5 powerful Asian women working behind the scenes in the music and entertainment industry

5 powerful Asian women working behind the scenes in the music and entertainment industry

It's time to honor and recognize the women who helped shape the music and entertainment industry to become a more diverse place.

With the ongoing pandemic looming over the industry, artists and people behind the scenes have been struggling to get by. It's been a tough time for everyone, more so for women who continue to fight for an equal future.

While the scene has become more diverse than it ever was, efforts of women are sometimes still ignored. There is an added effort for women to move faster and push further. Because of this, they strive for a better world. They're determined to give women and underrepresented genders a scene where they could all be safe and included.

Bandwagon spoke with five powerful women from the music and entertainment industry in Asia, who stand as pillars behind the scenes and create a more inclusive world for artists and fans alike. 


Priya Dewan

VP of South Korea & Southeast Asia at The Orchard and CEO of Gig Life Pro

Tell us about your journey in the music/entertainment industry.

My career in the music industry started when I moved from Singapore to Boston for University. I joined the local radio station, fell in love with the local music scene, and learned about an entire music industry I didn’t realize existed.  From there I took every opportunity to get involved—from internships and jobs with labels, PR agencies and venues until I finally ended up as N. America Label Manager of Warp Records, based in New York.

In 2011 I was home in Singapore for the first-ever Laneway Festival where Warp artist !!! performed, along with other friends like Beach House and was blown away by how many people here were interested in the independent music I was working with, which sparked my move back.

How do you feel women are represented within the music industry today?

I am super fortunate to work with incredible women across the industry. I think we are better represented today than ever and that there are more opportunities for us now than there were before, but we need to act fast to secure and push those even further.  

In what ways has the music/entertainment industry grown in diversity and equality since you first jumpstarted in this line of work?

When I started I was working in the industry in the US and UK in the early 2000s there was honestly there was very little diversity. I was literally the only Indian girl I knew working in music in NY when I started. I happened to be working in electronic music, which was also very male-dominated.

By the time I left NY in 2011, it was starting to expand with more women and minorities in the scene. Now I work across multiple markets in Asia and with people from all over the world, which is incredibly diverse. I also work with many artists, female and male, from across Asia, who are reaching audiences all over the world.  

In what ways do you hope to contribute to the scene to make it more inclusive and safe for everyone?

I started Gig Life Pro (www.giglifepro.com) to help the global music industry, including us in Asia, grow their business in Asia Pacific through networking events and consulting. Since then we have really focused on the education element by hosting Real Talk Webinars about various areas of the industry to learn about like Copyright and Brand Partnerships, as well as weekly virtual networking Happy Hour sessions where people from all over the region can connect with other professionals to learn from them.  We welcome all areas of the industry from musicians and students to developing and established professionals from all over the world.  

If there was one thing you wanted for the Asians in this industry in its current state, what would you wish for?

Focus on the community element because we are great at that. Nurture and develop your communities because we are everywhere and we are literally triggering trends globally. As our borders are physically locked down, we are virtually borderless and the opportunities are greater than they have ever been. Take the time to learn about different markets you are interested in developing in and reach out to people there. This is the golden age for Asian music and I am so excited to be a part of it. 


Weining Hung

Co-founder of LUCFEST, Founder of 9 Kick

Tell us about your journey in the music/entertainment industry.

I was studying and working in Europe for about 10 years—mainly in IT. I was always a huge music fan but I never thought one day this would become a full-time job. For me, it is still more like a lifestyle than a job. I didn't do a dramatic career change, but slowly from starting a music start-up and organising some local events, meanwhile still holding a part-time job.

I had an idea of having a showcase festival in Taiwan for many years, but I finally had my start when my co-founder, KK, joined in 2017. We had an all-female team until last month!

How do you feel women are represented within the music industry today?

There are more and more talented female musicians. According to Fender, young females are the biggest growing group for them.

It won't surprise us that there will be more female musicians taking the spotlight in the near future. However, the current situation has a large space to improve. We saw the top billings on all the major festivals are still majorly men, and females are still underrepresented by higher management in large organisations. No need to mention the pay gap.

In what ways has the music industry grown in diversity and equality since you first jump-started in this line of work?

There are lots of initiatives from the industry itself. LUCfest is part of a campaign called Key Change, which encourages festivals and music organisations to include 50% women and underrepresented genders in programming, staffing, and beyond. The first thing is always to identify the fact. Change will only happen when we try.

In what ways do you hope to contribute to the scene to make it more inclusive and safe for everyone?

