#OPMProblems– What You May Not Have Heard

by Rhea Leorag

With the “OPM is dead” issue long gone and forgotten, the general public has the false sense of relief that our local music industry has redeemed itself, and that all we have to do is wait for that next “Eraserheads moment” or maybe even “Somedaydream moment”- in short, the next breakthrough act- in order for our music to shine once more.

But more than a year after Mr. Don Jaucian and Mr. Leloy Claudio’s articles infuriated OPM artists and supporters alike, what have people actually done to resuscitate an ailing industry? And has it worked?

If you segregate the people who reacted to the whole “OPM is dead” fiasco, you’d be saddened to find more people who said “No, OPM is not dead! What the hell are you talking about?!” and went on blabbering about the few good things in our industry than people who said “Yes, there are problems, and we must do something to fix it.”

To quote Mr. Claudio in an OPM Debate organized by Rouge Magazine last year, “You have to be pessimistic enough to see that there are things wrong in order for you to be able to muster that optimism that will propel you to change things.”

But has things changed? Let us try to revisit what has led to OPM’s “death” in the first place.

Definition Problems

When someone is asked, “What is OPM?” the following are some common answers you might hear:

  • The Classics (Freddie Aguilar, Ryan Cayabyab, Rico J. Puno, etc.)
  • What we hear on Flashback Sundays
  • Bands (Eraserheads, Rivermaya, etc.)
  • Mainstream Music (The Voice PH, Daniel Padilla, Vice Ganda, Willie Revillame, etc.)

Are these OPM? (Think about it.)

  • Ang Balay ni Mayang (VisPop)
  • Charice- Pyramid
  • David Archuleta- Nandito Ako

Homogenization: “OPM lahat”

“Kung lahat OPM, walang OPM.”

Homogeneity compresses conflicting ideas of music into one identical form, that of Original Pinoy Music. Kahit anong genre o style ka pa, basta Pinoy ka, OPM ka.

This may tend to confuse the consumer who goes inside a music store and sees an Ogie Alcasid CD beside Outerhope or The Dawn beside Daniel Padilla. More importantly, this may make the Filipino artist question the identity of his music. “How do you exactly fit in this huge OPM sphere? Por que ba Pinoy ako, ‘pag nagsulat ako ng kanta, OPM artist na ako? O kailangan bang sumikat muna ako?” These are questions that are likely to get conflicting answers.

“OPM” as a marketing ploy banking on the Filipino’s nationalism

 Music is OPM if the artist is Filipino.” This view may be traced to the contrast between nationalism and Westernization, and it leads to an exceedingly broad genre easily packaged and easily marketed as “home-grown” talent.

“OPM to me doesn’t mean anything, really, apart from the fact that it’s a marketing ploy used by people to cluster everyone who’s made music in the Philippines. Think about how that would work, for example in the US, if you had OAM- Original American Music, and it would be all in one section [of a music store.] It’s patently absurd, from a musical standpoint. It’s really marketing,” says Leloy Claudio, a Political Science professor, writer and critic.

He further adds that this marketing ploy banks on a Filipino’s nationalist insecurity. “What it really is, is insecurity. [We are] so insecure about ‘Filipino-ness’, what it means to be Filipino, so [we] have to brand everything Filipino. It really says something about Philippine Nationalism- it’s so strong, but also bereft of any form of confidence.”

Stagnation- the existence of a formula

The profit motives and risk aversion of firms in the music industry will them to provide the masses with tried-and-tested products, limiting the interaction between the mainstream and the independent scene. We cannot limit our notion of successful independent bands to Up Dharma Down. There are so few avenues open to artists to bring their music out when there’s so much talent yet to be heard.

She’s Only Sixteen, an alternative rock band who recently signed under Orion Entertainment- Universal Records, has been receiving a lot of comments about their music ‘sounding foreign.’ “For a while, it was a good compliment. [But then], bakit kami lang yung nagtutunog foreign? Bakit may connotation na only 1 band out of 10 “can compete” in a ‘global standpoint?’ We’re just lucky, and maraming bands na mas magagaling sa’min,” says the band’s members.

Not speaking in a general sense, it can be quite perplexing how the public has a tendency to dub music that sounds good as “sounding foreign,” and eventually decide whether they would bash it or be proud of it. Think of how much we liked having our “Josh Groban of the Philippines,” “Owl City of the Philippines,” or even “One Direction of the Philippines,” and “Justin Bieber of the Philippines.” Why does good music have to be alienated from our notion of local music?

Again, not speaking in a general sense, our recording industry has found a formula for the artists and type of music that they release, as well as their marketing strategies. To quote a member of She’s Only Sixteen, “They found a formula. This face, to sing that song, to sell to that crowd, and they will get so much money. So why bother changing it?”

Perhaps, the music industry has found itself too sustainable to be open to change. But then again, there’s no single formula that works for everything.

Signs of life

“OPM” may be dead, but the local music scene as a whole shows signs of life. What the Philippines has to realize is that innovation is necessary and not just inevitable. Also that it is something to be worked upon and not waited for.

(Maybe we should) Stop calling it OPM

Homogenizing the music of all the artists in the country sends a message to the people that all OPM is the same, that OPM equals a formula. And since majority of the people associate OPM with what is being released by labels, this can adversely affect new artists who don’t fit into the established formula but are still clustered under the term OPM.

Start taking risks

What worked a couple of decades ago may not work for the present. Development must be maintained on the dynamism of the local music scene, and this development requires risk and creativity, otherwise, the music industry will stagnate and be overtaken in significance. In the context of globalization, the music industry must be dynamic and keep up with the innovation happening everywhere else.

As a final, personal note

There have been efforts to keep the music scene alive and dynamic. There’s Terno and Number Line Records, to name a few. But taking a look at the industry now, I think we’d all agree that it’s not enough. Although you may not agree with the views of this article, I hope I was able to convince you that there is something wrong with the current setting of our local music industry. I actually don’t like that this article is too long, given that I haven’t even started on problems regarding technology, people’s reception, media exposure, government support… I could go on all day.

But for now, recognize that OPM is treated and perceived differently by everyone, and it cannot be encompassed in just one broad, catch-all term. Also, the things we’ve been hearing on the mainstream hasn’t changed much in the past decade. We are being provided with tried-and-tested products, and we’re buying it. Lastly, that there are other- perhaps more important- problems that should be looked into, and it might be up to you to recognize it. The first step towards solving a problem is recognizing that there is one.

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2 comments

  1. great writing, rhea. absolutely what i’ve been thinking (and talking about with the group). the disparity between the term and the current evolution of the music terrain is just too wide at this point to resuscitate the whole “OPM” scene. i think that a lot (not all though) have this strong wanting to keep it alive is because of their love for the music they grew up with (which is not bad), but like in most relationships that have run their course, at one point, there is that point of letting go.

    yadiyadiya i can talk on and on pa. pero for another time haha

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