Big in Asia ? What does it mean ?

After a couple of years touring with bands and developing their presence in Asia, I always end up having this "Big in Asia syndrome" conversation with several bands :

John, when are we going to be big in Asia, we don't see the ROI. We have been touring once, twice, thrice (some say even just one time..) and we are still struggling to get full house shows or be invited to festivals and getting high fee.

From various artists

Let's be honest here not all the artists or bands are successful, just a handful of them and even some popular artists in Europe or US will hardly fill completely a venue in Asia.

Asia has a lot of opportunities to offer, but it does not mean it will be an easy way !

There is a myth that if you go to Asia you will play automatically in a full house venue/arena, fans will be waiting hours before your show. 

Believe me, it's not going to happen. At least not immediately.

A question each artist should ask before investing time and effort in Asia:

If you are not popular in your home country or in your region, why would you expect to be big in Asia ?

Usually, with most of the bands I brought on tour, I can determine relatively quickly the ones who will do well and the ones who may struggle at certain level. It's also interesting to see sometimes that those issues are also happening in their home country.

 

Let's face it: if you have issues to get a good crowd at your show in your hometown, chances are that you may have similar issues when touring in Asia. Patterns tend to stay wherever you go.


What could be the factors that a band is struggling to be successful ?

(I listed a series of factors, many more can be added);

  • Band has not found their audience yet,
  • Lack of presence and visibility (social media, showcases..)
  • Wrong or no strategy in place
  • Poor networking in place
  • Music too conceptual/over complicated that audience can't understand the code to enjoy it.  I hear from bands or artists once in a while: the audience is sh...., it's not our type of audience,
  • Bands being very picky with the venues itself and their equipment. It's true all venues are not all great and fancy, some are definitely better equipped than others but does it prevent absolutely a band to deliver a great performance.

Some foundations before being big in Asia ?

Before starting any activity in Asia such as searching for gigs, you should keep in mind the following:

  • You need an embryo of fanbase/followers present in Asia  
  • You need to check if your music fit the market you are targeting
  •  Participate to one of the several music showcases available
  • Have a solid strategy place(taking into account which country in Asia you want to step in) with the following points below covered.
  • Get your material distributed locally (make sure it's available on all local streaming platforms and eventually physically). I would recommend you to get a local and dedicated distributor/label for country such as: South Korea (important to be present in the following platforms: mnet, naver, soribada, bug, melon..), Japan (you will need your release to be available physically but also through the local digital platforms such as AWA, Rakuten, HMV music, Billboard ..), China (digital platforms such as Net Ease, QQ music...). You need to have an expert who has a clear understanding of the music distribution in their local country/regions.
  • Be present across local social media : for instance if you plan to enter the Korean market, make sure you are already active on IG or Facebook and target properly the Korean audience.
  • If you want to enter the Chinese market, make sure you are present across the Chinese social media such as : We Chat, and Weibo and deliver content frequently. Get an expert helping you.
  • Get a team in place : local booker, local distributor, and eventually a local person for the local media/social media.

If you manage to cover all those steps listed above, it means that you are building a presence, not big in Asia yet though.


Again it's really important that you do your homework first

Before attempting any touring, there are some actions you can already work on. Just from your desk.


  • Develop your audience online:

In Asia, you have a lot of countries using the same social media platforms or music streaming as you such as Facebook, Instagram or Spotify. It means you can reach them,

If you are interested to know a bit more about Spotify and how you can develop your strategy, you can check this recent article I wrote.


By looking at the Spotify page you can see where the streaming music platform is present in Asia:


Asia SPotify countries - Big in Asia

Also, by looking at the number of Facebook user per country in just South East Asia (numbers gathered by Statista), we can see that Facebook is still very present in that region.


FB USers Asia - Big in Asia post

As you can see Spotify (but also other streaming platforms such as Deezer) and Facebook suite (Facebook, Instagram, What's app) are present in a good amount of countries across Asia. It means, you have ways to reach those users.

