Hong Kong Profile: Victor Shing

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If you’ve been to an indie concert in Hong Kong in the last few years, then you may well have already come across Vic Shing. The 24-year-old, perpetually gig-going university student is the brains behind Music Surveillance, a project with a simple concept: to document concerts. 

Shing attends local indie gigs with his camera and video recorder, shoots the band in action, then uploads the gig photos to Facebook and put the videos on YouTube. “I think it’s like an archive,” explains Shing of his passion. “Some bands don’t have CDs, and their music will fade out. People may say ‘in the past there was a good band but [now] they don’t have any songs left’. So this is a way to preserve their music.”

Shing has uploaded nearly 3,500 videos and many, many thousands of photos of gigs in the last four years, despite the fact it can be pretty time consuming. “It takes so long!” he says exasperatedly. “After a show it takes about an hour to sort out the photos, and I don’t have much time to edit them. Plus, because I live in the New Territories, the upload speed is as slow as hell! When I upload the videos, sometimes the sound screws up and I need to find another sound source… I also need to chop the video into the different songs. But I have a friend who is helping me to edit the photos and upload the videos, so now maybe we’re releasing a new video each day.”

While Shing attends gigs several nights per week, it wasn’t always the case. His first gig was in 2009, watching the ephemeral indie rock band Forever Tarkovsky Club. “The reason I filmed the first time was because my friend couldn’t go,” remembers Shing. “Then, later, I just recorded everything!”

Members of the Forever Tarkovsky Club introduced Shing to the Street Music Concert Series, at Wan Chai’s Arts Centre, and that quickly snowballed into his current project. “It was free and outdoors, so I just went along – then I met some other people who go to concerts,” he says, simply, of his seamless transition into the heart of Hong Kong’s indie music scene.

Shing’s dedication to Music Surveillance is impressive – when he shows us his rucksack of equipment, we can’t even lift it. “I use two cameras and an audio recorder, plus five lenses and a tripod; it’s very heavy… yeah, I need to buy a case!” he laughs. All this doesn’t come cheap, however. Shing doesn’t get paid for the vast majority of his work, and has coughed up about $20,000 of his own money in the last year to maintain data storage and equipment. “I’ve tried asking for sponsorship but it hasn’t gone anywhere,” he sighs. 

“The main problem is [data] storage,” continues Shing. “Every show needs around 60 gigabytes of space. I have two Drobos [an external storage device]. My second Drobo is already nearly full… to get a new Drobo with hard disks costs around $8,000. I need to buy a microphone and other stuff to support my production, but I can’t take that money out of my pocket. So I’m trying to raise money
 [on fundraising website indiegogo.com].” 

Shing’s commitment and importance to the local music scene is such that a special gig has been organised by The Wanch music bar in Wan Chai. The bar is holding a ‘Midweek Mini Fest’ on December 4, with several bands joining together to play a fundraising concert to help him out.

Sadly for both Shing and our city, his vision of the music scene in the future is not a positive one. “Some genres have many supporters, but some of the experimental bands have a really small audience, they are having a really bad time. Plus now, in Kwun Tong and To Kwa Wan, they are changing the industrial buildings into commercial buildings – it’s getting really hard for the bands! The rent will go up, and then where will the musicians go? It’s kind of sad; maybe in five years there will be no underground music in Hong Kong. Just my guess.” Anna Cummins 

Check out Music Surveillance at facebook.com/MusicSurveillance.

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