BYWILLIAM ALZONA and ISAGANI DE LA PAZ
MANILA—BOXER Manny Pacquiao’s endorsement of a portable music-video microphone shows the Filipinos’ penchant for singing and reflects the market is deep and wide.
But Butch Albarracin remains unimpressed. He says revenues from the domestic market are proving to be unreliable for his entertainment-focused business.
Albarracin, founder of the Center for Pop Music Philippines Inc., is setting his sights on eight million overseas Filipino workers who, despite temporarily or permanently living or working abroad, shares one dream: becoming the next big pop superstar.
Began in 1984, Center for Pop emerged as the country’s top music training school, aiming to develop a curriculum to incubate the next superstars in the entertainment industry. It has outlived other music training schools set up by other top musicians and composers in the country, after the Center, Alabarracin said, took the marketing part of the business seriously.
We balanced our focus on the music and selling the Center’s services, he added.
That strategy paid well for Albarracin, who was recognized last month by a local marketing group for his success in medium-scale entrepreneurship.
Today, the music school has 21 branches and extension classes in about 20 schools in Metro Manila.
But instead of moving towards the provinces, Albarracin said he’s more inclined to expand outside the country.
While he said he has received an offer from an investor in Daly City, California, Albarracin said he’s setting the stage for entry in Hong Kong.
“If we can go there and teach them how to sing, they can contribute to the growth of the [Filipino] community [there]. They can have a skill, and they won’t be shameful [of their jobs],” he added.
IT is also in Hong Kong that publicly-listed Filipino firm Intellectual Property Ventures Group (Ipvg) Corp. found not only the next singing sensation but a unique market for its prepaid calling card.Launched in July in Hong Kong, Ipvg partnered with HK-based IDT Corp. subsidiary IDT Telecom Inc. to search for a “Philippine Idol” version among an estimated 200,000 Filipinos in the former British colony.
The contest requires contestants to record their Filipino or English song entries—acapella, or with music accompaniment in the background—while using a pre-paid calling card sold by IDT Asia.Just recently, Ipvg announced from Manila the winner as Elvira Manacmul, 31, of Dinalupihan, Bataan, who bested four other finalists: 17-year-old Elija Clave of Malasqui, Pangasinan; Irene Aquino, 33, of Cagayan Valley; and, Julie Ann Jereza, 25, of San Narciso, Zambales. All were living in HK when they joined the contest.
“They outperformed over 800 other participants who phoned in… to record their songs for the contest,” IDT said.
The recorded songs were played weekly in the Philippines Tonight Show on Metro Plus AM 1044 radio which also encouraged listeners to vote for their pick.
The firm said over-400,000 votes were cast by listeners in the five month period that ended in the Grand Finals January 28, 2007.
The Ipvg statement said some 12,000 OFWs braved the chilly weather to view the creative side of the Filipino.Manacmul was selected during the live radio broadcast performance at Chatter Road in Central Hong Kong where a panel of judges pushed up her share of the estimated hundred thousand votes that poured for the contestants.Manacmul, a mother of two girls aged five- and seven-years old, would receive a recording contract with VIVA, a round-trip HK-Manila ticket, mobile phone, passes for two to Disneyland-HK, pre-paid call cards worth HK$500, and a “Magic Sing,” the portable music-video player-microphone endorsed by Pacquiao.
While Ipvg’s partnership with IDT Asia appears to be working, it is not envied by Albarracin.
“I am through with partnership. You end up fighting each other and one will go away with the money. That guy who will run away are usually those who are only after [the] money. Me, I cannot run because I’m a musician,” he said.
License to sing
ALBARRACIN, a voice coach, said to expand abroad, he must hurdle first the issue of whose license they will use: the singers’ or theirs.
Either way, he said, it could be a cause of headache.Using the singers’ license abroad could be risky since it meant partnering with other parties, while having our own license to operate in other countries meant tons of documentary requirements, Albarracin explained.
Still, he’s open to other arrangements.“There are so many arrangement that we can do. One is either I go there as a businessman, or I go there as a speaker,” Albarracin said, citing it’s easier to go the latter path.
“But I’m eyeing …a lasting relationship,” he added.
Albarracin’s plans and Ipvg’s tack come at a time when the Philippine music industry’s top revenue earners are few while others are still either catching the next flight to stardom or to other countries as solo or band entertainers.
But whether or not the plans of Albarracin and Ipvg –the firm is eyeing other countries– push through, they admit the OFW remains a good market.
“These are new markets. Sometimes people here (in the Philippines) have money, sometimes they have [none]. So we should have reserve sources of income,” Albarracin said pointing to OFWs.
Ipvg spokesperson Eric Paragas was quoted in a newspaper report as saying the success of the singing tilt has led the firm to consider “holding the contest again in Hong Kong and/or other countries.”
Indeed, both Albarracin and firms like Ipvg are singing the same tune: the country’s talents—and revenue sources—can be found outside its borders.
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