You can definitely set up an online digital strategy in place in order to test your music among those users and look at ways to grow your audience such as:

  • Facebook Ads triggered by country and interest
  • Smartlink combined with Facebook Ads in order to grow your list of follower on Spotify
  • Get in touch with some local media (you may get some free PR if they like your music)

Remarks:

  1. Be aware when you build your Facebook ads triggering countries such as Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, you will notice a huge number of likes but nearly no engagement or conversion. It's important that you tune your Facebook campaign properly
  2. Japan has Spotify but they are not dominating the market at all, keep in mind there are local music streaming platforms extremely popular competing with Spotify.
  3. Localise your posts and ads. Let's say if you target Bangkok for your next single, make sure you publish your post or your campaign in Thai. Doing it, will help you to get a better engagement
  4. It's extremely important that you manage to track your audience based in Asia. A great way is get them opt-in to your email-list. I wrote a post about and you can refer it for additional info.


  • Pitch to participate to music showcases in Asia

Being able to play or being present at one of the Asian showcases is probably a very good step forward in your touring plan.

Remember networking is key. After attending several showcases around Asia (South Korea, China, Singapore..), I always see several acts per year managing their way to tour afterwards in the region.

If you want to know about music showcases and how to get the best of it, you can check this post I wrote.

Now it's time for touring !

Big in Asia or not

 

Make the difference while touring and build a solid fanbase.

  • Be positive
  • Be extremely available for mingling before, during and after any shows
  • Do your homework when visiting a country by knowing the do and don't !
  • Get some knowledge about the country visited prior your trip (and filter all the stereotypes you may hear from people who may probably never put a step in that country).
  • Play your best show even if there is a limited amount of people in the audience. You never know who is in the audience. It reminded me a story where a Spanish band was playing a showcase for 2 people, so yes you can conclude the room was very empty. But they didn't take into consideration that factor and played as if it was their best show ever. Among the 2 persons, apparently one was a booker for the Fuji Rock Fest. And yes they were booked for that well known festival !
  • Don't argue with the venue if you feel their sound system or light system is not what you were expecting or hoping. I would always advise to get the spec of the venue in advance in order to set your expectation and be prepared.
  • Open yourself genuinely to discover the culture.
  • Get your fans engaged for the long run (many bands are spending time to build a fanbase before their tour and tend to forget them once the band is back home).
  • Prepare yourself of coming back on regular basis (you should see your audience growing but also get a stronger interest from the local scene but also bookers, distributors, media).
  • Know the local scene and look for collaboration with local artists

Be creative during touring by:

  • Shooting a video - I had 3 bands who did this. Check: Battlebloom (band based in Kuala Lumpur who shot their video single Ocean in South Korea), you can check also I Wear* Experiment from Estonia (who shot an acoustic a video of their single Almere on the Great Wall in China) or Edor from Belgium (who shot his single Cage in Chongqin/China)
  • Documenting your tour (by doing mini snippet for social media) and share it genuinely
  • Voice out what you find cool, epic, extraordinary about the country visited during your last tour. For instance: I Wear* Experiment made a Facebook Live and discussed their trip in China. People are curious by nature and will be most probably interested to listen their adventures.

Keep repeating those steps, don't forget to re-evaluate your strategy on regular basis and analyse what went right and what went wrong but also which market was the most responsive.

Don't forget to keep your audience engaged by providing new content on regular basis (get a post schedule in place).


 

Finally, I used to say that Asia is a territory with great opportunities around, it's a matter of being present, steady, engaged with your audience but also with the team working for you before to get recognition.

Why not you try to work on the key-points above and see how it goes. And remember, being big in Asia may take some times and surely a lot of efforts need to be engaged before seeing the first sign.




About the author 

John W.

17 years experience in the Music Industry, I worked as a promoter in Bangkok for 8 years where I set up shows for Backstreet Boys, Death Cab For Cutie, Mogwai, Diana Krall, Herbie Hancock.. In 2016, I created my own artist management agency which focus on the development of emerging artists

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