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2017 remained one of the darkest years for music review-lovers in Indonesia, since Rolling Stone Indonesia and Hai magazine stopped printing. The permanent ending for those magazines prolonged the list of the bankruptcy of mainstream music media, following Aktuil (1986) and Trax Magazine (2016)

However, the murky situation encouraged the local writers and journalists to utilize digital technology to keep the alternative music media alive.

Music is surely more than something to hear. By writing music articles in various media platforms, journalists and writers could reflect on the development of the music ecosystem. A study titled “National Music Industry Development Plan 2015-2019” by Dina Dellyana, Fikri Hardiansyah, Adib Hidayat, and Widhi Asmoro, showed that both mainstream or alternative music media had played a role in raising public appreciation on music.

Most of the time, alternative music media tends to have more independence compared to mainstream media. This has brought sufficient coverage for local musicians.

Alternative media – mainly initiated by musicians, journalists, or local writers – also has a unique role. It can blend music associations, music communities, and local musicians in one platform. The expressions and ideas from local musicians, which are difficult to be facilitated by mainstream media, got proper coverage in alternative music media. Its existence enriched Indonesia’s music ecosystem landscape. 

However, sustaining a local music media is not as simple as playing a guitar. In the middle of their financial problem, local music media initiators: Achmad Nirwan (Prolog Studio, Makassar city), and I Made Adnyana (mybalimusic.com, Bali) shared the struggle in managing alternative media. This session was carried out in Temu Tamu Anggota Koalisi Seni, an internal forum for members of The Indonesian Arts Coalition (Koalisi Seni), on Tuesday, 17 October 2020.

Since 2011, Nirwan has observed the development of the entertainment section in various mainstream printed-media. He was aware that the media coverage had boosted the career of Makassar’s musicians. Nevertheless, for him, music still got too little coverage because it had to compete with other kinds of arts and other topics, such as tourism.

“Local music media such as zine is needed to shed light on independent musicians, as mainstream media usually only covers popular musicians,” said Nirwan.

Similar to Nirwan, I Made Adnyana as a senior journalist in Bali said that mainstream media attention on local musicians was minimal. According to him, as mainstream media depends on advertisement as their source of revenue, they are inclined to give more coverage on the current issues of economy or politics. As a result, they only pay little attention to music or arts topics since those are less profitable. 

After resigning from Bali Post and Denpasar Post, Adnyana finally founded an alternative media named Majalah Intro, which has changed its name into Bali Music Magazine.

Unfortunately, his self-funded media faced financial problems. He decided to convert his media into a digital platform, named mybalimusic.com

“We can have our idealism. But in order to survive, we have to compromise in the middle of a major shift in the media ecosystem. I don’t do it just for profits, but for music since it is my passion. Also, in online media, we have more flexibility than printed versions – which have more strict deadlines,” he said.

Digital platform as an alternative for local music media was also utilized by Nirwan and his colleagues in Prolog Studio, a creative space in Makassar. This space has published a zine titled ‘Vonis’ which selected 20 best songs from Makasssar between 2008-2012, a magazine called ‘Opium’ that covered music and pop culture topics, as well as music reviews “Revius”.

Nirwan said they switch publishing methods from printed into online versions. “We learned to dig into various interesting topics. Even though we faced financial problems, the dynamics of technology allowed our passion to survive,” said Nirwan.

The event, which was attended by twelve members of Koalisi Seni, was interactive. It also uncovers members’ experiences in managing alternative media in their own region. 

Djae, one of the participants from Bandung, has asked for advice because he wants to turn his music magazines, Dot Beg World Jazz, into digital format. “Is there any advice on how to make this digital platform sustainable?” he asked.

In response to the question, Adnyana said that alternative music media could grow sustainably as long as the people behind them remain open-minded, have a willingness to keep learning, and stay persistent in establishing connections with music activists in other areas to broaden their views and knowledge on music.

Nirwan also added, based on his experience in managing alternative music media ‘Siaran Pemancar’ in 2017, the passion in establishing alternative media has opened opportunities to explore on various platforms: not just websites, but also YouTube and podcasts. 

By utilizing various digital technologies, Nirwan and Made Adnyana see a bright future for alternative music media to survive, covering the voices of local musicians amidst mainstream media hegemony. (Dian Putri, translated by Moyang Kasih)

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