This has been the trending topic over the weekend and whilst this has been discussed before, I finally feel compelled to write down my own take on things.
First of all, let’s define “O.P.M.” It can mean “Original Philippine Music” or “Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-Aawit.” The former is a description of music and the latter is the group headed by Mr. Ogie Alcasid. Let’s take care not to confuse the two.
That said, along with co-Board members Messrs. Ding Dong Avanzado, Noel Cabangon, and their colleagues, Mr. Alcasid has also taken up the cudgels of working to champion, promote and protect Original Philippine Music. (For that, we should all be supportive and thankful.)
So, let’s discuss the matter of the moment. Let’s answer the question, “Is OPM dead?” If we mean this to be the definition of the acronym, then let me just say a few things:
People are making a fuss and statements are made that the Artists that they see on television or hear on the radio are not singing Original Philippine Music. They sing covers of foreign Artists. That is true. We do see this happen weekly on musical variety shows on the major networks. But they do not do this all the time so let’s be careful not to criticize them. I know that they sing OPM in their concerts and their other activities that they do outside of mainstream media.
That said, these Artists that we see on television are NOT the entire music industry nor are they the only ones who solely define Philippine music. They are a percentage of it, yes, and maybe are the most popular. We all know they do exist alongside many other Artists. Many of them still also produce original material. Just take Ogie Alcasid and Gary Valenciano as the best examples of this. They have songwriting awards under their belt that no one can ever question.
Furthermore, there are numerous Artists supported by mainstream media that create and perform their own music like Gloc-9 and acts like Parokya ni Edgar, Pupil, Noel Cabangon, Sandwich, Kamikazee, Yeng Constantino, Callalily, Ebe Dancel, Jay Durias, 6cyclemind, and many more.
If we just look at these names and see how exposed and active they are, then clearly we can say Original Philippine Music is not dead.
Plus, count in the mix the other acts that continue to attract audiences and listeners who are not always seen on TV and radio: Wolfgang, Rivermaya, Joey Ayala, Cynthia Alexander (when she was still here), Grace Nono, The Dawn, The Youth, Hilera, True Faith, Sinosikat?, Up Dharma Down, Tarsius, Pedicab, Imago, Urbandub, Cattski Espina from Cebu, Maan Chua from Davao, and so much more.
How can the music be dead? It will never die. For as long as Filipinos create music and it is heard by others then it will live on. Who said that the health of OPM had to be determined only by what radio played or TV showed? Don’t concerts count? The fact that places like Conspiracy, 70’s Bistro, Route 196, Stone House, Saguijo, 19 East, Outpost in Cebu, MTS in Davao, Kaffeeklasch in Baguio, among countless others, continue to have shows presenting local Artists who sing their own songs, then we can safely say OPM is alive and well and will be for a long time.
However, I do know what is dying is the way the music industry used to behave. The centers of power are no longer concentrated on a few entities. The internet has democratized the way people create, share, and access music so for as long as Filipinos anywhere in the world are creating their own music, OPM will thrive. Just look at the success of AJ Rafael, for one. He is an internet sensation, is Filipino, and sings all of his own material. Oh, he was put forth in the Grammy nominations list and was a Finalist for the Billboard Awards, too. Is OPM dead? Not when we have Artists like him reaching audiences all over.
In fact, if you count the internet as mainstream media now, it is actually filled with so much more OPM than regular TV or radio. It doesn’t have space or time limitations and its reach goes beyond what a transmitter can do.
Maybe what people are really reacting to is the fact that mainstream media doesn’t play as much OPM as we would all like. I know for a fact that Ogie Alcasid has had to lobby in Congress to enforce Executive Order 255 that requires all radio stations to play four OPM songs every hour. I cannot accurately say if this is being followed but based on this furor then I would venture to say it isn’t so.
If we really want the state of OPM to be better, then there are two things that I see need to change.
First, that the people who make decisions on content in radio and TV should recognize that the market – that’s us! - is willing and ready to hear more of what our fellow Filipinos have to offer. There is nothing wrong with supporting foreign music but let’s support our own first. They should allocate more time to playing OPM and also work their shows to present more Philippine content.
Second, we the fans should also take this responsibility upon ourselves. We cannot go on talking and talking about the state of OPM but think twice or thrice about legitimately buying a local Artist’s album or a ticket to their concert. Bring in all the foreign acts to perform here – that’s good for tourism – but let’s do our bit to also support our local Artists, their craft, and the entities that spend their resources to make things happen for them.
The record labels do not have the same spending power and resources to invest in new and developing Artists anymore because they don’t earn as much from CD sales. How can they take risks when they don’t have as much revenue? They may be in a state of flux but they still have the power to get music played on TV and radio. So, if we want more original content on that media, we should support what they do. Think twice then about whether or not you will just rip a CD or download illegally through a torrent.
The reason why K-Pop is a global success is that Koreans support Koreans. In J-Pop, the Japanese support the Japanese. In CantoPop, the Chinese support the Chinese. So, let me ask. can we Filipinos support our own Artists 100% all the time? I say we can and I say we should. I also say this, not just for the passive listener, but to every practitioner who has influence and the ability to make decisions as to what kind of music gets played on the biggest channels and stations, what’s written in the newspapers, and what concerts get produced and the repertoire that is performed.
I know for a fact that OPM is not dead because I work for a little entity called Radio Republic whose vision is to live stream OPM 24/7. In our four months of operation, we have had almost 100 Artists come to the studio to play their own songs. We don’t take foreign covers here. The influx of new Artists from all genres whom we present like LDP, Jonan Aguilar, Bullet Dumas, Curbside, Miscellaneous, Tricia Garcia, Flippin’ Soul Stompers, Feen, and Noodle and all the established, more visible ones like Rey Valera, Jay-R, Freestyle, Ryan Cayabyab, Kitchie Nadal, Barbie Almalbis, etc. is the sign that the talent is present and active. The thousands of people who watch our small site are the living proof that OPM is also being welcomed and appreciated. We even have Norweigians, Americans, and Japanese who enjoy Original Philippine Music.
OPM is not dying. It is not merely surviving. It is thriving. What should come alive more than ever is the support all around for everyone who is part of the music from the Artist to the listener. We can take it. We want it. Bring it on.