The Evolution of the Music Industry – Interview with Adam Cho from Avex Asia

Drawing from his passion and more than a decade of expertise in the music and entertainment realm, Adam Cho from Avex Asia shares insights on the industry’s evolution, driven by increased accessibility to music and new experiences.

Hi Adam, thanks for joining us in this interview. For a start, could you tell us more about yourself and Avex Asia?

Hi, thanks for having me. I’m the General Manager of Regional Label at Avex Asia, and work across the company’s record label functions with a focus on Southeast Asia.

Avex Asia is a subsidiary of the Japanese entertainment conglomerate Avex, and also the headquarter office for the Asia region – excluding Japan of course. Our portfolio spans various business pillars such as record labels, live events, and IP licensing for characters such as Pokémon and Sanrio characters (which I think this is quite evident with all the character merchandise displayed at our office window).

Could you give us some insights into what working in the music & entertainment industry is like? Maybe some misconceptions, what you enjoy about it, and the challenges you face?

Nowadays, thanks to the internet and social media, information that was previously difficult to obtain is easily accessible by anyone, anytime. Hence, I don’t think there are many misconceptions; people kind of know most of the ins and outs of the industry.

As for what I enjoy, it’s always rewarding to see people enjoying music and other forms of entertainment that I’ve contributed to. For instance, when I was at MTV Asia, I was part of a team that organised music festivals in Kuala Lumpur and Manila which attracted over 20,000 attendees. Although the team was present at the festivals, we never really got to see the performances from the audience point of view but had to watch their premieres on the MTV channel. That said, from backstage, hearing the crowd calling the artists’ names and singing along to their songs, as well as seeing the fireworks go off at the end of each show always gave me a sense of pride and reminded me of why I was doing what I was doing.

As for challenges, they are quite similar to those faced by just about anyone who works in a Multi-National Corporation (MNC). Such challenges could arise from people having different sets of expectations or different backgrounds. Other challenges – which I also think are quite commonplace – include frequent emails and calls, as well as late-night or weekend meetings to accommodate different time zones.

However, one challenge that is prominent in the industry is that anything can change at any time, even at the eleventh hour. This could range from a record release being abruptly cancelled mere hours before its scheduled launch, to more extreme cases like the unanticipated cancellation of an entire show, as we saw with the recent Good Vibes Festival. Therefore, I have developed a habit of constantly envisioning the worst-case scenario and ensuring we have a Plan B in mind.

With over a decade of experience in the music & entertainment industry, how have you seen the industry evolve, especially in Asia?

I think that the biggest evolution has been the increase in accessibility to music, artists, and content in general.

When I first started in the industry, people had to visit a CD store to buy CDs and listen to new music, or head to a bookstore to buy magazines featuring their favourite artists. People also had to attend physical events to get a glimpse of their idols.

These days, accessing the latest music or news about your favourite artists can be done with just a few fingertip taps on your phone.

As a result of this ease of accessibility, the biggest beneficiary of the industry’s evolution has been the consumers and audiences. Moreover, Asia has definitely been at the centre of this evolution given how advanced and developed the region’s infrastructure is.

On the other hand, it has become so much more complex for people within the industry. This is because we now need to understand so many new platforms and audience behaviours – which has meant that all of us in the industry have had to learn new skills. Moreover, with Web3 and Artificial Intelligence (AI) gaining traction and giving audiences more immersive, comprehensive experiences, the evolution of the music industry is farfrom over.

All of these are positive signals from the consumers’ and audiences’ perspectives, but it also means that the industry needs to keep up in order to ensure that we can provide what they’re looking for.

With the music industry moving at such a fast pace, and trends constantly evolving, can you share your strategies for staying up-to-date on  – and possibly even ahead of  – the most recent industry shifts and emerging trends?

This question actually reminds me of something a friend of mine once said: “Working in the music industry isn’t just a job. It’s a lifestyle.”

I think what my friend meant was that there are no strategies, you just have to be “IN” it. You need to have the interest and passion to keep up with the latest industry happenings, news and trends. And in order to be able to do so, you have to be savvy with digital and social media platforms, and also continue to build and widen your network – both within and beyond the industry.

With respect to social media platforms, TikTok has changed the way people discover music and artists. One example would be Avex’s own girl group XG which had their video of “Galz Xypher” go viral on TikTok. How has this social media platform changed the way you market and promote your artists?

When it comes to making content go “viral”, both the marketing and promotions functions have to stay up-to-date about the current interests and behaviours of customers and audiences. With respect to TikTok – one of the biggest, if not the biggest discovery platforms – it is imperative for us to look into the platform in depth.

However, just adapting or replicating successful, viral TikTok campaigns from other organisations can result in rather underwhelming outcomes.

Essentially, there is no formula for making content go “viral”. There have been many times where I’ve heard discussions about what it takes to “crack that code”. But if you ask me, there really isn’t a one-fit-for-all kind of a solution and you certainly cannot control the outcome. Plus, we’ve also seen a number of one-hit-wonder cases from TikTok viral moments too.

My opinion is that no matter what, it all goes back to the actual product you’re putting in front of the audiences: the music and the artists. I don’t believe that going “viral” should be an objective whenever someone is writing music. In fact, music should be a vehicle to express your story and to resonate with your audiences. Additionally, whilst TikTok and “viral” content have had the biggest impacts on music discovery, it doesn’t mean that you can neglect other avenues of marketing and promotion.

If your prayers are heard and your product goes “viral”, great. This means that you’re now at the starting line and a few steps ahead of others. But going “viral” doesn’t last for long. And this is why it’s also time for you to be agile – to amplify and sustain the virality, as well as to reinforce other marketing and promotional channels and platforms to make sure that there are places where your music can endure.

With the advent of Generative AI and Web 3.0, do you see such technological advancements as opportunities or challenges for the industry?

I see these technological advancements as an inevitable evolution of the industry – as opportunities rather than challenges. Therefore, I think it’s more advisable for everyone to study and be prepared to embrace these advancements rather than see them as threats from the get-go – which is what I’m also trying to do.

At the end of the day, the music industry is built on listeners, fans and consumers. And technology has helped fans connect with their favourite artists, thereby giving these fans a better experience – which should always be the priority.

For example, now Apple has jumped into Virtual Reality (VR) with their Vision Pro 3D camera. And I’m curious to see how it will change the VR scene, as well as what kind of an impact it will make. This is because when the Oculus Quest was launched, I was blown away with the content that I could experience just by using a VR headset.

With AI on the other hand, I think it will take a little more studying and observing to understand how it will benefit the industry. Some players seem to have embraced it with open arms, but others seem to be seeing it as a threat… And both points of view are understandable.

Personally, I’m always on the lookout for new technologies so that I can learn about them, test them, and try to determine the opportunities that these technologies bring about.

Finally, a belated welcome to the SPECTRUM Community! How has your experience been so far?

Thank you! My experience has been nothing short of great! Unfortunately, I have yet to participate in community-wide activities although I’ve only heard good things about them. However, I’ll definitely try to join in for future activities so that I can feel like a true member of the SPECTRUM community!

Thank you for joining us in this interview!

You can connect with Adam via LinkedIn to know more about Avex Asia and the work he does.