On this episode of How Music Charts, we chat with Priya Dewan, VP of South Korea and Southeast Asia at The Orchard and CEO of Gig Life Pro. Priya knows the music markets in Asia inside and out — not to mention the qualities it takes to be a leader in the music industry, no matter what market you’re in.
Priya is an Indian citizen born in the Philippines, raised in Singapore, and educated in American schools. Just four years after graduating from Boston University, Priya worked her way up from intern to Label Manager at Warp Records, where she ran the show for another four years. As soon as she left Warp in 2011, she moved back to Singapore and started her own booking agency and artist consultancy called Feedback Asia, where she worked with talent like CHVRCHES, Beach House, Yuna, Bicep, and Mansionair to help them find live opportunities in Asia.
Currently, Priya is both Vice President and also CEO — of two different companies. As VP of South Korea and Southeast Asia at The Orchard, she manages teams all across Asia, but somehow, she still also manages to find time to run her own company, Gig Life Pro, a music industry networking and community resource consultancy for the Asia-Pacific region.
Here, we get into three important lessons that have helped shape Priya's career and how she's learned to apply them to her leadership roles in the U.S. and in Asian music markets from Singapore to South Korea and Vietnam to the Philippines.
You can't manage what you don't measure.
When Priya was younger, her brother said something that really stuck with her: "You can't manage what you don't measure."
For Priya, it's a mantra that she still lives by, because, according to her, it's applicable to any aspect of your life, and it's been especially helpful for her in the music business.
If you're trying to improve on something ... it's really impossible to accomplish any of that if you don't know where you are at Day 1 and if you have no way of tracking your progress.... When I was office manager [at Warp Records] one of the things I started to take on was college radio marketing. I looked at that and said, "Okay, well how do I get good at college radio marketing?" Well, for starters, I need to learn about all of the college radio stations across the country, and then I need to identify which of those are most influential, and then I need to track how well we are performing at those stations.... Retail sales, same thing.... And from that, you build expertise, because you've identified what it is that you're trying to be good at and then you can start tracking your progress in that.
Once Priya moved back to Singapore from New York City and started working for The Orchard, she applied the same principle to her success there, using new tools to measure and manage everything.
Look for a gap in the market that you can fill.
Along with management through measurement, Priya has a keen sense for discovering untapped opportunities, which is likely sharpened by her multicultural and multi-market perspective.
The first moment of that that I had in my career that was really impactful was sort of by accident. I was home in Singapore, visiting my parents while I was living in New York and running Warp, and I timed my trip for the first-ever Laneway music festival ... and a couple of my friends were actually performing at the festival, which I thought was really cool [including Battles and Beach House].... I came down and it was an amazing event, and I was so impressed by how many people in this part of the world enjoyed the kind of music that I was working in. So I started to investigate this more ... and what I found out was that it was all being done predominantly out of the UK ... and I thought, "Why is there nobody in Asia representing artists for touring in Asia?" That was the gap that I saw and I wanted to come and fill.
Priya used this experience to launch Feedback Asia, her touring agency. She then took the same sort of approach to subsequently relaunch The Orchard in Asia and to develop her most recent endeavor, Gig Life Pro:
- Understand what services are being provided by competitors
- Figure out what those competitors are doing in the market
- Offer something a little bit different
Let your work speak for your ability.
Priya was only 27 years old when she became Label Manager of Warp, so feeling like she had to prove herself was unfortunately all too common of an occurrence for her. But rather than let it defeat her, Priya just let her work speak for itself.
People would say, when I walked in the room.... "Oh, how old are you?".... But you could see their face would just kind of drop when you say you're 27.... Yeah, the same 27-year-old that has been speaking to you on the phone and emailing with you and has gotten this far in these conversations that we should really progress without this being an issue.... I definitely I think shaped me to feel the need to prove myself that much more.
Though age was less of an issue once she moved back to Singapore, Priya's work continued to speak for itself, including helping Lauv break into live markets in Asia, which would ultimately catapult him to global stardom.
In the process, Priya learned the intricacies and nuances of each Asian market, which we discuss in detail throughout the course of our conversation.
By the way, if you're an eligible music industry professional interested in signing up for Gig Life Pro, sign up here and enter CHARTPRO to get 20 percent off of a PRO membership or CHARTLITE to get 20 percent off of a LITE membership. Each coupon is limited to the first 20 people who sign up. To learn more, visit their FAQ page here.