The news that Lush 99.5FM will be forced to cease transmission at the end of August sent massive shock waves throughout the Singaporean music scene earlier this week. The beloved radio station wasn't just a beacon for alternative and non-mainstream music, it was the one Mediacorp station on the airwaves that genuinely believed in and supported up-and-coming homegrown musicians.
Tunes from indie bands and singer-songwriters were in regular rotation, experimental electronic musicians or DJs were given an open-minded platform, and the underground music community as a whole gathered across genre lines whenever Lush hosted their forward-thinking events. From validating unheralded acts to nurturing blossoming artists, their impact simply cannot be overstated.
Two years ago, programme director Vanessa Fernandez wrote passionately about "What Lush 99.5FM means to me and the importance of a local arts culture" - and her open letter is worth a re-visit if you want to understand why the station's mission was so crucial to our creative ecosystem. And just yesterday, our editor Daniel Peters wrote an insightful opinion piece describing why Lush was "too good for local radio."
But today we're looking to gather honest reactions from the mouths of Singaporean musicians themselves. What is Lush's legacy? How has the station impacted them? Here are some of the most candid, heartfelt and sincere responses we collected from a music community in mourning.
"While most of our stations are chasing whatever is trending or focusing on past popular music - Lush is ahead of its time. Sure, it's not everyone's cup of tea. But somewhere it offers the creative and adventurous mind to explore and get inspired. It had been the soul of our music scene. What a loss."
"Lush 99.5 has always been a station that really supports music in Singapore and it is really sad to see the station go. Lush 99.5 gave many Singaporean independent acts, including me, a place to share our music and to be heard on air even when we were just starting out. Though many might argue that masses consume music through various streaming platforms now and "Radio Is Dead", there is still something magical about the DJ talk sets and advertisement placements between songs that make radio irreplaceable. The Lush List was one of my favorite programs on Lush mainly because you get to listen to what your fellow musicians are jamming out to! It has been a great run and I will definitely miss tuning in to Lush from time to time."
"HUH?! WHY CLOSE DOWN?
We never expected our music to be played on local radio so we aren't sure how it will affect us as a band, but it was always nice listening to our friends on the late night live sessions while we were stuck on guard duty in camp with only the guard post radio for company. It's a huge waste because Singaporean audiences are just starting to listen and fall in love with more underground local acts in the scene (like us) and it sucks that there is one less avenue for them to discover these musicians."
Paddy: "People will miss Lush much more than they realise. It obviously saddens and impacts the current listeners the most, but those who have yet to grow up and develop their own cultural tastes outside of mainstream radio, they will be the ones who will be missing out. We grew up with up with mainstream songs on the radio but matured with everything that was on rotation on Lush. The sense of discovery, the scrambling to Soundhound or Shazam a song that pricked your ears. Some songs don't even show up on those apps, so you end up scrambling to open up the radio app, trying to 'catch' the lag time, to find out what song it was.
A whole generation of young people will not be able to experience that discovery, to find songs and artists that they never thought they could or would like. They played great music, regardless if it was local - and even if it was local, they never made any patronizing fuss about it. That being said, the Lush crew are a warm bunch of very talented people who truly believed in the artistry of our local musicians. May the spirit of Lush live on in its next incarnation. Thank you for everything, till we meet again!"
Peng Sing (extracted from his post here): "But really, is this new? If we take a step back and remember the old SBC 1 days with only like one hour dedicated to local programming and alternative music, and other programs/stations Rediffusion later on - all of which were eventually axed or went on to transform into something else. And if you grew up in the 90s' going for lots of local gigs, you’ll probably be familiar with BigO (Before I Get Old) magazine which ran between 1982–2002ish. It stopped because of low readership and changing consumption habits.
They had bloody London and US correspondents to report music charts, attend gigs, and write about them so that the rest of us in Singapore can read about it. Today, it has now devolved into a strange little website full of tacky gifs that nobody goes to, because people get their music fix from social media, YouTube, and streaming platforms. So indeed, consumption habits are always changing but we never really notice them until much later."
"I wasn't surprised as they had previously rallied for support before through a campaign which I did my bit for as well. But I guess when the campaign ended and I didn't hear any more about it I thought it had been successful.
It's a sad sad day for local music, to have an ally and an advocate get shut down. It says so much about risk-taking in Singapore. If Mediacorp could have seen that sometimes it isn't always about numbers, dollars and cents, but about standing for a cause. About being the voice of a movement and about helping incubate talent.
I'm so in awe of the fact that even though the team at Lush knew they were going to be shut down, they still went out and put in place the Singapore Sounds Project. Mad props."
Jared: "It's quite sad to see it go, as it is the only radio station that plays local music and sheds light on up and coming local acts. For us personally, the first time our music was on the radio was on Lush 99.5, so that'll always be close to our hearts. Hopefully more radio stations will pick up where lush left off and showcase more local acts."
Wahidah: "I'm honestly upset over the news because I feel like we're going to soon lose the only radio station in Singapore that gives countless opportunities to promising, small Singaporean bands. Lush just constantly makes an effort to push local campaigns, music and artists - and I really respect them for that. With Lush closing down real soon, I really hope that other local radio stations would make an effort to continue what Lush was doing. I have so much love for Lush99.5."
