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Music For The Educated Masses?

by Johanna Poblete, Senior Reporter
Business World – Weekender | August 26, 2010

CLEMENTINE “Clem” Castro, founder of independent label Lilystars Records and the other half of The Camerawalls (not to mention former vocalist of defunct band Orange and Lemons), is looking for a receptive ear. He believes he’ll find it online.

“Gone are the days when radio was king, because of Internet marketing [for] independent musicians. It began a few years back, [and] it reached its culminating point in the past two years… I think radio is supplementary to the success of a record. It’s also very important, but I think it’s not entirely the format to succeed in the music industry,” Mr. Castro asserted.

“Indie artists have better access to recording, using their own material, publishing their own material, and releasing their own songs.

They can create their own music videos, at very limited cost,” he pointed out. While still with Orange and Lemons, Mr. Castro made the transition from indie label Terno Recordings to major label Universal Records, before forming his new band under his own label in 2008.

Lilystars focuses on indie rock, pop and electronica, and currently manages three bands, namely The Gentle Isolation (which recently launched its first EP album) and Your Imaginary Friends (about to launch its latest effort this month), apart from The Camerawalls. By November, the label will launch The Camerawalls’ second full-length album, following Pocket Guide to the Otherworld from 2008, which was primarily marketed online.

Success, apparently, isn’t measured strictly by sales alone but achieving cult status.

“The word ‘commercial’ is very vague right now when we talk of the success of the band. There are a lot of indie artists that are successful but they don’t get radio airplay… Indie labels, it’s already expected that record sales won’t be much, record sales right now is not lucrative… Like my band The Camerawalls, it took a while for me to sell a thousand copies through Internet marketing,” Mr. Castro admitted.

As a start-up label, he envisions the return on investment to come in during the fourth or fifth year — in the meantime, he continues building a following for the indie category, and introducing OPM music through different formats not just in the Philippines but in other countries as well. Interested parties may listen to the music via Lilystars Web site (http://Lilystars-records.com) and the individual bands’ blogs and social networking accounts.

The bands also welcome gigs abroad, as in the case of The Camerawalls performing on Aug. 21 at Baybeats, the annual alternative music festival in Singapore (they were one of four Filipino acts in the lineup, together with musicians from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Australia, and the US).

“We are creating a scene for a certain genre, which is indie pop and indie rock. And we’re trying to sell the music and promote the music abroad. So far we’re getting attention, we’re seeing pre-orders [of The Gentle Isolation’s EP] after they heard it online, from France, Japan and Greece. Foreigners, some of them are collectors of music, [buy] once they like what they hear, regardless of the origin. We do mail-order, they can buy through our webshop, through PayPal, we’re utilizing that feature right now,” said Mr. Castro.

Part of the strategy is to create a venue for indie musicians to reach out to the public, hence Lilystars co-produced the concert of Swedish band Club 8 last May (first in Manila and then Cebu), and regularly holds gigs under its event production arm The POP Shoppe.

A recent partnership with NU 107.5 and the Ayala Museum, The POP Shoppe! Music Series: A Call to Mind, situates the gigs at the museum.

The first of the series was the EP launch for The Gentle Isolation EP — a mere P550 took care of entrance fee, CD, museum tour, and the privilege of listening to several live acts, including but not limited to Lilystars musicians.

“When we talk about success, it’s more of getting your niche market, pulling that, and getting your followers, who are really buying an album based on the songs that you play. You [build] that over the years, it takes so much time… You keep releasing new materials… It’s a mutual admiration of work with fans and followers,” said Mr. Castro, who insists, “we’re catering to a certain style, we’re selling a sound, but we’re not sacrificing the creativity of the artist.”

Lilystars intends to conduct workshops on songwriting, on how to produce your own songs, but the goal is to make the music scene competitive in terms of quality releases, a return to the idyllic 1990s band explosion, but on a borderless scale. This explains why the bands under Lilystars tend to skip the vernacular. “I love writing in Tagalog, but it’s very limiting when it comes to audience. We want the music to be universal and understood by many people across the globe,” said Mr. Castro.

(POP Shoppe! resumes in September with the CD launch of Your Imaginary Friends, in October for the John Lennon tribute concert featuring indie bands, and in November for the launch of the sophomore album of The Camerawalls. December will feature a “surprise.” Updates at https://lilystars-records.com/thepopshoppe.)

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