One would have to be a cave dweller to be unaware that Asia is on the rise, with booming markets such as China and Korea quickly catching up with more established markets like Japan and the “Asian Tigers.” Even the markets in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are gathering steam and becoming increasingly attractive to western business interests. But what does that mean for the American music industry, and can western artists and music companies get in on the action?
Avril Lavigne certainly thinks so. She was rewarded with a surprise bonanza of music, merchandise and ticket sales after she sang some lyrics in Japanese. And according to Josh Web from What Culture blog, Lady Gaga has also cracked the Asian market because “she gets it. What some here (America) feel is over the top and attention-seeking, is totally normal for fans of K-Pop.” And even Michael Jackson’s old producer, Teddy Riley, has switched over to K-Pop (from A-Pop?) and is now based in Korea, riding the wave of Korean artists dominating the charts in Asia.
But those who are making inroads in Asia are not just established artists. “Independent artists, DJs, producers, songwriters can too,” says Dan Merlot, an L.A.-based independent music producer who has been visiting Asia for years. Merlot thinks there are significant advantages to operating in Asia because they value Western tastes and creativity so highly.
In fact, all the Asian music professionals we talked to for this article agreed that there are great new opportunities available, due particularly to the Internet. And while the fortunes of “international” music are waning, and interest in homegrown music is rising, our experts also agreed that this trend could work to a WESTERN artist’s advantage––if he or she collaborates with native Asian artists and gets representation in those artists’ home territories.
Think Global, Act Local
Rob Schwartz, Tokyo Bureau Chief of Billboard magazine, says, “The number one thing for any artist trying to break into Asian markets is to get a local partner. Obviously the easiest route to do this is to be on a major label and get the Japanese office to take an interest in promoting you. However, there are other partners who can be equally effective in Japan.”
Something Drastic, for example, is a music management and promotion company that, according to CEO Rob Poole, is set up to provide its western clients with “long-term connections, help them understand the language, who to market and promote to, and the fundamentals of business.”
To anyone interested in penetrating Asia, Dan Merlot suggests researching to find companies that represent foreign music into different regions of Asia (media, management, booking, music sales). He also advises finding out what indie and major acts are selling music, touring or getting media exposure there. “Working with locals is important because they give a face to your music and make it much easier for companies there that willing to work with a foreign artist.”