Spencer: "Personally, I didn't grow up in Singapore and didn't get to know Lush99.5 for very long. With that being said, however, I'm deeply saddened that they have announced their closure because of the fact that I am in the local music scene. Now since Lush 99.5 will no longer be on the radio, it takes away the chance for growing local musicians to be featured on mainstream radio that the nation can easily access. With the ever growing local music scene, the absence of Lush 99.5 will be dearly missed and will forever be cherished."
"The encouragement that Lush 99.5 gave to Singaporean music made great songs out of bedroom demos, artists out of amateurs. I will miss the surprise of hearing my favourite songs on air in the middle of an idle drive — just as I will miss telling people who said radio music was shit that they just weren't listening to the right station. And I will keep my fingers crossed for the hole they will leave to be patched over in some way, someday."
"Lush has been the beacon of alternative music in Singapore for a significant period of time, and it's rather unfortunate that it will be folding it doors this August. DTW is and will always grateful for its unyielding support, and its presence will undoubtedly be missed. Radio is an important component of the urban fabric, and we need it now more than ever before to foster a sense of community. Perhaps a similar model will evolve in the near future, but that's up to each and every one of us to make it happen."
"The reality of Lush no longer being on our airwaves is heartbreaking, but I doubt it comes as a shock to those who have been around enough to get how things work in this industry. The system that Lush was trying to thrive in simply cannot quantify let alone understand what the station represents, and what it means to the listeners that tune in.
We will all be outraged and mourn and yell “fuck Mediacorp” for a few weeks on social media. But this is understandably a numbers game, and the current demographic simply cannot keep up what the system expects. I can only imagine how tiring it must be, constantly battling the corporate machine when the game was rigged from the beginning. The fact that the’ve lasted this long against the other mainstream stations has been an incredible effort. But unless there is some sort of government mandate (à la Triple J in Australia, or community radio support) there is very little anyone can do to change that for now.
So where do we go from here, and should we be worried at the state of the arts? I don’t know about you, but I’m actually relatively unfazed and excited for the future of how things will develop.
Because with or without an alternative music radio station, the people at Lush are some of the most hardworking, tenacious and forward-thinking individuals our tiny industry has been blessed with. They are Singapore’s tastemakers, critical thinkers, and risk-takers. And their talents cannot be contained within the singular format of radio alone.
So to everyone at Lush, thank you for doing what you’ve done for local music and the arts. We owe you all so much, and can’t wait to see what you guys will do next.
"A stab in the heart is actually how I felt when I heard the news from Vannessa Fernandez. Lush has always been the purveyor of music and arts made in this little Lion City of ours, where if you do anything remotely out of the mainstream, you will always and constantly have to fight the good fight. And Lush fought so well with that superbly passionate team - with tastefully curated campaigns and initatives (Artist of the Month, The Lush List, 50 Songs in 50 Days); and original content (the videos are often both entertaining and a visual delight!). As an independent musician, I cannot be more thankful for the existence of Lush because this is a station that walked the talk of supporting local music. As a listener, I'm totally bummed out 'coz this is one station that I can truly relate with in terms of music programming and content.
Hearing the friendly voices of Elias Soh, X'Ho, Rozz... and even the fellow musicians who host The Lush List, brought me much closer to the music made in Singapore that I love so much. Now, where do we go from here? Yes, of course we all know the crippling realities of commerical viability and how brutal the number game is. We can agree or disagree with the many opinion pieces of how the death of Lush has to inevitably happen. But let's not forget this: We live in a world's that constantly changing, and the music landscape has evolved so much over the last couple of years. As musicians, as media platforms, as art managers, what we can do is learn and do better. At the end of the day, the heart and its passion will be the constant fuel. So I'd say what Iggy Pop has once said, "Hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.""
"Still trying to wrap my head around this heartbreaking news. It's not about my music, or your music, or whoever else's music they have supported.
It's about all that they've stood for, the community they've grown, the people they connected, the parties they've thrown, the artists they've discovered and nurtured, the blood, sweat, and tears and a hell lot of thankless hours they've poured into our humble scene.
I guess at the end of the day everything's just about numbers. whatever, Singapore.
Lush99.5, you'll always have a special place in all our hearts. Thank you, for everything."
"The news hit me badly. I'm going to miss Lush. They always had the coolest parties. Most of all, they had the biggest hearts. And spirits. They believed in what we did as independent musicians, digging our sounds and exposing us to an audience who wanted something other than the usual mainstream music that gets force-fed to everyone around the world.
Thanks for being THE underground. Thanks for making me Artist Of The Month when no one believed in me. Thank you forever for Elias, Vanessa, Chris, Rozz, and also Swing in the past. These wonderful souls mentored me and nurtured my talent on the radio. Thanks for making 'Turnaround' THE JAM. I love you all, and it's really sad to move on. The world is changing and we're on to streaming and other ways of music dissemination. I hope you all find happy homes in new places. Thank you for the good times, Lush 99.5."