‘Massive decline’ of Papua New Guinea’s music industry, say key players


The Papua New Guinea music industry is doing it tough. Despite its huge role in PNG society, music producers and promoters say the industry has been in ‘massive decline’ for the last seven years. Without new laws and government support, they tell Business Advantage PNG, that decline will continue.

CHM's Braden Chin

CHM’s Braden Chin

The old business model that carried the music industry for the last 40 years no longer works, declares Braden Chin, the Head of the Music Division for CHM, PNG’s largest music production house.

‘Disruptive technology and file sharing and the lack of understanding of copyright law and its enforcement mean that all stakeholders—music labels, recording studios, artists, songwriters, composers and so on—are struggling,’ he tells Business Advantage PNG.

‘They have lost their main form of revenue stream, which is the sale of physical products (CDs and cassettes), and now are looking for alternative ways to survive and adapt to the new landscape that surrounds them.’

The potential for a thriving music industry is massive, according to Kim Taylor, music producer at Radio Australia, which broadcasts music from across the Pacific on the weekly, ‘Pacific Break’, hosted by PNG’s Namila Benson.

Taylor says the reasons why musicians and producers are doing it tough are ‘complex’.

A big issue is the lack of copyright law, but Taylor says essentially, it comes down to ‘the value placed on music by the community and politicians’.

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One solution, she says, would be to create an equivalent of  ‘New Zealand on Air’,  the NZ Government-funded broadcast funding agency. This funds songs and videos of up to NZ$10,000 (K21,000) and helps to promote them.


Radio Australia's KimTaylor

Radio Australia’s Kim Taylor

Copyright is a massive issue, agrees Allen Kedea, musician and Executive Producer of FuzzyWuzzy Vinyl, because ‘we don’t have a performing rights association to collect royalties on behalf of artists’.

Kedea is a selective, niche producer: ‘I don’t take what’s already flooding the local market; I take those who are really, really international sounding or music that’s very different to what the market already has.’

‘There’s a draft bill waiting to come before the National Executive Council, but it is still with the State Solicitor’s office at Waigani, and needs a Certificate of Necessity before Cabinet will consider it.’

He says legal advisers have suggested industry players petition the Minister for Commerce and Industry to move the legislation along. He also believes an economic study of the industry will demonstrate its current value and potential.

Home recordings

Vincent Rema, who has run Twinstar Music Studios since 2007, adds that many musicians recording their own material at home hasn’t helped.

‘Everybody can become a musician overnight, because of the software they can download and purchase from shops. Everyone owns a computer or a laptop.

‘Once they’ve recorded an album at home, they use very low quality music production so once the music has been recorded at a studio, you can tell the difference.’

One solution, she says, would be to create an equivalent of  ‘New Zealand on Air’,  the NZ Government-funded broadcast funding agency.

And so do radio stations, which are more likely to play professionally-recorded music, Rema says.

Live performances

Despite the need for quality recordings to get that vital promotion happening, Braden Chin says studios now make less money from recording fees than they used to, and artists now rely much more on regular performances as their main form of income.

‘We are now primarily focusing on different parts of the value chain—promotion and distribution of content.

‘There are plenty of recording studios out there but many of them have a huge need for assistance with promotion and distribution, which is where we feel we can add value.’

FuzzyWuzzy Vinyl's Allen Kedea

FuzzyWuzzy Vinyl’s Allen Kedea

Indeed, that’s how Vincent Rema’s Twinstar works. Once an artist is recorded, the music is passed on to CHM for promotion and distribution.


He says local promotion via radio is the key and all agree PNG radio stations are supportive.

Like any other country, that relationship is primary,’ says Kedea.

‘If you want to get stuff played to the wider audience, that rule hasn’t changed. I have good relationships with all the local and national radio stations.’

‘There’s a draft (copyright) bill waiting to to before the National Executive Council, but it is still with the State Solicitor’s office at Waigani, and needs a Certificate of Necessity before Cabinet will consider it.’

Kedea has pitched the concept of an interactive TV music show, which has local music content, videos, covering music events or if there’s a group coming from overseas to try and get rights to show what they do to EMTV.

He says EMTV is considering the concept.

And, with Digicel about to launch its own network, the potential for another local music promotional outlet is possible.


  1. @Neil – I agree in saying that there is a copyright law in operation since 1 July 2002. It is called Copyright and Neighboring Rights Act 2000′. However, I disagree in saying that there is no legal requirement to deposit under the Act as copyright is automatic. Unless you might be referring to something else.

    Allen Kedea is most probably referring to the Copyright and Neighboring Rights (Amendment) Bill 2008. The Bill is a joint project between IPOPNG and CLRC. It proposes to setup a collective management system, Office of Director of Copyright and Neighboring Rights, and Copyright Tribunal.

    If the Bill is passed into law, I think this will help provide the basis for establishing collective management organizations to help in monitoring and enforcement of copyright and neighboring rights in musical works, and sound recordings.

    I’m on oalamoi24@gmail.com if anyone wants to continue the conversation.

  2. Neil Nicholls says

    I think your heading is deceptive. There is a Copyright and Neighbouring Rights Act 2000 already on the statute book. There is also a legal deposit provision under the National Library and Archives Act 1993, which is largely ignored by the music industry.

    How is the new copyright bill going to improve on the 2000 Act and cope with the new technology? The issue of file sharing etc is a global issue, with our near neighbour, Australia, at the forefront when it comes to illegal downloads, so much so that dvd shops are going out of business.

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