Duong Khac Linh is developing his career as a successful pop music producer, having helped generate hits for singers like Ho Ngoc Ha, Ha Anh Tuan and Vietnamese-Australian singer Thanh Bui.
Born in the Philippines and raised in the Netherlands, Linh began to study piano at age six. After studying composition in college, he worked at a recording company in the Netherlands before returning to Viet Nam. He talks about the differences between producing in Viet Nam and in other countries.
You are one of the most sought-after composers despite fees of US$2,000 per song. Is that too high a price in Viet Nam?
I don't think so. I usually say to my colleagues who I know well that they should sell their work at a higher price. But most of them refuse because they are embarrassed. They are artists and mentioning money puzzles them.
As a composer, I could get a lot of money from my song if it becomes a hit. Additionally, I could benefit from royalties for music used on mobile phones and in performances. The hit song could also generate more money for the singer. It isn't fair. I don't deny that the hit song establishes my reputation and makes more singers approach me to produce them. But I want to create and be recognised for my personal efforts.
In other countries, production teams benefit more from commissions on CD sales.
The entertainment industry in Viet Nam lags behind international standards. What made you decide to return to work here?
The most important is love for the land that raised my parents. It gives me a native country to be proud of. I also want to return to learn in a new working environment. Many of my colleagues want to know more about music market in Viet Nam. They found differences between the music market here and elsewhere in the world. The difference comes from work style, and from developing and understanding issues related to copyright.
In a foreign country, not all audiences know about the producer who makes a hit song, even for a singer like Lady Gaga or Rihanna. In the Netherlands and the US, song lyrics and the names of composers and producers are seldom mentioned. Composers are known only if they sing their own songs.
But in Viet Nam, songwriters are highly appreciated. At the beginning, I was surprised when I got much care here. It was great.
I acknowledge there is difference between the East and the West. So I always share what I know with my colleagues, but I don't force people to do like in other countries. I want to be devoted to Vietnamese music and I'm ambitious to bring Vietnamese music to the world.
Singer Thanh Bui, your collaborator, has said that he wants to win a Grammy. How about you?
I spend time to write music for foreign bands. Currently, I am working with groups mainly from Thailand, plus the South Korean group Girls Generation.
Absolutely, the Grammy is my dream. It is a top award in music which is in every composer's dream. Thanh Bui used to work with composers who were in top 20 in the world and some of them had won Grammys. We studied their way to reach the peak. Now we are waiting for a chance to collaborate with people who will be able to help make our dream come true. — VNS