idobi recently asked me to write an open letter to the music industry and community to help us stop AAPI hate. Although anti-Asian violence and sentiment has existed since we first touched down on these shores, there has been an exponential rise in blatant racism, violent attacks, and murders since the pandemic hit. I have experienced both overt and/or covert racism just about every day of my entire life and, unfortunately, my experience within our industry (the music industry) has been no different. As a 27 year veteran of the music business, I’m a career artist and executive with: 25+ albums under a label I own, millions of records and streams sold, 1000’s of concerts played, and hundreds of published songs. More importantly I’m a lifelong Asian-American, so I know what I’m talking about.
Sometimes we believe that because our industry is unique, and the experiences that we create, buy, sell, and share are so special — and have so much deep spiritual meaning to all who participate — that we are immune to racism, anti-AAPI or otherwise. It is true, we are in a business like no other, that prides itself on being rebellious and open-minded, but we need to be honest with ourselves. Speaking as an executive and company owner to all my fellow executives reading this, take a look at your team. Asian-Americans make up roughly 10% of the American population (and MUCH higher on the coasts where most entertainment companies are headquartered). Do Asians comprise 10% of your organization at every level? Specifically, do Asian-American presidents, VPs, heads of departments, A&R’s, booking agents, publicists, artist managers, lawyers, etc, exist within your company? Are you looking eye to eye with Asian-Americans across the table at your board meetings? Do you have Asian-American partners who have a stake and/or equity in your companies? Are there AAPI executives on your team who have the power to green-light artist, label, and content signings/acquisitions? Is there a path internally for Asian-Americans to evolve and grow from an entry level to an executive position within the company?
I also ask as an artist and a fan: Is there Asian-American talent on your roster? Is it proportionate to our numbers in the population at large? Are you actively seeking out, signing, and booking Asian talent? If so, are their recording and marketing budgets on par with the other artists on the roster with comparable metrics? Do they receive the same attention, looks, opportunities, and second opportunities internally at the company? If the answer is “No” to any or all of the above questions, I think we need to sit with that for a moment.
Speaking to my executives [out there], that tells us exactly where we need to begin in order to promote awareness and effectively combat racism and bias within our respective entertainment ecosystems. If we are not actively empowering Asian-Americans within the industries, organizations, and communities where we have tangible power, then we are not taking part in the effort to do better. In fact, we are doing the opposite. I don’t think any of us want to be represented in that column. Furthermore, if we are not showing up for each other in a way that will create space for Asian-American talent, voices, and stories, then we are depriving not just our massive consumer base (AAPI or otherwise), not just the music community, not just the fans, but we are depriving society at large of the full truth of who we are as a diverse human culture.