Looking Into The Minds of Those Who Brought You the Manila Music Festival

13 May

On the first of May 2012, the first occurrence of what could be a long-living tradition struck Manila with a show of wondrous music and dazzling lights. Two steel arenas were raised on the shore of Manila Bay, with another between them, televising the passionate performances of various artists. Large crowds have gathered before them, albeit not being an overwhelming amount of people. After all, it was only the first of its kind; its popularity had now grown as much yet. Around the beach were several booths set up to sell drinks, including those of the alcoholic kind, and various kinds of food. It was a beautiful gathering, but one thing that caught my eye is that this, my first music festival, was able gather people of a range of background in one single area to share their love for music and to be part of something that can truly make an impact on the music scene of the Philippines, which is the Manila Music Festival.

I was able to break down how the organizers were able to gather these people into three simple ideas: The Setup, The Music, and The Target Audience.

The Setup

Given the two stages placed on opposite sides of the festival grounds (both facing away from the shore), the music festival was able to utilize this to apply a certain theme to the acts of each stage. One stage would cater to the live bands, whose genre was mostly rock, while the other stage had only DJs playing. It was a very interesting set up because it gives a choice for the people to choose what they want to watch. However, I felt that more focus was given to the former stage as that was the bigger of the two, and had the more known artists. At one point, there was even an act for a DJ on that stage, despite already having the other stage solely dedicated to DJs.

Nevertheless, the use of two stages is a very efficient way to be able to cover a larger scope of genres. It allows having around twice as much more artists throughout the whole festival and gives the chance to the audience to expose themselves to music beyond their own personal tastes. I believe that it works for both parties as well, since it is able to provide the audience with more music, while at the same time, opening opportunities for more bands to gain exposure. Both point to the goal of creating a prominent music scene in the Philippines through supporting every person involved.

Additionally, the organizers included a few random features into the program such as allowing the audience to bring water guns to use throughout the festival and providing a free tie-dye station. My take on this is that they wanted to give an additional boost to the appeal of the music festival. Not only was it a venue for great music, but it was also a venue for great fun.

The Music

The scope of genres covered by the festivals ranged from Rock, to a mix of Jazz and Hip-hop, to House and Dance music and even some Dubstep. In terms of the choice of artists, the live bands were a mix of unknown indie bands and old bands, both of Filipino descent. The choice of  DJ’s on the other hand, was more diverse as it had more foreign DJ’s than local ones. Some of them, such as Afrika Bambaataa and DJ Katsunami, are relatively well-known international DJs.

In general, the music was fantastic as each artist was able to grab the attention of the crowd really well. In line with the goal mentioned above, this range of artists and genres was able to cater to the wants of a large range of people and through the mix, was also able to expose these people to more genres. Despite having a clear focus on the Hip Hop genre as being the main acts of the festival, it was able to cater to the other tastes of the audience with bands such as Sinosikat, Kjwan, Razorback, and several other Filipino live bands.

In line with this, a personal testament to this is how I was able to discover a wonderful artist, June Marieezy. She’s a Filipina born in Dallas, Texas, where she began her music career. In 2008, she decided to go to the Philippines, where she fell in love with the country and began assimilating herself into the music scene there. She’s not entirely famous yet, but her music is wonderful and it was through the Manila Music Festival that I found her angelic voice and fell in love with it.

The People

With all these preparations for the festival, one would wonder what the target market of such an ambitious project is. Throughout my stay in the festival, I had noticed a common trait amongst most of the people: they are of the middle-class. People would be walking around with either new point and shoot cameras, or bulky, powerful digital SLRs. Aside from that, one can say the same due to the clothes they wore. Despite the rainbow-like variety of colours seen on people, it is clear that the clothes worn were either from a well-known brand or an indie-brand. Also, the beer, despite being a hundred pesos,  was a very, very common sight (in my hand, joke!).

I believe that one of the biggest factors of this result was due to the price of the ticket to the music festival. Priced at P1000, not everybody would be willing to shell out that much cash for luxury. Those who can afford it are most probably from a well-off background or have jobs that can provide them with enough to purchase the ticket without hurting their income too much. However, in comparison to the other recent big concerts in the Philippines, this is very cheap as the festival lasted from 3:00PM until about 2:00AM – 3:00AM

Additionally, looking at the finer details of the bigger picture will yield an interesting set of profiles of the various types of people in the audience. There were the normally-dressed, Filipinos. There were the radically-clothed “hipsters” who strut around in either colourful or wild-styled clothes. There were some dancers as well, including some members of the Philippine All Stars. I had also found a group of Atenean students that I knew.  Throw in some foreigners to the mix as well and you’ve got a nice ecosystem of various stereotypes.

Also, in some sense, it was also able to show this music scene to some of the people of the lower social classes as there were several of them working behind the drink bars and food stalls. The organizers even included a fish ball vendor, a dirty ice cream vendor, and a cotton candy vendor. So, in some arbitrary aspect, this adds another group of people that the festival was able to cater to.

This is a very interesting aspect to take note of because looking at the various backgrounds of the members of the audience, we can somehow have a glance of the thought processes of the organizers as they tried to imagine their target market. For one, their target towards those familiar with the indie music scene prompted them to look for international artists while trying to discover some of the less-know, but equally great artists as well. Also, given the general trend of middle-class people, they are able to access a wider scope of the world music scene as compared to those of lower classes, thus they may be more knowledgeable of various artists. This idea probably served as one of the larger factors they probably took into consideration when creating the list of artists that would be playing. In the end, it did turn out well and I can personally say that almost every person in the festival enjoyed the wonderful sounds.

Looking at all the three factors together, each of them work hand-in-hand to create a very strong and stable system that would cater to the people the organizers were targeting, while at the same time, accomplishing the goal of creating a place for where the Philippine music scene may grow. Even if  there were not enough people to really fill up the festival grounds, the Manila Music Festival was still in its first year and in my eyes, it was still a success because it was able to give out the message to the people that the music scene in the Philippines is something that has true potential to be great. And to think, all this would not have been possible if the organizers weren’t able to thoroughly plan out these factors in order to appeal to the possible audience as much as it can. Truly, it had begun something that may become a tradition in the future.


Michael Xavier Cheng Tobias


SA21 – J


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: