The world’s second largest music label, Sony Music Group, has chosen Singapore as its newest regional headquarters. With Southeast Asia becoming the fastest growing music market globally, Sony’s new hub will become an “entertainment, technology and talent hub that works in tandem with Sony Music Group’s sister corporations to propel regional music and talent onto the international stage”.
Ariel Fung is the head honcho in charge as executive vice president of Sony Music Entertainment Southeast Asia.
Why choose Singapore?
“I joined Sony Music Entertainment in the early 1990s as a Marketing Manager based in the Hong Kong office. It was the golden era of Cantopop, whose influence had reached beyond the region and to many parts of the world populated by ethnic Chinese, so I was very thrilled about the opportunity,” explains Ariel.
“Having worked in sports, food and beverage, and for the exhibition and trade body in Hong Kong, it was the first time that I had worked in the entertainment industry, and it has led to a fascinating journey of music marketing which eventually got me to where I am today.
“Over the past three decades, I have witnessed the ups and downs of the industry through the evolution of technology and its impact on the way that music is consumed, the fragmentation of markets, and the changing dynamics of the music industry in relation to trends and issues in society,” Ariel says.
His experience in watching Cantopop move around the world has stood Ariel in good stead for dealing with the growing worldwide popularity of Asian music.
“Today, Asia as a region is getting more attention from the rest of the world. To a certain extent, the world is now looking at us as we have become the pioneers of some new formats and ideas that are changing the music industry,” he says.
“According to IFPI’s Global Music Report 2022, Asia’s recorded music revenue reported double-digit growth in 2021, expanding by 16.1% and 24.6% excluding Japan. Singapore is a central hub for business, technology and the arts, and has long been considered a gateway to the rest of Asia, so it is fitting that it is the base for the next stage of our growth.”
While most of us are now aware of the ‘world power’ of Kpop and the increasing power of Chinese music artists – after all, Jackson Wang just blew the top off Coachella 2022, as did CL and the return of her group 2NE1 – Singapore is not particularly known for its musicians.
“Because of its geographical location, highly developed infrastructure, and a solid and stable economy, Singapore is an ideal choice for an international company to set up a hub for its regional operations,” Ariel explains when asked about why Sony chose Singapore for its new hub.
“Given the heterogeneous dynamics and characteristics of the Southeast Asia markets, our presence in Singapore will offer strong support to local markets while allowing us to have a better sense of their pulses and heartbeats as well.
“Our new regional headquarters in Singapore will also be a hub from which we work with partners in the regional entertainment industry as well as the start-up ecosystem to drive innovation in the entertainment space, including using music as a springboard into other areas such as gaming and the metaverse.
“For example, we’ve had a great partnership with Epic Games and Roblox to bring music and gaming together. We look forward to having more projects like this to give our artists more opportunities and different channels to reach their fans,” points out Ariel.
Singaporean music and musicians
“Singapore has also had its fair share of great music and artists. There are musicians and artists who hailed from Singapore that have had a huge impact in the region, particularly in the C-pop market,” he adds. “Singaporean star Sezairi has recently achieved 100 million Spotify streams with his English song “It’s You”, which was certified 6x Platinum across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and 1x Gold in Taiwan.
“Asian music is characterised by its heterogeneity, and in Singapore, which is a vibrant melting pot of cultures, we have artists creating music that appeals to all kinds of tastes. Personally, I have been really enjoying the music of Benjamin Kheng, Sezairi and Linying recently.
“Each one of them represents their own field of music and the uniqueness of who they are, and they have established their names in the market in different ways. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Sezairi on becoming the first Singaporean artist to hit 100 million Spotify streams, as well as Benjamin and Linying on their recent releases, which have both been very well received.”
Ariel points out that Singaporean musicians have an advantage in their multicultural backgrounds, particularly the fact that they are multilingual, which allows them to work across a number of countries in the region.
“While Singapore has been a key market for Canto and C-pop, musicians are equally open to and influenced by music from the west. This allows them to get the best of both worlds which helps them to find, build and develop their own music style and create unique music to break out in the market,” Ariel says.
The future of music
Ariel also says that changes in technology, alongside digital and social media also helps artists from smaller countries to reach out to global audiences.
“The younger generation is now heavily invested in visual streaming platforms that host a variety of engaging, short-form videos. With these platforms, anyone can create music-related content from anywhere,” he says.
“At the same time, fans and audiences will be more proactive in finding the music they like rather than having music pushed or promoted to them as has been the norm. New sounds are constantly being discovered and embraced by people through social media.
“To me, the rapid pace of music discovery nowadays is the most exciting and yet challenging trend that we must ride on. The possibilities for digital are endless. Virtual concerts, digital assets and merchandising opportunities are just some of the avenues that are opening up for artists.
“There is a huge opportunity here for us as an industry to constantly come up with new angles and make use of different platforms to help our great musicians get closer to and be more relevant to their fans.”
With technology changing so rapidly, Ariel believes that things like NFTs, the metaverse, virtual idols and virtual merchandise will be “hot topics” and also create new options for musicians and others in the entertainment industry.
“As a leading hub for innovation and creativity, Singapore is ideal for new projects and business ideas built on these emerging technological platforms. We see the metaverse as the next big medium influencing how artists and fans connect with one another,” says Ariel.
Sony Music Group Singapore is located at 3 Fraser Street, Duo Tower, Singapore. For more information about their Asian artists, go to @sonymusicsg.
For more news on music in Southeast Asia, check out our Music Section.