Musician finds new ways to reach fans
No longer moored to traditional music labels, a new generation of artists and producers find freedom
In the good old days , say around 1990, aspiring musicians made it big by finding an agent and signing a deal with a record company. Today, with the internet opening the door to an era of “free music”, artists are developing a more handson relationship with their fans and using social media to promote their work.
But for British- Chinese electronic music artist and music producer Andy Leung, Facebook, Twitter and WeChat are old tech. He has come up with his own solution, which he hopes to share with other aspiring musicians in China and Britain.
The 30-year-old got his big break in 2010, when one of his electronic compositions was used in the London 2012 Olympics and Cultural Olympiad. It was performed in Trafalgar Square at the Southbank Centre and featured on Radio 3 — the BBC’s serious music channel. It was also featured on BBC television.
As his career progressed, Leung found conventional social media was not adequate for connecting with fans and other artists. So he decided to take some time to learn programming and coding.
“I wanted something better to connect me and my music to my fans, so I developed an app on my phone,” he said. The app allows him to text his fans directly and they can receive his latest downloads and updates.
“I will release a free song on the last Friday of every month for the rest of my career,” Leung said. “I call this my lifetime project.”
Already a producer, musician, DJ and event organizer,
Leung now wants to focus on building his Beat Nations company, which he founded in 2013, into a credible label to promote artists’ work.
“I think my love for music came when I was younger and my parents made my sister and me learn to play the piano,” said Leung, who was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Milton Keynes after moving to the UK at age. “While my sister stopped playing at Grade 8, I carried on and even joined a band at school.”
His father, an electrical engineer, and his mother, a podiatrist, have supported his musical career.
Leung studied music and sound recording at the University of Surrey and worked at a music technology company. In 2014, he teamed up with award-winning artist Wan Pinchu from Hong Kong to compose a new work, a reimagining of the traditional Chinese violin with Leung’s electronic backing. That led to a second collaboration in 2016 and an album.
“At first, I just wanted to be a sound engineer and be behind the scenes, but then I got into production,” said Leung. “When I heard music by Quincy Jones, DJ Shadow and Dr Dre, I was asking myself, ‘How do they put this music together?’ I wanted to find out and imitate what they were doing.
“Because of changes in technology, we are in a generation where everyone can make music on their computer and smartphone. To stand out from the crowd, consistency is as important as artistic quality now.”
Tullis Rennie, a music lecturer at London’s City University, said the old-style “record label” is already out of date and Leung’s approach is a step forward in the digital age. Now that artists no longer rely on record labels, the field is open for innovative ideas.
Andy Leung performs on stage in Trafalgar Square on Feb 14.