For Andrian Lee, co-founder of Fiestamundo.com , the Philippines and Jamaica have a lot more in common besides the hot summer sun and world-class beaches. Like the country that gave the world reggae and made dreadlocks a cultural icon, Lee believes the Philippines can become the next international force in music – if only Filipino musicians learn to make more original music rather than tirelessly covering American pop songs.


Sounds ambitious? Listen to his analogy. Like the Philippines, local artists in Jamaica began their careers covering popular American R&B tunes until they began polishing their own original sound, which reflected their own culture. “When Filipino artists are given the vote of confidence to express originality and creativity, I believe popular taste will follow suit and change as it did in Jamaica,” Lee says in the website’s About Us section.


Fiesta
Mundo (which literally translates to “world party”) has plenty of this “vote of confidence” for Filipino musicians, in particular unsigned artists yet to snag a recording a contract. At best, the site is trying to mine the Internet as an alternative medium for distribution and more importantly, bringing artists closer to listeners.

Fiesta Mundo was launched as a movement to promote Filipino creativity to the world. The inspiration behind Fiesta Mundo is to celebrate Filipino pop culture and to showcase Filipino creativity to the world through the technology of the Internet,” Lee answers via email.


Friendster-meets-iTunes

Barely six months old, the site has already attracted some 120 artists, from already established acts like Sheila and the Insects, Agaw Agimat and Datu’s Tribe to rising young bands like Nuncy Spungen, The Brockas, Typecast (which opened for Good Charlotte during the latter’s Philippine concert) and Hilera (which recently won an interschool band competition).


On the average, four to five artists sign up every week. Since last year, Fiesta Mundo has talked to more than 400 artists who attend its weekly orientation. By signing up with Fiesta Mundo, an artist or a band is entitled to a web page that includes a profile, photos and MP3 samples of its songs that are available for download. Each song can be downloaded for P25 and the artist or band is automatically entitled to five percent per download.

The site earlier announced it would come out with prepaid cards which can be used as “credits” when buying songs online although there is no definite date yet. All transactions in the site are done through Paypal.


The site bills itself as a Friendster-meets-iTunes portal, which, interestingly, is preceding Apple’s iTunes since the latter isn’t yet available in most of Asia Pacific. Lee himself admits that the concept of buying music over the Internet is still new for most Filipinos.


“However, this model is going to be very promising once the technology and gadgets have matured and are available here in the Philippines. The most important development would be when “one click” mp3 downloading via mobile phones is already available,” he says.


Fiesta
Mundo is making a lot of noise, thanks largely to a partnership with MTV Philippines, which runs a show called “MTV Siesta” that features Fiesta Mundo bands. For the past six months, more than 40 artists have been featured by MTV. The site’s Artist Space section is actually a great way to start getting acquainted with a band’s music; interviews and live performances on MTV are available for streaming.


“We are committed to continue our partnership with MTV for the next 3 years. We are now in the process of brewing another program that will focus on the most promising artists in the Fiesta Mundo catalog,” Lee adds.


Positive “sharing”

What has been attracting music aficionados to Fiesta Mundo is its “1Million Free Song Giveaway” gimmick. Every user who signs up automatically gets ten free MP3 downloads, which can be legitimately shared to 12 other people at the most within one week of purchase.


While it is true that there is no control over copying (or “sharing”) of songs, Lee says Fiesta Mundo chose
to focus on its strategies and marketing campaigns that will create a positive view with regards to song sharing. By educating users that artists will get compensated per download, Fiesta Mundo hopes to instill a genuine appreciation of Filipino music.


An independent research study commissioned by Fiesta Mundo revealed that respondents did not think buying pirated Filipino CDs, copying original songs or downloading original songs without payment was wrong, illegal or criminal. But the same respondents feel very strongly that Filipino artists should be paid justly and compensated for their work.


Compensation aside, Fiesta Mundo is indirectly helping local artists succeed by affording them much-needed exposure. A Cebu-based band (which Lee politely declined to identify) recently signed up with a major record label. “Their first single has already been re-mastered and a video has already been shot,” he says.


Fiesta
Mundo also partnered with radio station Wave 89.1 in a contest-search for female singer-songwriters. Contestants were featured on Fiesta Mundo and the winner, Lori Abucayan, is now being managed by Manila Genesis Entertainment.


A little help from an online music portal like Fiesta Mundo can make a difference in promoting original Filipino music.

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