Rising Filipino musicians talk strategies

LOLA AMOUR, a Filipino pop rock band known for hits like “Fallen” and “Raining in Manila,” is one of many rising local musicians who attribute their success to online audiences and even virality.

Social media, now cited as more integral to the music industry than ever, especially since the pandemic, has become a vital part of artists’ careers.

“It was during the pandemic that we began releasing online content regularly. We went viral twice — when we were sharing the story behind our song “Pwede Ba,” and when our song “Fallen,” released in 2021, went viral a year later, after someone posted a video of us performing it,” Pio Dumayas, vocalist of Lola Amour, said at a music event hosted by TikTok on Feb. 28.

Though the eight-piece band doesn’t tailor their music specifically for online audience’s tastes, they have learned to “strategize on how to present it,” he added.

As a short-form mobile video platform, TikTok recently launched the “TikTok Rising” campaign in the Philippines (after it was launched in other countries last year) just for musicians with a social media-savvy approach.

The campaign includes a #BehindTheSong hashtag, which hosts content from songwriters and music makers who want to share how they created their tracks, and the Music Tab that curates artists’ catalogs so that fans can easily explore the rest of their discography.

For indie pop artist TONEEJAY (full name TJ de Ocampo), known for hits like “711,” building a career on social media can be a double-edged sword.

“On one hand, you have a community of people, but there’s an aspect of wanting to be honest with what you’re going through, regardless of what others think,” he said. “It’s really tricky, but I think it’s not mutually exclusive.”

Mr. De Ocampo also described platforms like TikTok as having the role of “democratizing the music industry.”

“We don’t have a lot of resources to promote music because we’re not a corporate machine, but being online has helped us reach a target audience, a target market that is younger,” he added. “If you’re honest about who you are, all the other people who think like you will find you.”

Even the newest musician at the event’s roster of headliners, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Maki, knew that building confidence as a musician couldn’t come completely from online platforms.

“I remember when I released my first song, “Saan” from my Tanong EP, I didn’t expect it to be a big milestone … There was so much content and I always watched whenever a TikTok user would use the song,” he told BusinessWorld.

However, he first started off as an “overthinker” who would obsess over likes. “Now, I believe in my craft and share whatever personal fun stuff I want to share on Twitter. I also keep some things to myself,” Maki said.

Denise Julia, a Filipino R&B pop artist known for viral songs like “NVMD” and “B.A.D.,” recalled how she got branded “the patron saint of situationships,” referring to relationships with no labels, by talking about experiences with love.

“I feel like that’s really my way of connecting with fans,” she said at the event. “But honestly, I was scared because everything happened so fast. I was nervous because I wasn’t planning to go viral, so I was like, what am I going to do now that people know me?”

Ms. Julia found that, as a woman, a lot more words go around about her as an artist and as a person. “I cope with it by being with friends. With them I’m not my alter ego; I’m actually really sweet. With people who know me, I can let my guard down, let go of my persona, and detach from work as a public figure.”

After the four musicians discussed their approaches to making and promoting music, they discussed future projects as well.

Lola Amour will be releasing a song titled “Namimiss Ko Na” around mid-March while TONEEJAY revealed that he is in the middle of recording new music. Maki said that he hopes to one day collaborate with Denise Julia, who in turn is working on a new song called “Bet.”

Mr. Dumayas of Lola Amour told BusinessWorld before performing a set that night that what they all had in common was their “passion and authenticity.” “We make music the way we want, and we try to communicate it well,” he said.    Brontë H. Lacsamana