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Get To Know The Violinist Of Pinoy Indie Folk Band The Ransom Collective

Muriel Gonzales reveals the perks and struggles of being in the local music industry.
PHOTO: Courtesy of Muriel Gonzales

The Ransom Collective (TRC) shot to fame at Wanderland back in 2014. With their debut album, “Traces,” set for release this year, violinist Muriel Gonzales talks to us about the local indie music scene and what it’s like being part of TRC.

How long have you been playing the violin?

Around 16 years! I started playing the violin when I was in Grade 4. It was part of my school’s curriculum then, and we were all required to learn how to play.

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You studied Psychology in college. How does music fit into your life?

Back in college, I occasionally performed gigs or sessioned for other artists—Bullet Dumas, Kjwan, Similarobjects, and others. But actually, in the beginning, I was the most hesitant to commit to being part of TRC! I had just entered the working world while everyone was still in college. I had no idea what to expect then, but things worked out and it’s been a crazy, amazing ride.

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How was The Ransom Collective formed?

It started out with Kian’s solo project. He had a song that he intended to shoot for an indie studio, and he was looking for band members. Hunny, our first drummer, introduced Kian to Leah and Jermaine. Jermaine, who was my former teammate, knew me and Lily. After a few practices, we saw this ad for the Wanderland competition, so we joined for fun. We didn’t really expect too much since we were up against veteran indie band performers. But then we ended up winning first place, which meant getting to play at the Wanderland festival. So we thought, “Hey, we might have a shot at this!” That kind of sealed the deal for us and our identity as a band.

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As a self-managed band of six, how do you guys balance the business aspect while staying true to your music?

We actually have a manager now! But we’ve developed a pretty good system of working things out amongst ourselves. Since we are an independent band, we get really involved in most planning and decision-making. We’ve learned how to work together as a team and we set the direction for ourselves.

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The Ransom Collective is releasing its debut album, “Traces” on May 20. How would you describe this album?

“Traces” is our first full-length album containing 11 tracks, including four from our EP. We’ve grown a lot as a band since producing our first EP. This time around, we’re aiming for better quality and sound. We’re excited for our listeners to hear tracks showing a different side to us—a vibe that’s somewhat different from most of the tracks we’ve released.

As an independent label band, what are the costs that go into producing and promoting an album?

As an independent band, we cover everything; we reinvest what we earn from our performances back into the band. Bands signed under a label have more support in terms of finances and marketing. Depending on the arrangement, some label companies offer to foot the bill when it comes to recording, mixing, and mastering of the tracks, distribution of the CDs, marketing and promotions, as well as the actual launch. As an unsigned band, it’s a lot of work to be doing everything between the six of us plus our manager, and it’s all funded from band savings.

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How do you balance a full-time job and The Ransome Collective?

It’s really a matter of time management and being passionate about what you do. I enjoy making music, hanging out with my bandmates, and meeting people in the music industry. My working world and the music industry have such stark contrasts that being in both is what helps me find balance.

How much does The Ransom Collective earn?

What’s challenging about being in the music industry is that there are no guidelines as to how much musicians should get paid, and often, we’re undervalued. What’s not obvious to outsiders is the work and expenses put into a 30- or 45-minute live performance. These include costs for transportation, logistics, technical crew, management fees, equipment maintenance, the occasional sessionists, and the hours we put in for rehearsals prior to each gig. Incremental costs are higher when we get invited to play at festivals or events outside of Metro Manila, especially if we need to commit a whole day or even a weekend. As an unsigned band, most of our income also gets reinvested back into the band to fund projects like recording and replication of our album, music videos, graphic design, photography, launch events, promotional expenses, equipment, and other investments. 

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I don’t really know what other artists charge; I only have an idea of rough estimates in the industry. Bands starting out typically play for free to get their name out, or ask for money to cover transportation; some ask for up to P5,000. If you've put out singles or an EP and there's a growing following—maybe P10,000 to P15,000. Emerging bands ask up to P20,000 to P30,000, while those with more recognition are paid P30,000 to P50,000. Established bands charge P50,000 to P100,000. Top-tier bands charge around P100,000 to P200,000, sometimes higher.

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There is no standardized way for deciding what a band should charge, but it really depends on each artist and how they create a demand for their performances. Some will consider booking a lower value for more frequent shows while others prefer to do fewer shows while still maintaining their standards. It can be sometimes difficult to navigate in such a fluid industry, but hopefully, times are changing and musicians will get more recognition for their work. As for us, we’re always grateful to those supportive of the indie music scene and the people who believe in us and have helped us along the way.

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