Love local, listen local

Hear65’s I Play SG Music campaign is exposing millions of Singaporeans to local music acts.

  • 12 Dec 2023
Man listening to music on the MRT

Are we living in the golden age of Singaporean music?

In recent years, platforms like Spotify have enabled local artists to gain traction worldwide. Bands from Subsonic Eye to Sobs, and brb. have embarked on sold-out tours abroad, affirming the industry’s long-held conviction that our music meets global standards.

These successes haven’t always resonated at home, however. “I feel like many Singaporeans aren’t deeply engaged with music in general, much less local music,” says folk-pop artist lewloh, whose new single Different Directions racked up over 100,000 streams on Spotify in its first month.

A 2023 survey by Asian music publication Bandwagon found that the average Singaporean remains underexposed to local musicians, tending to discover them only by chance.
MRT Platform

Most Singaporeans’ discovery of music is incidental, making public spaces like malls and MRT stations ideal venues to reach them.

“It doesn’t help that radio stations prefer to play big-name international artists,” says up-and-coming singer-songwriter Alicia DC, who is signed with local indie label Panik Records. Compounding matters, “when people discover a local artist they enjoy, there’s a knee-jerk comparison with international artists, like ‘oh, they sound like so-and-so’,” adds lewloh.

If the picture seems bleak, fret not. Bandwagon’s survey results also indicated that 75% of respondents were keen to listen to more local music after hearing some, which points to a simple issue of exposure rather than of lack of interest.

I Play SG Music, do you?

To rebalance the scales and shine a light on homegrown talent, the National Arts Council (NAC) partnered SMRT and Bandwagon's Singaporean music arm Hear65, creating the I Play SG Music campaign which enlivens public spaces like MRT stations with local tunes.

Listen to Hear65’s picks of the best soundtrack for:

Rushing to an appointment you're late for- Behind Closed Doors by Wormrot

Pretending you're the main character in a moody music video- Summerboy by lewloh
Heading home after a long day at work- Take Me to Your House by Linying

Getting hyped for a night out- Carousel by Myrne

Jumping on the #tubegirl trend- ABG by Tengy

Thanks to I Play SG Music, local artists can now be heard across 125 SMRT, LRT, and bus interchanges, reaching over three million commuters daily. 

“It’s exciting to be tagged in Instagram Stories of my music playing in stations. I’ve also noticed a spike in Shazams of my songs.”

The Hear65 team communicates closely with music labels and distributors in Singapore, receiving weekly updates on new releases and refreshing playlists accordingly. 

Commuters can enjoy no fewer than three different moods throughout the day. Morning playlists are “lively”, afternoon playlists are “dynamic”, and evening playlists are “relaxing”, although each of those descriptors can encompass anything from emo (e.g. Forests) to mandopop (e.g. Shelby Wang). 

There are also playlists for festivals like Deepavali, which blend artists such as Yung Raja and Shabir Sulthan with emerging talents like SJY and Draco Raj. 
Singapore’s multicultural diversity translates to an equally wide range of festive music.

Singapore’s multicultural diversity translates to an equally wide range of festive music.

We should all play SG music everywhere

I Play SG Music is only a starting point, one piece of a larger puzzle when it comes to solving the issue of exposure to Singaporean music. 

Although royalties from streaming are not enough in themselves to sustain artists’ music careers — even global superstars like Taylor Swift and Coldplay have spoken up about the issue — exposure from initiatives like I Play SG Music help local artists grow their audiences and access more opportunities like live gigs at public events. 

As early responses to I Play SG Music indicate, Singaporeans’ capacity to appreciate local music remains vast and largely untapped: a promising sign for the future of our amazingly talented artists. 

So Shazam at the ready, people: your next musical obsession could be waiting for you at your nearest MRT station. 

Follow @hear65 on Instagram to find out more about buzzing new artists and live events every weekend.