Singapore musicians are ‘so full of themselves’: Ken Lim

Shah Salimat
Singapore Showbiz


Ken Lim is set to bring his acerbic speak back to the television screen with new reality singing competition The Final 1 (Channel 5 photo)

For three seasons of reality singing competition Singapore Idol, judge Ken Lim certainly did not mince his words during his tenure. From harsh contestant takedowns to brutal industry critique, the record producer was every bit the straight shooter he appeared to be.

Now, the HYPE Records honcho will return to the television screen with new reality singing competition The Final 1 and Lim said he would not be toning down at all.

“My only motive is to assist the contestants, not to make myself likeable – I don’t give a damn about it. I want to let people see matters for what they are. It doesn’t bother me how you feel because I know I am saying the truth,” said Lim, 49, to Yahoo! Singapore in an interview last Friday.

Part of that critique comes from Lim’s honest observations about the music industry. A recent report on The New Paper where he denounced Singapore’s music industry as being on the “verge of extinction” has drawn considerable ire from local musicians. A composer, artist manager and concert promoter as well, Lim stood by his statement when asked by Yahoo! Singapore.

“If we look at the biggest star Singapore has last produced, it was Taufik Batisah. After that, no more artistes seemed credible enough to take his place. My gauge of existence is not on the presence of local musicians but on the success stories… besides the presence of self-fulfillment of having your songs out there just for fun.”

“Everybody can be a composer but not everybody can be in the business. This is something that our Singapore infant industry doesn’t quite get yet. These musicians are so full of themselves and think they can make it but they actually have to develop their skills and have to understand the concept of how the business works,” said Lim.

Ken Lim hopes to find a social media-savvy, likeable winner from The Final 1 that he can market regionally and internationally (Channel 5 photo)

‘We should have new artistes by now’

Lim’s insistence on churning out new talent and putting them on the map to stardom is the basis for his new show, The Final 1. “There must always be a consistent flow or else, we will just be churning out scholars and academics. I don’t think that balances off the creative industries because that part is very important in any society,” explained Lim.

The Final 1 is a brand-new show from MediaCorp’s English free-to-air Channel 5, slated for a May premiere this year. The show serves as an inside look into the music industry as contestants will go through and be assessed on classes such as social media, image and record company pitching. Lim is the main driver behind the show as well as a judge on the yet-to-be-revealed panel.

The winner will stand to win a $100,000 prize, including $50,000 in cash and a two-year contract worth $50,000 with Lim’s company, Hype Records.

When asked why he wanted to bring back the singing reality show genre, Lim emphasised on having a show that was localised and nurtured likeability. “It consists of your vocals, image, the way you carry yourself, how you communicate with your audience – the entire package is important to make it commercially,” he said.

As part of the audition process, budding contestants will have to submit YouTube videos of them singing a chosen audition song. When asked why this audition process was developed, Lim explained, “If you don’t even want to take the trouble, it means you aren’t serious with your passion. I want you to upload the video so that I can see some effort on your part.”

He also wants to avoid accepting audition flops and does not see the benefit to the contestants, except to boost show ratings. Citing a Singapore Idol audition where infamous Internet celebrity Steven Lim stripped down to his yellow underwear, he believes ratings do not help contestants to grow other than helping them get famous.

Ken Lim believes music will become free because no one will pay for music and that concerts will become an artiste's way to make money (Yahoo! photo)

Music will become free for all

Lim believes the music industry is in a different playing field than it was in the 90s and early 2000s. He said that he predicted 15 years ago that the age would come when technology would make the Internet a hotbed for file-sharing.

“Music will eventually become free for all. It will be just a promotional tool to enhance the profile of the artiste. Revenue will have to come from the only thing that cannot be replicated by the Internet: live performances. You can forget about CD sales and downloads. How much money can you make from them? After paying off everything else, not much. It is not a lucrative business,” said Lim.

However, in speaking of new distribution methods, he downplays the effect that video sharing website YouTube has on an artiste’s profile. Lim believes sharing an artiste’s message online is more purposeful than doing it for vanity and fame and believes the latter “is not going to help you as an artiste”.

Lim’s company, Hype Records, is now aggressively venturing into concert promotion, having recently clinched a deal to organize Adam Lambert’s March concert in Singapore. He said he has significantly cut down on album releases, including reducing partnerships with MediaCorp dramas on theme songs.

He did open up about album sales from Taufik Batisah and Hady Mirza, laughing as he sheepishly said that revenue earned from them does not cover the cost of producing the albums. However, both artistes are preparing for new albums and Lim is hopeful they will be good outlets to promote the singers as personalities.

His candour at exposing his artistes’ flaws, among other things, is a trait he thinks is fueled by his belief in speaking the truth. “If I’m going to be kind and sweet about things, I’d rather just not say it if I don’t mean it,” said Lim.

Audition submissions close February 15 and can be made at