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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Universal: a Smart connection

Sandy Monteiro, president of Universal Music Group International
Sandy Monteiro, president of Universal Music Group International, holds a signed guitar during an interview with the Post earlier this week in Phnom Pneh. Pha Lina

Universal: a Smart connection

Universal Music Group (UMG) this week signed an exclusive deal with Smart, which grants the local mobile service provider power to distribute and resell the US music giant’s digital content. According to Sandy Monteiro, president of Southeast Asia for Universal Music Group, this week’s announcement marks the beginning of a long-term effort to enter Cambodia’s music industry. Monteiro sat down with the Post’s Chan Muyhong to discuss his company’s partnership with Smart and its ideas for the Kingdom.

Can you tell me about the new deal with Smart?
So we are giving them exclusive rights to Universal Music content. They get everything whether it is download, streaming, ringtones or ring-back tones.

With Smart, we are trying to build platforms to buy music through their mobile device that are the right price for Cambodians and that reach Cambodians in a way they understand. Once we can get this ball rolling and people actually engaging with us, and understanding the value of legally downloaded music, with a good partner like Smart I’m sure we will gather more public support.

What opportunities does Universal see in the Cambodian market?
We want to find a way to use this as the means of growing music business in Cambodia.

If there are good Cambodian artists, we want to find them and get them to a higher status and finds ways of getting them to earn more money. We want to create more of a presence for music artists, create the opportunities for them to grow out of Cambodia to the region as well.

Explain the relationship between music companies and telecommunications?
For the last 10 years, the telecom business has been one of the main sectors where we engage with music fans. So for us to go to a telecom is not unusual. While telecoms understand how to use music as a key marketing tool to attract customers, the music business is always looking for ways to introduce legalised music downloads markets. How do we get people to pay for music? Telecoms have in-house payment systems with all their prepaid business, which provides us with the simplest payment system and which helps legally downloaded music industry grow more rapidly.

Illegally downloaded audio and video is extremely common in Cambodia. How can you compete with that?
Over time we will work with Cambodia’s government to take action with these people. My objective is not to shut them down, but instead to turn them into legal music providers. And when they do turn legitimate, they will go to get music from Smart who will subsequently issue them with a licence.

Did you do any market analysis before you decided to come here?
We actually did research the Indochina market and we found some opportunity, but Cambodia is quite difficult for us. There are already many local (music) companies who do things in a certain way, but that does not mean I agree with what they are doing. Slowly we want to bring in some international standards. Artists here sing on the stage one a week or one a month and there is no strength in the song, does not have the power to be remembered 20 years from now on. There is no legend song. Over time we want to bring in good practice for music industry in Cambodia and to develop legendary artists.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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