Buddey Talent (Exclusive Interview): Earning On The Side, Literally

by Katricia Lum

Buddey made it simpler to find local talents & musical artists, as well as providing a side income to aspiring musical & creative talents in Malaysia!

Source: Buddey’s Facebook Page

Talking to Benjamen Goh, CEO of Buddey Talent, you’ll first notice his friendly demeanor and bright personality. As the conversation goes on, it feels like passion couldn’t be personified until then – when Benjamen starts talking about his startup company, Buddey Talent.

Previously working as a banker in 2017, Benjamen met Buddey’s current CTO (Chief of Technology) who shared his dreams of venturing into small startup projects. Of course, the million-dollar question was “What exactly?” Fortunately, the answer soon came to mind when Benjamen realized a market for finding talents & musical artists for companies who typically have zero knowledge about the talent industry themselves.

In his search for talents & artists, he discovered many of them were keen on the idea of busking (the activity of playing music/performing in the sides of streets or public places). This is especially applicable to talents in Malaysia as there is a shortage of available performance gigs.

Of course, Malaysia is no stranger to busking art. However, the process of getting a busking spot in the city was super tedious – talents had to go through a music or talent agency which involved them signing a crooked contract.

To understand why the contracts were crooked is to understand the process – basically, the agencies will go to shopping malls around the city, strike a deal with the management for their talents to perform, and also get paid by the management. BUT the talents do not receive a cut of these payments instead, relying solely on tips.

So, after explaining this to Woke, Benjamen kindly answered a few questions of ours so we can get to know Buddey Talent a little bit more.

What was the story/inspiration behind Buddey?

As I explained earlier about the talents signing dishonest contracts with the agencies, I realized the importance of creating a transparent platform for these talents.

Another thing is, malls typically want the “good” and “seasoned” musicians so new musicians who are just starting to play or musicians who are performing live for the first time won’t get the same opportunities to be selected by the talent agencies which results in biasness.

When the talents depend on a third party who is in complete control of their busking schedule, in the end, the schedule might not even match up with the talent’s free time. The agencies don’t take the talents’ needs & wants into consideration. Forgetting that, they have to wait for the schedule for ages considering how the agencies have hundreds of other musicians waiting on the list. These talents tell us many double bookings have happened when they find another talent there already.

Buddey aims to be a transparent platform, no third party required, no limitations of how many hours played. 

Benjamen Goh

Our trial period started in July 2019 but the website & app was officially launched in January 2020 which garnered many positive reactions. All our busking spots are based in KL now but we’re looking to expand to PJ soon. One Utama is one of these spots, hint hint.

Every booking is done through the app right now. In a few days (from writing), the official website which handles bookings will be released.

To help sustain our company’s cost, we do charge the talents. The average charge is RM7/hour. The lowest is The Linc KL RM5/hour and RM10/hour at Masjid Jamek.

Equipment and instruments are provided by the musicians themselves. There’s no upfront fees either and payment is done on the spot so talents can just book & go any time they have free time.

Why the name Buddey?

It’s a friendly name! Also because I started this project with friends and it was called the ‘Buddy Project’ so the name stuck. 

Do you have a musical background?

I have zero musical background but I am an Arts stream student so I can somewhat relate. Buddey is not only for musicians but for talent so a sketching artist can use Buddey too! For sketching or drawing performance maybe?

How do you find these busking spots?

I will go to malls (that are not booked already by other agencies) or any indoor spaces and suggest a partnership. How I do this is by renting a space at the mall like other tenants. 

This is also how we reduce the cost needed to be paid by the artists since technically Buddey and the artists are sharing the cost of the monthly rent!

Why should I use Buddey vs finding these spots on my own?

Musicians can go to the malls or indoor places themselves but they must make the payment on their own which results in a higher fee compared to using Buddey.  

Talents may potentially make tips collections of RM50 an hour or more for their street performances which is quite a decent side income. And it allows them a better promotional opportunity (promoting their music, album, their services).

And of course gives them a live performance experience. 

How has the reaction been to Buddey?

Source: Buddey’s Facebook Page

Buddey Talent has seen a double growth a month since officially launching. I think it’s because we took all the issues these talents were facing and solved it for them.

What are some of the biggest challenges you face?

Convincing mall owners to open up their space. If the talents are invited, will they play too loud? Are they dressed inappropriately? 

A majority of Buddey’s buskers consist of students or they have day jobs. Maybe buskers of previous years were seen as jobless hippies who caused noise pollution to the public but in 2020, all of them are professionals and follow the process strictly. They arrive right on time and end right on time.

Another stereotype of busking is that it’s a form of “begging” but that couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s a type of street performance.

If the management of the malls or indoor places are skeptical, we allow them to try out our services for one day. That’s how we flourished! Central Market even asked us to take over one of their spots to do Buddey full time. 

There have been a few incidents when buskers were found to be playing too loud. We solved it is by taking that feedback from that space and we’ll actually do soundcheck for the next artist to ensure their volume is appropriate. Because of our initiative, Prasarana Malaysia Berhad offered us a bigger space for our talents.

Upon downloading the app, I was greeted immediately to fill in personal details (such as full name, ic number), don’t you think that could put off potential users who want to casually peruse the app first?

We want to make sure the talent is serious and just not downloading the app for fun. We realized there’s a trend where users who fill in the forms always turn out to be professional and less likely to cause problems.

To filter out talents who are not serious or appreciative of our services. On our end, we review and we help out any talents who did not fill up their forms correctly. For any “irrelevant” information, there’s a skip button provided.

What makes a successful busker?

Knowing the reason of using Buddey

For example, Busker A books the same spot with another busker B. But they found they receive different amounts of tips. It was found that Busker A was merely practicing vs Busker B who was actually performing for the audience. 

Of course, if your objective is just practicing in public you cannot be expecting the same tips as compared to another busker that are playing more for the audience.

Audience interaction

They ask the crowd how’s their volume, how’s the music. Getting feedback. 

Identifying the market

Knowing which songs will attract the crowd’s attention. Play a different variety of songs (not necessarily different languages) so you’ll attract a bigger crowd. 

Knowing the difference between busking and performing a concert/gig

Busking is more intimate & simple and sometimes these musicians overprepare, bringing too much equipment or a PA system which defeats the whole point of busking. 

What is the next step for Buddey?

In the beginning, all we cared about was creating a platform for the buskers to find performance spots.

Now our next stage is creating real jobs for these talents. Sometimes these malls we already work with need talents for mall performances and they can contact these artists via our app which means sustainable income for these talents!

We’re also keen on creating a web forum for the musicians to share knowledge through our very own Buddey website! 

Source: Buddey Website

Buddey Talent is available to download now through the Apple App Store & Google Playstore.

To find out more about Buddey, check out their website, Facebook, and Instagram!

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