At a music conference in Singapore back in September, I went to a celebrity interview featuring producer Steve Lillywhite, who has uprooted his life in Europe for a home in Jakarta, Indonesia, an existence that really seems to agree with him. While he continues to work with bands, he has a new musical gig with KFC.
You read that right. KFC. As in Kentucky Fried Chicken. This requires an explanation.
With 250 million people, Indonesia is the fourth-most populous country on Earth, following China, India and the United States. But with income levels so low, approximately 75% of the population does not have credit card and only a small percentage own smartphones. This means that physical media for music–CDs, vinyl and even cassettes–still rules.
KFC is also extremely popular throughout the country. Indonesians treat these restaurants as special destinations for a meal and therefore attribute them with a certain status. Knowing that it has such a large and loyal customer base, KFC Indonesia offers certain perks with their buckets of chicken. Like music.
When a customer orders their bucket, the person at the counter tries to upsell then to buying a CD or two from the current offering of a dozen or so current releases. The more CDs sold, the bigger the bonus the counter person receives. This initiative has been so successful that the 550 KFC stores across the country are selling 500,000 CDs a month with buckets of chicken. And given how many record stores have closed, KFC is now the place in all of Indonesia for purchasing music.
With this kind of clout, someone at KFC came up with an idea: “Why not create a KFC record label and do deals directly with indie artists? We can cut out the major labels entirely, build indie domestic stars and further consolidate our position as a destination for both fried chicken and music?”
Here’s where Steve comes in. He’s now working for KFC in an A&R and producing capacity for KFC Indonesia. Once the major see what’s going on, they expect to be able to cut better deals, helping the company expect to increase their music footprint across the country exponentially.
And while digital sales are practically non-existent today, its time is coming so Steve and KFC are working on rolling that out in the future.
Meanwhile, vinyl continues to do very well through the Indonesia archipelago. From USA Today:
All over the place, vinyl is undergoing a renaissance.
In the United States, record sales are on the rise, and pressing plants are working around the clock to keep up with demand. But in Indonesia, the last vinyl pressing plants went out of business in the 1980s, their machines long since sold for scrap metal, with no comeback in sight.
Still, in the capital city of Jakarta, record shops are seeing a new generation of music lovers building their old-school collections, despite soaring prices and limited supply.
On Jalan Surabaya, a street of low-slung buildings in Jakarta that has housed record vendors for decades, a few small shops still sell used records, packed beside others peddling discount luggage and antiques. A man known simply as Lian owns Lian Records. He’s seen vinyl’s boom and bust — and now, boom, again — firsthand.