FoR THe RecoRD

Southeast Asia Globe - - Spotlight - By Sam Brad­piece

thE term ‘mu­sic fes­ti­val’ most likely evokes thoughts of Glas­ton­bury’s muddy waste­lands or Coachella’s pris­tine polo fields. But South­east Asia is also home to a grow­ing num­ber of re­spectable fes­ti­vals of its own, in­clud­ing Won­der­fruit (Thai­land), Road to Ul­tra (Thai­land and Bali) and Zouk­out (Sin­ga­pore).

En­tre­pre­neur Priya De­wan is on a mis­sion to make such re­gional fes­ti­vals ac­ces­si­ble to an in­ter­na­tional, English-speak­ing au­di­ence. First drawn to the mu­sic in­dus­try while work­ing for a stu­dent ra­dio sta­tion at Bos­ton Univer­sity in the early 2000s, De­wan quickly be­gan ex­plor­ing a wide range of sounds. “I started go­ing to gigs and be­com­ing ob­sessed with learn­ing about var­i­ous sub-gen­res of mu­sic I had never heard of be­fore, hav­ing grown up in Sin­ga­pore [in the] pre-high speed in­ter­net days,” she said.

Af­ter work­ing her way up from an in­tern­ship with in­de­pen­dent Bri­tish la­bel Warp Records, by 2007 De­wan had be­come the la­bel’s North Amer­ica man­ager. She re­turned to Sin­ga­pore in De­cem­ber 2011, where she founded Feed­back Asia – a book­ing agency rep­re­sent­ing a ros­ter of tal­ented in­ter­na­tional mu­si­cians dur­ing their tours to East and South­east Asia – soon af­ter.

Through an ex­ten­sive net­work of pro­mot­ers, De­wan finds fes­ti­val spots and one-off gigs for trav­el­ling per­form­ers such as Fly­ing Lo­tus, Chvrches and Bi­cep. In 2015, Feed­back’s turnover was nearly $620,000.

Last year, De­wan also set up Gig Life Asia, a web­site that pro­vides con­sumers with up-to-date in­for­ma­tion on re­gional gigs, fes­ti­vals and events. While con­duct­ing re­search for Feed­back Asia, she had be­gun build­ing up a list of fes­ti­vals across the re­gion and had quickly no­ticed a gap in the mar­ket. “It is quite re­mark­able how many there are – and how lit­tle you can find out about them on­line,” she said.

“Friends had seen me go­ing to all th­ese fes­ti­vals on my so­cial me­dia. In ad­vance, I’d say I’m go­ing to a fes­ti­val in Hong

As the owner and di­rec­tor of Feed­back Asia and Gig Life Asia, Priya De­wan is hooked into the re­gion’s mu­sic scene. She dis­cusses how she has tapped

into the busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties sur­round­ing mu­sic fes­ti­vals “i go to sev­eral fes­ti­vals ev­ery

year all over the world. all gen­res, all sizes, and i’ve been do­ing this for years. i feel like i have a unique per­spec­tive on it.

the way that i do fes­ti­vals is a way a lot of peo­ple would like to”

Kong and they would say, ‘Oh I’d like to go. Where do I get tick­ets? Where do I stay?’ I thought, wait a minute, why isn’t this in­for­ma­tion in one easy place for ev­ery­one to ac­cess?”

As a re­sult, Gig Life Asia be­gan of­fer­ing all-in­clu­sive fes­ti­val pack­ages for cus­tomers in Sin­ga­pore look­ing to travel to other parts of Asia for mu­sic events. Ex­pand­ing Gig Life’s reach is a key chal­lenge for De­wan. She has en­listed the help of a pro­fes­sional PR team, and even­tu­ally hopes to of­fer pack­ages to cus­tomers out­side of Sin­ga­pore, as well as op­er­ate a mul­ti­lin­gual plat­form.

Gig Life Asia is funded by De­wan’s per­sonal fi­nances, partly built up through her suc­cess with Feed­back Asia. Em­ploy­ing just one other per­son to help her man­age Gig Life, the project may seem am­bi­tious, but De­wan is con­fi­dent of suc­cess and has de­lib­er­ately es­tab­lished Gig Life as an in­de­pen­dent com­pany be­cause she sees it “out­grow­ing Feed­back very quickly”.

A lack of com­peti­tors should al­low Gig Life to as­sert early dom­i­nance over a pre­vi­ously un­tapped mar­ket. “There may be some fes­ti­vals them­selves that have some sort of travel el­e­ment in their tick­et­ing pack­ages – maybe they linked up with Air Asia or some­thing like that –[but] there is no third party do­ing it quite like this. That is the op­por­tu­nity I saw,” De­wan said.

She is also draw­ing on her ex­ten­sive knowl­edge of mu­sic fes­ti­vals, some­thing she has had plenty of ex­po­sure to through­out her ca­reer. Know­ing what her cus­tomers want, De­wan as­serts, is crit­i­cal to her suc­cess. “I love fes­ti­vals. I go to sev­eral fes­ti­vals ev­ery year all over the world. All gen­res, all sizes, and I’ve been do­ing this for years. I feel like I have a unique per­spec­tive on it. The way that I do fes­ti­vals is a way that a lot of peo­ple would like to,” she said.

Groov­ing at fes­ti­vals around the globe while si­mul­ta­ne­ously per­form­ing mar­ket re­search – who ever said busi­ness and plea­sure shouldn’t mix?

was born in the Philip­pines in 1981 and moved to the US in 1999, but holds In­dian cit­i­zen­ship. She re­ceived a BSc in mass com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Bos­ton Univer­sity in 2003, be­fore im­mers­ing her­self in the mu­sic in­dus­try. She be­came the North Amer­ica la­bel man­ager for Warp Records in 2007 and served as a board mem­ber of the Amer­i­can As­so­ci­a­tion of In­de­pen­dent Mu­sic. In De­cem­ber 2011, she re­turned to Sin­ga­pore, where she es­tab­lished Feed­back Asia and, more re­cently, Gig Life Asia.

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