C. Villaflores asks:
I was wondering what your thoughts are on Asian artists, like Se7en, Rain, and the Wonder Girls, trying to break through in the US market. These artists have been able to sell millions in the Asian market but they are having trouble breaking through in the USA. Do you think that coming here is a wise decision on their part?
If you can make it at home, you can make it everywhere. Asian artists like Se7en, Rain, and the Wonder Girls have proven their talents in their native countries. These artists are superstars in the far East and have relatively huge followings. Japan and South Korea have especially vibrant music scenes and China is joining the parade. The fans seem like Americans twenty-five years ago. They are reverant, sweet and adore their musical heroes. The artists themselves are demonstrating powerful musical and performing skills. Their style is particularly American.
There is a proliferation of handsome and sexy young men emulating the image and style of Michael Jackson, Usher and Justin Timberlake. They have the looks, the moves and the "bad boy" attitude down cold. The music itself is a hybrid fusion of hip hop, electronica and urban pop. Most of the material is "love" oriented, although some artists express more rebellious and provocative themes in their lyrics. Charisma and beauty are strong elements with all of these performers and both aspects are demonstrated in their sophisticated videos posted on Internet.
The business of marketing music is a global enterprise that has been violently knocked from the course it has followed for the past fifty years. Because American and British artists have dominated the postmodern record business, we have been the dictators of excellence standards for the rest of the world. Asian countries have embraced our pop music culture for decades. Since they have been following our lead, the Asians run somewhat behind the curve. Although the global reach of the Internet has quickened the process there is a derivative quality in the music.
The lag time can create the impression that these artists are lacking in originality which is one of the key elements in attracting hard core fans. The music aficionados in any given community usually discover the "next big thing" first and they inspire their friends to get on the band wagon. Also, singing in a foreign language can make it difficult for new singers and bands to create an impact on the U.S. fan base. However, most of the Asian stars offer English versions of their hits.
As world wide CD sales continue to wain, it becomes increasingly difficult for record companies to break new acts and even to experiment with transitioning international artists into western countries. The primary breaking point, for artists today, is the live performance arena. However, Asian stars are used to presenting spectaular shows, with choreographed dancers and elaborate production values. Bringing them to America is very expensive and unless they are playing to sell out crowds, in large venues, the costs are prohibitive. Without hit records on the radio success is not likely to accrue. Few labels are ready to pour millions into promoting Asian artists in the U.S.
To reach The Big Top in America an Asian act would have to build a large Internet following numbering in the millions. If this army of supporters could be organized through viral marketing to inspire a national movement on behalf of an act, anything is possible. But, so far the American music fans have not embraced these artists or their music. It is brave of the Asian stars to come here and try, but it is likely to be a long hard road before any one of them achieves extraordinary success in the U.S. market. It would take a sustained and costly effort to build an Asian act from the grassroots level and nobody seems interested in spending the money or taking the risk.