Threatened Filipino Artists Urge Higher Taxes for Foreign Acts

January 12, 2011

Some Filipino artists are now proposing to the government of a tougher regulation towards foreign artists performing in the Philippines. In an interview with ABS CBN News, singer-composer Ogie Alcasid said it is necessary to impose higher taxes to foreign acts performing in the country.

“We must push for higher taxes on foreign shows and lowering of taxation sa local concerts,” saidni Alcasid, president of Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit (OPM), the “leading and most respected organization of Filipino professional singers in the country,” according to its website.

Earlier, fellow artist Kuh Ledesma urged the government to study a possibility on how to protect the welfare of local artists. Curiously, Alcasid and Ledesma will have separate Valentines concerts so the timing of the request couldn’t be better as foreign talents traditionally come to the Philippines to serenade fans who celebrate the popular occasion. Alcasid proposed that imposing higher taxes to the visitors could help members of the OPM survive the cut-throat competition.

Ledesma’s concert will be held on 12th and 13th of February with Rico J. Puno, Marco Sison, Nonoy Zuñiga, and Rey Valera. Meanwhile, Alcasid will have his concert on Feb. 12 with Pops Fernandez with special guest wife Regine Velasquez.

The group of local artists are worried and feel threatened that public attention has gravitated towards foreign artists who come to the Philippines for concert. Among them are Janet Jackson (Feb 4th), Stephen Bishop, Dan Hill and Yvonne Elliman (Feb 11th), Deftones (Feb 12th), Fra Lippo Lippi’s Per Sorensen (Feb 13th), Taylor Swift (Feb 19th) and Yellowcard (Feb 20th).

Under a democratic regime, fans can select their favorite concerts to attend to. And this could mean the Filipino artists could be left behind in ticket sales, realizing that the concert dates of foreign acts fall close to their performance dates. With expensive tickets, concert goers might save up for their intended event to attend to. And that means giving up the less popular acts in favor of their favored artists.

In a society heavily influenced by foreign media, coupled with deterioration of good quality locally-bred songs, it may be easy to conclude that foreign singers have an edge over their local counterparts. Asking the foreign artists to pay more taxes when performing in the Philippines would then be an unpopular move not only to the artists themselves, but more importantly, to their Filipino fans.

Higher taxes imposed to foreign artists can have multiple consequences. Higher taxes mean more overhead costs in staging an event and this leads to higher likelihood of charging more expensive concert tickets fans will have to bear. In some cases higher taxes could help decide a foreign act not to hold a concert in the country. Governments have introduced higher cigarette taxes to encourage smokers to quit the habit. Imposing higher taxes to foreign acts could discourage them from holding entertainment events in the Philippines. That might bring a smile to members of the OPM. But it will definitely sow anger among concert fans who could miss such once in a lifetime opportunity.

I wonder how will these Filipino singers feel if wish to go abroad and get taxed heavily for being foreign artists. If indeed they would entertain the idea, given their lineup mostly consisting of revival songs of other artists. If you look at the list of OPM members in its website, assuming it is accurate and updated, there are a lot fewer artists in the list. The likes of Rico J Puno, The CompanY, Rivermaya, Sharon Cuneta, Basil Valdez, Freddie Aguilar and Rey Valera, among several others are not in the lineup. Other names in the group look new to me. This Organisasyon ng Pilipinong Mang-aawit group is not as big as I thought.

It’s unfortunate that Filipino fans do not appreciate local talents now as much as they did in the past. But let us not put the blame on them, the radio stations that play foreign music nor the invasion of foreign talent because the root of the problem does not lie within them. Pinoy fans appreciate Filipino music in the past probably because the music singers play then are fresh and original. No wonder the APO Hiking Society, Gary Valenciano and Eraserheads gained popularity not only because they have great stage presence but they sang original tunes. Now, many artists perform songs that they only rehashed from original versions. One member of the OPM group is Jed Madela, whom I often can’t distinguish against superior karaoke singers because they share the same common characteristic: good voice and singing songs they don’t own. Bituin Escalante’s Kung Ako Na Lang Sana is only among a few recent releases I like to listen. In the past there are lots of them. No wonder recycled songs and lame stage presence by certain artists of today only deserve free gate entries.

The same can’t be said when we talk about Super Junior, Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Janet Jackson or The Cure.

The answer to declining concert attendance to Filipino artists is not raising taxes of foreign acts, but improving the quality of local music. Compose new songs that capture the Filipino hearts and build that with charisma that will encourage concert goers like me to go to your concerts and appreciate your music. In the meantime, be open to healthy competition against foreign artists.

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