Khalid Samad’s ‘attractive’ songwriting prize money only devalues arts and creative industries

It was a tweet accompanied by a poster that single-handedly devalued the arts and creative industries in Malaysia in one fell swoop.

Parti Amanah Negara’s communication chief Khalid Samad, who is also Shah Alam MP, had called on songwriters to compose a song calling for the end of the state of emergency in the country. The call was on behalf of the Committee for the Cessation of State of Emergency.

Participants are encouraged to submit the full arrangement, complete with the recording of a minimum four-piece band and vocals. The deadline – June 30.

To top it all, the first prize winner will receive RM3,000 – a sum Khalid described as “attractive”.

The only tune Khalid should hear since posting the tweet is that the arts and creative industries deserved more respect.

The only song Khalid and his like-minded peers should hear is the call to end the devaluation of those in the creative industry – from composers to graphic designers.

Admittedly, it is difficult to put a price on creativity. Artistic and creative content do not appear overnight.

The power of creativity is often underestimated. Many tend to take creative work for granted and diminish its importance. It’s always seen as “mere entertainment” or something we can do without.

However, it’s precisely this creative work – inspiring songs, funny memes, cool graphics work and engaging videos – that has kept us sane throughout this period of uncertainty as the majority of us struggle to find some sense of normality in this era of Covid-19.

Of course, there will be those desperate enough who will take up the offer. To them, the opportunity to earn RM3,000, or at the very least, RM250 (consolation prize) is big money in these trying times.

However, this creates the belief among certain quarters that the benchmark to create a song in less than 30 days is just RM3,000 or RM250.

Even more worrying is that such an offer will only cause more people to shy away from making the arts and creative industries their career. The ripple effect will be seen with varsities and colleges shutting down those faculties due to the dwindling demand for such courses – if it hasn’t already. This can lead to the death of creative minds.

The arts is a key component of any dynamic, free society. Its contribution to nation-building cannot be overstated.

Take the arts and creative industries seriously. Give the players the respect they deserve.

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