How do I make music my career?

How do I make music my career?


Text: Adibah Isa

Image: Ren D'vila,
Tim De Cotta

In our podcast, Singapore musicians Tim De Cotta and MAS1A share the importance of building a network, staying true to your craft and going where the hustle is

Tim De Cotta first tinkered with a bass guitar in his teens and hasn't looked back since. After his foray in now-defunct band SIXX, the vocalist, bassist, songwriter and producer soon joined and formed the groups Tim De Cotta x The Warriors, TAJ, L.A.B, neoDominatrix and Kilo Habit. In addition to that, he's been involved in projects such as The Great Singapore Replay in 2017, where established and emerging artists put a spin on Singapore's classic songs. After his album, The Warrior, debuted last year, De Cotta will release 'Dreams', his next single, live at Laneway Festival.

Fellow Laneway artist MAS1A might have started on her craft in Canada where she grew up, but the Singaporean hip-hop emcee and singer has since returned to the motherland. In the past, she's worked with American record label Aftermath Entertainment ghostwriting songs, as well as collaborated with the likes of Pharrell, The Game, RZA and John Frusciante from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Her vocal hook from 'Warriors Tongue' — off her 2012 EP, Bootleg Culture — was also used in The Fate of the Furious trailer in 2016. She established the Singapura Dub Club to grow the demand for reggae in Southeast Asia and currently heads it creative direction.

AUDIO EXCLUSIVE: Listen to our full conversation with Tim De Cotta and MAS1A.
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When did music switch from being just a hobby to a full-time career?
MAS1A: I was going to the University of Toronto for an architecture degree. It was during this time that I was hitting a lot of open mics. I got picked up for an MTV Canada commercial and the ball went rolling from there.
Tim De Cotta: It was something I couldn't not do. It would always creep back into my main narrative.

MAS1A, you studied architecture while Tim, you studied communications. How did those degrees feed into your career in music right now?
MAS1A: When I get to have album release parties, I think about the space and the way in which people consume music. So beyond the obvious stuff, a lot of times I see really great artists in Singapore, and the audience doesn't translate because the sound wasn't good or the space... I know you're talented, and right now, the vibe of the space that people are in is not reflecting the artist that you are. That's underestimated a lot. That made me think a lot about a person's experience in music and the physical space of where the music is played.
Tim: I majored in advertising and public relations. If I have to write a song or go through the music, that's the natural part of things, but the learned side of it comes from school — and I know how to package it. How do I shape it right for people who have never heard it before?

Tim de Cotta
How important do you think it is for young artists to be involved in corporate work and projects?
Tim: In a Singaporean context, you have no choice but to diversify. Staying here alone isn't going to sustain you forever — the numbers are just too small. You can be hot in six months and then, poof! I wouldn't even say six months, I'm being optimistic!
MAS1A: Working with corporates is almost the same as working with an SME or independent business where it comes down to relationships, right? I'm really impressed with a lot of corporates these days who have a new mindset. They give a lot more creative control. The branding, idea and authenticity is coming from the artist. When you work in that type of relationship, the impact on the public is a lot greater because it's coming from a real place. I don't shy away from working with corporates versus working with independents, all of it is opportunity — as long as it matches the message you're putting out there as an artist.

Catch Tim De Cotta and MAS1A live at Laneway Festival 2018 on 27 January at The Meadow, Gardens by the Bay.
Read more stories in our Career Special