Headstream is redefining how we understand sustainability in the music industry. Launched only a year ago, they stream from a studio made of entirely recycled materials and their programming focuses exclusively on Indonesian talent.
Established and built by Potato Head, which is seen as a hub for arts and culture, Headstream is one of the only fully programmed stations in Bali. And as we get to know them it’s clear that word sustainability takes on different meanings — meanings that might be overlooked in the west.
We sat down with Simon Pers (who leads the programming) and had the privilege of learning about the particular challenges Indonesian artists face. “People don’t visit Bali for the music” Persaud explains, pointing to the fact that nightlife is monopolized by tourism. But Headstream was founded to counter this, and Persaud’s goal is to mold it into a network that supports South-East Asia’s music scene. Without giving anything away we’ll be exploring Headstream's mission, the monopoly of western nightlife, and what we can all do to work towards a more sustainable music ecosystem as part of this Change-makers interview series.
How important is community to Headstream? And how has live-streaming helped you stay connected to your network?
Without community, there wouldn’t be a Headstream. We exist to document the vibrant community that already exists in Indonesia providing a hub for people to come and share a common interest in creativity. Our aim is to connect the dots between the communities that already exist domestically then copy and paste that approach globally.
We’re still building our online presence which can be challenging in a time where there is such an abundance of amazing content being put out.
Mixcloud is definitely helping us connect to a broad, supportive, and open-minded audience in a really short amount of time which has been an amazing morale boost for everyone involved to see such positive support from all over the world. With that said, we’re still struggling to normalize live streaming in our community. I think people still struggle to lock into a live stream. Not saying this to be negative but we do get more viewers and global followers. And I think this just has to do with the number of people still being introduced to Mixcloud Live.
What impact is live streaming having on the artists you work with?
We really encourage our residents, many of whom are amazing DJs to shift the focus from their regular style and use their shows to explore the other genres they’re interested in. I’ve been annoying everyone at the studio to get on the mic and present their shows. It really helps, and they are on camera after all. It also helps provide context to the music, crediting the artist/producer/label whilst letting the listeners know what to search for if they like what they’re hearing and in turn growing the interest around those genres. For me, the biggest impact has been during the overlap between shows. It’s so nice to see people from different communities, genres, age groups, areas, etc, connecting at Headstream, getting to know each other in the chat, sharing knowledge, and just merging into one big community. There are lots of great relationships being built and really exciting collaborations in the pipeline!
What’s one thing you'd like the world to know about the local scene in Indonesia?
Indonesia is brimming with so much talent and world-class DJs. But with that said, the culture is so driven by tourism that nightlife revolves around it, which is pretty detrimental to our local scene. And like I said it’s not from a lack of talent, but local DJs have to compromise to fit this touristic powerhouse. And the reality is that people don’t visit Bali for the music, they just come to party and escape. So there’s little room for artists to experiment. But I should mention that Bandung is considered the artistic hub of Indonesia, more so than Bali. And generally, I’d say that the Indo scene is quite experimental, really open, and supportive of other genres. Headstream was really founded to document this experimentation and of course to empower the local scene in Bali, but we’re not saviors, I want to emphasize that, the talent was already there.
For you what does the word sustainability mean? I ask this because you're sustainable in more ways than one.
In our case, the word sustainability really applies to our goals with Headstream. It’s super important for us to build a strong foundation that serves our community with their best interests in mind. We aim to expand organically with pure intentions and integrity at our core. Creating a sustainable ecosystem in which our community can grow and thrive.
So sustainability can mean a lot of things, on the one hand, it means booking artists in our community but on the other, it means helping local DJs get booked internationally. This is one way I’d like to help the creators in Headstream’s network: for every international artist we host, we should be helping Indonesian acts get booked abroad. Or at least try, we have the means and they are, in every sense of the word, world-class talent. And have you noticed that we talk about local artists as though they are of lesser quality? Sometimes it feels like a microaggression. It’s like if you’re not from a major city, you’re “local”— do you know what I mean? We don’t describe acts in London or NYC as “ local.” Anywhere that’s not the west really. But the flipside of all this is that livestreaming helps us overcome these challenges, cross borders, and shine a spotlight on Indonesian acts.
Do you think live streaming is going to change how we book and curate events in the future?
It will definitely change, hopefully, it doesn’t take the same direction as various social platforms in which following and engagement is king and seems to trump actual talent. At the moment streaming is a beautiful thing because it’s a level playing field where anyone and everyone can share their work with the world. I hope event organizers continue to use platforms like Mixcloud to unearth new, emerging talent and reach out to build healthy relationships that benefit everyone equally!
What is the one thing we could all do on an individual level that would make the industry to consume music ethically?
Book more local talent. To me it’s a given, this is something we’re seeing happening in Indonesia but that only came as a result of COVID, otherwise, our nightlife would still be dominated by touring, international Western DJs. But yeah now nightlife is finally sourcing from their communities and even though it didn’t come from a genuine desire to empower anyone, the result is the same.
Also truly support the music you love! Every little bit counts, even if you buy one record a month.
I think we could all make more of a conscious effort to try and buy music directly from the artist. Bandcamp Friday is such a great initiative that everyone should get behind. Aside from that, get down to the live shows, tell your friends, give it as much energy as possible and buy the bloody merch! At the very least share the music that you’re listening to as regularly as possible on your social channels, tag the artist and encourage your community to tap in and support.
If you could build the music industry from the ground up again what is one thing you’d like to see done differently?
So building off what I said about Bali nightlife being dominated by tourism, when international DJs get booked to play here there’s no effort to integrate them into the scene. They tend to come to Bali for vacation, do their sets, and then go back to their vacation.
Instead, we’ve started this thing where every time we book an international DJ, we introduce them to their counterpart in Bali. So we’d pair them by genre interests, and introduce them to as many people as possible. Bali is such a cultural powerhouse and that’s being muffled by all this tourism.
Also, I would love to see an industry where more trust, focus, and energy is given to independent labels from artists & consumers alike. I think various labels and artists have proven that you can achieve the same notoriety (if not more) with a small emerging label as you can with a major.
Also on Spotify. Have you noticed how people have lost the ability to listen without control? It has to be a playlist you trust. But isn’t it more if not just as exciting to listen to the radio and discover something you didn’t expect?