'Gearing up for the new-normal'

Updated: May 27, 2020

EVAN MURRAY talked to PIYAPONG (Py) MUENPRASERTDEE, Director of Fungjai, Bangkok and Co-Founder of Bangkok Music City, Thailand's first international music conference and showcase festival established in 2019.

Piyapong holds a MS in Industrial Engineering and a MBA, and was a specialist in the field of sustainability and climate change in his past professional life. However, his true passion was always in music - especially DIY and indie music - and is passionate about sustainable development in the music industry.

Currently, he is the Co-founder and Director of Partnerships of Fungjai - a music-technology startup based in Bangkok Thailand that connects artists and fans via online and offline platforms: including a music streaming platform; an online magazine; a concert organizing unit; a music business seminar and workshop unit; an online musician booking platform; and a music marketing division. His roles and responsibilities mainly relate to government and international business partnerships.

Apart from being well connected in the Thai independent music scene, he is also connected with music communities and professionals all over the world. His personal goal is to help develop relationships and collaborations within the region to strengthen the competitiveness of regional music on the world stage.


Hope all is well, and everyone around you is healthy. Could you tell us what the status of Bangkok Music City and Fungjai is at this time?  Give us an insight of how things have been shaping up for the festival?  

Fungjai my company, has been hit pretty hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.  As our main source of income is from events and related activities, all of our planned events were postponed or cancelled.  Secondly, as the pandemic also negatively affected the economy, our sponsors and clients have limited or stopped their spending on marketing.  We figured that if we can't do normal business for another while, instead of waiting for things to pick up, we quickly started working on new projects that are geared towards the online market to find new sources of revenue.

The new projects are: A TV show-style program on YouTube called Fungjai Channel; An online education platform called Fungjai Academy; A fashion and merch online shop called What I Wear; An online music festival series broadcasting straight from artists' homes called At Home Festival.

We even tried food delivery through our bar/restaurant that we co-own, but unfortunately that just ran out of business.

For Bangkok Music City 2020 in November, we are designing it to be a virtual conference and showcase festival to cope with the uncertainty posed by COVID-19.  But if there really is a chance to organize an offline event, we would do it parallelly with the virtual one.


What are some of the biggest challenges the festival is facing right now?


Short and blunt answer, MONEY!  (Which is not quite an original nor unique answer)  It falls back to the COVID-19 situation that has affected the economy in both the public and private sectors.  The government is spending most of its funds trying to save essential industries while private companies are cutting costs to stay afloat. Additionally, as the first edition of Bangkok Music City was just last year, it doesn't have the track record yet, to attract sponsors.  Also, as it is seen as a platform for education and supporting new artists, it's not commercially attractive to brands who are more inclined to the massive mainstream audience. 

Are there any plans in place now, to minimalise damage, incase the scenario repeats? 

We are a small company with very young staff - our average employee age is about 27 years-old.  We were initially a startup, hence we still maintain the mindset that we must always be ready for change.

Our current strategy is to explore more into the world of virtual events and e-commerce, which is a mega- trend across the world today.

How do you envisage the music industry to change, with the impact this virus has had? 

My opinion is that consumer behaviors change with the accessibility of the technology, that is available on both the supply and demand sides. It's pure creativity and ingenuity that will birth new innovative solutions and drive the future.  When real-world concerts or festivals can't be organized, virtual ones are the immediate answer; because if there is one thing that doesn't change, it's the need for live music, and the experiences and emotions that comes with it.


As music trends roll, do you have any predictions for the future? From your point of view, where is the live music industry headed? 

The singular thing that drives any industry forward is money; however, music and arts have another driver - passion. True artists can't stop creating, and they will always find new ways to let out their creativity and connect with their audience, e.g. virtual concerts via different online channels. In the near future, I predict that businesses and corporations will try to rebound from the COVID-19 situation and find ways to make money in a proposed 'New Normal' world.

I assume that the big music companies will try to exploit the new methods and mediums of selling live music solutions they see in the smaller artists and music labels.  Due to the rapid developments in media technologies, one of the mega trends is the growth of niche markets where it's hard for big companies to compete due to their need to create economy-of-scale.  To stay ahead, small and independent artists and labels must constantly find new ways to connect with their audience before the big music corporations catch up.

So, where is the live music industry headed?  I guess it will keep on evolving with the technologies available and the global situation at that particular moment, e.g. another pandemic would prevent physical events, so people would go online, etc.  But most importantly, I think the live music industry will be headed to wherever the artists will be taking their fans.  Live music is not about being "physical", rather is the connection between the artist and the fan, wherever that place may be.  

Any comments or open thoughts? 

Music is important to our wellbeing, but is under-valued due to its intangibility; however,  music creators are tangible human beings who are also suffering in these hard times.  Please support the artists who make music you love as best as you can, so they can keep making more for you till the pandemic ends :)

EVAN MURRAY is Event Co-ordinator at Live at Heart, Newfoundland, Export Development Officer at Vision 360 (Canada) and Canadian Coordinator at Live at Heart, Sweden. He is also International Music Consultant at Wonderwall Media, India.