The Musicians Guild of Singapore, or MGOS in short was incorporated in May 2014 after receiving the National Arts Council (NAC) Seed Grant from 2014-2016.
Aimed to provide assistance and support to musicians of all musical genres and specialisations in Singapore, the non-profit professional organization focuses on the needs of musicians who are mostly self-employed or freelancers who do not enjoy regular employment benefits or career development opportunities.
As Director Aw Yong Tian puts it, “MGOS was set up to provide services and benefits to look out for the interests of local musicians in three areas, namely career, livelihood and professional development. The MGOS will also inevitably bring together musicians from backgrounds and genres together, bringing the community together and taking interaction between us to a whole new level.”
“We hope this will make musicians aware of what they have to do themselves and what we have to do together as a community, and as an industry, to protect our livelihoods. Certainly musicians, like any other business, employee or individual, have rights that are protected by the law. An important first step is for us to be clear about these and agree to be individually responsible for conducting our work in a professional manner that will enable the appropriate actions to be taken when we are unfairly treated,” he continued.]
Although the concept of a musician’s guild is relatively new, Tian believes that this is not a first-move in the region, as there are already similar professional organisations all over the world, where they are set up as labour unions and professional associations in various industries.
“In our relatively small but vibrant wind band scene in Singapore, we have the Band Directors’ Association of Singapore (BDAS) and the Wind Band Association of Singapore (WBAS). Each organisation has a different focus and conducts different kinds of activities to achieve their aims, receiving strong support of agencies like the National Arts Council (NAC). You could say that the MGOS is a pioneer in its particular approach, but we see ourselves in partnership with all the other organisations in Singapore, Southeast Asia or the rest of the world that benefit the cause of music and musicians,” he highlighted.
The guild is headed by a Board of Directors, which comprises of notable musicians and art patrons such as vocalist/ former lawyer Rani Singam, CEO of The RICE Ltd, Colin Goh, and, actor and former Nominated Member of Parliament Janice Koh, just to name a few. The guild’s patron is Ambassador-at-Large Professor Tommy Koh who was also the founding chairman of the National Arts Council from 1991 to 1996.
As the Guild looks to the future, it hopes to be a sustainable endeavour.
“What we do must be deemed important, relevant and essential by musicians, the industry, the government and even the general public. Only then can we get the support and resources to achieve our aims. In 5 years, we hope to be seen as playing our part to raise the profile of the Singapore music as the catalyst for more meaningful collaborations within the music community, as well as with the entire arts industry, the business world, the government and society,” he added.