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Jocelle Koh talks Asian music industry and new ‘Level Up’ podcast

1 Oct


With the Asian music scene being brought to the forefront more than ever over the past decade, Australian artists are often curious about how they can engage with the industry. We had a chat with Jocelle Koh, founder of Asian Pop Weekly, about her new podcast ‘Level Up’ and how it can assist in navigating and broadening the horizons of Aussie artists and managers.

How did you get your start in the Asian music industry?
I got my start in a super roundabout way, by starting my own media platform Asian Pop Weekly while I was still in high school in Perth! I started the platform as I saw a need for more accessible English articles about Mandarin music, and along the way managed to connect online with some artists and music industry people in Taiwan who shared my passion for bridging gaps. I did an exchange semester in Taiwan which helped me to strengthen some of those online relationships, and soon after scored an internship with an independent label. And since then I’ve never looked back!

What is a key difference between the Australian and Asian music industries? How might that affect how Australian artists navigate the Asian scene?
I guess it depends what perspective you’re looking at it from. Big picture wise, I think the Australian market is definitely a more mature market, but of course is almost completely made up from various Western musical and cultural influences. While the Asian market is less mature, it’s particularly interesting for it’s cultural diversity (since Asia is made up of many different countries), and relative openness to different influences, probably because of various regions’ history and geographic location. For example, the Taiwanese music scene is particularly influenced by not just traditional Chinese music, but also Japanese and American music, and you can still hear a lot of influences today!

As a result I think the most important thing is to not treat the Asian market as a complete entity, like wanting to ‘break Asia’, because if you’re an indie artist that’s probably not very sustainable. Keep your eyes and ears open, understand the kinds of music audiences like in that particular region, and approach any opportunities or conversations from a perspective of understanding the scene rather than expecting something from the scene.

What is the greatest benefit for Australian artists breaking into the Asian music industry?
My perception of the Australian industry is that it’s quite insulated. And Asia is geographically speaking, one of it’s closest neighbours! So I think it’s a great way for musicians to start gaining some new perspectives, and because of the proximity, it could be a great start if you feel that you’ve hit a bottleneck with local audiences and want to explore other markets. I would say its a less costly starting point than UK or US, and because many Asian music scenes are increasingly receptive to new sounds and experiences, if you can find the right setup it might be worth exploring.

What sparked the beginning of the Level Up podcast?
I’ve actually wanted to start a podcast for ages, mainly because I really like that medium of being able to have an intimate conversation and ramble on about the things you love, but it was failure to launch a couple times before we launched ‘Level Up’. I think the reason it didn’t work previously was because I was coming at it more from a perspective of ‘what do my listeners want to hear?’ rather than ‘what do I want to talk about?’, and so this time I really thought about the latter. And I realised that over the last few years I’ve spent hours upon hours sharing my insights with indie artists and labels from all over and having discussions with them, I feel my methods and insights aren’t exactly conventional as they come from a variety of disciplines, but I really enjoy comparing the differences between cultures and finding ways to bridge the gaps, so I felt that this was something that could really make a difference to any artists interested in learning more about the Asian music scene!

What can listeners expect from the podcast?
I think it’ll be a mix of theoretical and practical insights. At the beginning I’m planning to go over the basics a little more, such as marketing and positioning, social media, digital distribution from an Asian music perspective (sometimes the focus may be on Greater China, at others it might be a Southeast Asian focus), but there will definitely be some cool case studies, interviews, and worksheets hosted on out Patreon page to help you check your progress. And I’m hoping further down the line we can also talk about things like touring, or deep dives into particular music scenes to help listeners get a succinct but well-rounded understanding of the various scenes as I’ve experienced it too. And most of all, I hope listeners enjoy and find value in the podcast!

Find out more information about ‘Level Up’ here or listen to the first episode below.

Government of Western Australia Department of Culture and The ArtsGovernment of Western Australia Department of Culture and The Arts

WAM is supported by the State Government through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and Lottery West, and is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.