab is that this weekend holding a digital guitar present. Stay is a three-day occasion combining a commerce present with interviews, panels, workshops and performances by world-famous guitarists.

Jamie MacEwan from Enders Evaluation mentioned: “A music enterprise like BandLab that connects folks with digital manufacturing instruments and reside streaming is effectively positioned to develop its person base below lockdown.

“Utilizing the NME model to achieve fanatics world wide is a strong technique. My query can be, how does BandLab intend to monetise and construct on its enterprise from right here?”

Coronavirus disruptions

The pandemic has additionally triggered vital disruptions in BandLab’s group of companies.

Uncut, one other UK-based music journal owned by BandLab and the agency’s solely newsstand-focused product, noticed its gross sales take a success as folks stayed at dwelling due to Covid-19.

In the meantime, the agency’s US-based guitar producers, Heritage and Concord, had been pressured to droop manufacturing for eight weeks owing to lockdown measures.

Manufacturing has now restarted and the corporate says it has seen a surge in orders, which it’s now working to satisfy.

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BandLab Singapore

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Meng Ru Kuok based BandLab Applied sciences in 2016

Because the son of Kuok Khoon Hong, the chairman and chief govt of Asia’s main agricultural manufacturing group Wilmar Worldwide, he’s typically requested about his billionaire father.

Whereas the youthful Mr Kuok is fast to level out that his firm is separate from the household enterprise, he’s additionally eager to spotlight the debt he owes for the steering he has acquired through the years.

A key piece of recommendation he says he all the time retains in thoughts is: “When issues are going effectively, do not be too blissful. When issues are going badly, do not be too unhappy.”

From Muse to the blues

So which artists does a music entrepreneur like Mr Kuok take heed to when he isn’t working?

He nods to his mother and father encouraging him to be taught the violin and piano as a baby, however credit his time at one in every of Britain’s prime public colleges, Winchester Faculty, after which Cambridge College for his love of guitar music.

Rising up listening to British indie bands reminiscent of Radiohead and the Libertines, he says his favorite band in his youth was different rock group Muse.

However now his tastes have matured to incorporate one of many nice American bluesmen: “My favorite artist is BB King.”

“He’s somebody who has a character, had hassle in his life and he performed to his final day. Extremely onerous working and had the respect of the whole trade.”

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