Because local airwaves and television stations are mostly dominated by artists from the same labels – EEG, Warner Music, Universal Music, Media Asia and so on – newcomers to indie may find it difficult to get an entry point into the music via traditional channels. Luckily, the internet has provided a platform for artists to share their work without having to attach themselves to a mainstream label, meaning it’s become easier than ever for listeners to come across great underground music online. Below are some of our favourite streaming platforms, evaluated:
Wins for: Variety – it is a treasure trove of demo recordings, live performances, music videos and even entire albums.
Downsides: If you’re listening on your phone, it takes up way too much data, and it’s difficult to get the music/video to play in the background.
Our favourites: Check out emo/math rock band Emptybottles. live in action during their 2015 Taiwan tour:
Wins for: Easy streaming across electronic devices; personalised playlists tailored to listeners’ tastes.
Downsides: Limited local artists available.
Our favourites: Here’s a playlist we’ve compiled of our favourite Hong Kong indie bands available on Spotify. (Let us know what else you think should be on here!)
Wins for: Often the first platform local artists upload their music to before it’s made available on anywhere else, so it’s a great place to stay up-to-date on new releases by your favourite bands.
Downsides: The mobile app is not available in Hong Kong, but the website does play in the background on the phone browser.
Our favourites: Chan is Swimming’s fantastic demo album is available in full on Soundcloud, give it a listen here:
Wins for: Ease of finding and buying full albums to add to your own music collection. Since platforms like Spotify or YouTube pay artists close to nothing, Bandcamp is the place to head to if you wish to purchase music to support your favourite artists.
Downsides: Its mobile interface isn’t the most user-friendly – although its app is available in Hong Kong, which fixes some of those problems.
Our favourites: Check out this album by Teenage Riot, a local “supergroup” that came together over a mutual love of – you guessed it – Sonic Youth.
Wins for: Selection of both mainstream and the more popular indie artists, such as Yukilovey, Lee Subyub 李拾壹, GDJYB, etc.
Downsides: Monthly subscription fee required for services (standard plan HK$48/month).
IndieCast.fm is a streaming app akin to a local/indie version of Spotify; apart from music, it also provides information such as upcoming shows at Hidden Agenda or TC2 Cafe.
Wins for: Wide selection of local artists, from Prune Deer to An Id Signal; easy streaming on phone.
Downsides: Limited number of songs available for streaming per artist; not available on platforms outside of phones and iPads.
Internet aside, there’s nothing quite like the experience of taking these albums home yourself and blasting them on the stereo system to drown out the sounds of your family bickering or the droning tones of TVB news. If you want your favourite artists to keep making music, support them by heading to their next show and picking up a copy of their CD or vinyl. (Alternatively, White Noise Records and Zoo Records are also safe bets.) Happy listening!
Did we miss anything? Feel free to share your favourite streaming platforms with us in the comments.