No cost seems too high for singers making albums though the returns are uncertain.
No cost seems too high for singers making albums though the returns are uncertain.

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More singers seem to be willing these days to spend money and effort to make albums, a complicated and demanding process.

It may take more than two years to complete one because the singer does not have enough songs or the arranger dawdles.

Or it could be the mixer’s fault meaning the singer will have to start all over again.

But all this does not deter singers from spending a small fortune on albums.

Little-known singer Ly Hai put on a live show last year merely to add some portions to his DVD Tron doi ben em (By your side all my life.)

Including the show the album cost almost VND1 billion (US$ 60,300).

Thuy Tien, nicknamed “The Snow Princess,” whose album last year, Giac mo tuyet trang (The Dream of White Snow), was a hit among teens, had sold her house to raise money.

“An album of average quality can cost dozens of millions of dong,” the teenage icon said.

“But the more money one spends, the more professional it is likely to be,” she added.

Several singers also choose to have music composed exclusively for them since the songs will then suit their voices and add originality.

A budding composer demands around VND3-5 million for a song and an established one much more.

Phuong Uyen, a member and composer of the popular Ba Con Meo (Three Cats) girl band, for example, charges $800.

The cost notwithstanding, competent musicians are a limited breed in Vietnam, meaning a wait of months, even years, to get songs rearranged.

But many opt for a more economical way: They gradually record their favorite songs one by one before collecting them into an album.

Famous composer Quoc Bao recently compiled his existing songs into an album called “My Guitar and Friends.”

Foreign influence

The quality of albums is becoming more varied with more singers having their albums made abroad.

My Tam, the first Vietnamese singer to be sponsored by a foreign enterprise, recorded her album Vut bay (Soaring) with the Republic of Korea’s Narimaru Pictures Co. last year.

She went on to record her next album, Tro ve (Return), in South Korea earlier this year where she worked with leading musicians and producers.

Pop singer Tran Thu Ha took arranger Thanh Phuong to the US where they worked on her latest albums, Doi thoai ‘06 (Dialogues ‘06) and Tran Tien (the name of Ha’s celebrated composer-uncle).

According to many in the industry, Tam’s and Ha’s albums are technically superior to those made at home.

Ha’s Doi thoai ‘06 won the 2007 Cong hien(Contribution) award.

Foreign musicians living and working in Vietnam also help enhance the quality of local albums.

After cooperating with several local singers, French arranger Laurent Jaccoux recently worked with singer-MC Nguyet Anh on her latest album “Saigon Lounge,” Vietnam’s first on lounge music.

But despite their huge costs and superior sound quality, such albums do not fare well since foreigners’ arrangements are sometimes difficult for local audiences to appreciate.

Until a few years ago it was common for renowned singers like Thanh Lam and My Linh to sell up to 100,000 copies.

But that golden era is gone as piracy and online music take their toll.

Today an album must sell at least 5,000 copies to recoup costs. Heavily invested albums need to sell twice that number.

Favorite singers like My Tam, Ho Ngoc Ha, Dam Vinh Hung and Quang Dung are among those whose albums achieve the highest sales.

Dung’s album Khi (When) sells more than30,000 copies a year.

Albums of upcoming singers like Tung Duong, Le Hieu and Khanh Linh and well-known composers like Do Bao and Quoc Bao also have steady sales — of 5,000-10,000 copies a year.

But not all singers do well.

Most novice singers and those who have been in the industry for long without gaining recognition usually lose on their albums.

Sales are limited to 3,000 copies or even less.

Barely profitable, why still do it?

Whether or not they are stars, the profits singers make from releasing albums stand no comparison with earnings from shows and it takes a few years at least to recoup the investment.

Many even suffer heavy losses.

Nevertheless singers continue to make albums for a number of reasons.

For novices, debut albums open the door to the industry and help them forge a career as a singer.

They will present their first albums to the press, show managers, cabaret owners and producers to publicize their names and showcase their voices.

Earnings from these song collections are usually little more than zero.

Most established singers make a point of releasing albums as it is an effective way to retain a high profile.

Then there is the media coverage of their new albums and the fact they now have more new songs for their shows.

It’s thus a cycle: Singers use their earnings from shows to invest in their albums, which in their turn helps cement their reputation in the performing industry.

Many singers also consider their albums musical experiments or attempts to expand or change their hardcore audiences.

Source: Thanh Nien News

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