As a team, we believe the daily doings make differences in the long run. Even Taiwan has a very high percentage of female employment rates and the equality level is ranked as No.6 in the world (UNDP 2010).

We are one of the few female-led music companies here. We definitely want more to join us. Being a music brand, we have power but we are also very aware of how we promote our events. We want to deliver this message constantly!  

If there was one thing you wanted for the Asians in this industry in its current state, what would you wish for?

There are so many excellent Asian musicians getting the attention they deserved in the past years. The current pandemic put many musicians, especially emerging artists' careers on hold. There are also lots of political turbulence in the region. I hope all those will become the source of creation and more beautiful things will then be born. 


Sunita Kaur

SVP of APAC at Twitch

Tell us about your journey in the music/entertainment industry.

As I think back across my 25-year career, a lot of my decisions that have led up to today have been deliberate. I started my career in print in 1996 and by 2005, realised that if I didn't make the move to digital, I'd run the risk of becoming obsolete. Already in my 30’s, the learning curve was steep but I loved every second of it. And that learning curve continued as I moved into social media with Facebook, music with Spotify, and live streaming today with Twitch

How do you feel women are represented within the music industry today?

We have come a long way. Sadly, the conversations are still prevalent today, but I do see more women (myself included) being given more opportunities along with a stronger voice.

In what ways has the music industry grown in diversity and equality since you first jumpstarted in this line of work (from your work in Spotify and now with Twitch)?

I look at this in two ways, one is with an artist view and another is from the company view. There has been a rise in female artists and a focus on their music being surfaced and discovered in the last decade. Music is more diverse and inclusive than ever before.

From a company point of view, and as a woman who works in music tech, our visibility has increased hugely. There are more women with varying diverse backgrounds joining the industry, and companies are ensuring level playing fields are thought through. One of the standouts has to be Spotify’s parental leave, where both genders (male or female) are entitled to six months paid parental leave.

In what ways do you hope to contribute to the scene to make it more inclusive and safe for everyone?

I have always tried to have a voice in this conversation and will continue to do so. Education will continue to play centre stage—be it for the next generation of leaders or for a generation that may still be holding onto old ideas. 

If there was one thing you wanted for the Asians in this industry in its current state, what would you wish for?

To start, I wouldn't want this just for the Asian community, that's not the world we live in right now. What I would love to see is gender inequality going away as our youngest generation grows up and runs the world!


Belle Baldoza

Director of Global Communications at TikTok

Tell us about your journey in the music/entertainment industry.

Music has played such a critical role in my career journey. As it is one of my life’s biggest passions on a personal level, it has been a north star that has guided some of my professional choices as well. Way before I became a Communications professional, I was first a student DJ for mainstream FM radio stations (Campus Radio and NU 107.5) in the Philippines.

When I embarked on my first role in PR, I was juggling my time in the office by hosting a weekend rock radio show as well (on RJ Underground). I first became a storyteller for disruptive consumer technology companies with my role leading Communications for Southeast Asia at Spotify, which as we all know is the platform that changed the way we enjoyed music forever.

After a few years navigating the exciting world of other consumer technology startups that have profoundly changed the way people live, move and get entertained, I have rejoined the Global Communications team to lead Brand Communications and Campaigns at TikTok, a leading short-form video platform that is changing the way people enjoy music as it serves as a springboard for new music and music culture on a global scale.

How do you feel women are represented within the music industry today?

While there are so many things to love about the music industry, it comes as no surprise that women are still poorly represented in the industry—from performance to technical and business roles, we have yet to see further progress in how women get access to equal opportunities.

In what ways has the music/entertainment industry grown in diversity and equality since you first jumpstarted in this line of work?

Throughout my career, I’ve seen women being constantly recognized for their talents and achievements. Through the years, I’ve also seen a wide range of proactive efforts to address issues pertaining to equal pay and diversity. We are making strides, but I think there is still so much to be done when it comes to closing the gap and ensuring a more inclusive future for music.

In what ways do you hope to contribute to the scene to make it more inclusive and safe for everyone?

In my own small way, I am always committed to supporting other women, whether it’s through taking on mentoring and reverse mentoring opportunities, endorsing other women to roles they would like to further explore, and just simply lending a listening ear to someone who needs some words of advice as they navigate their career.

If there was one thing you wanted for the Asians in this industry in its current state, what would you wish for?

I personally want to see more Asians taking on more leadership roles and getting recognized for their immense contributions in the industry. Music is the world’s universal language and in an ideal world, should not be drawing lines between races and faces, so I am looking forward to the industry further advancing its commitments towards ensuring diversity and inclusion. 


Ruth Ling

Head of A&R at Universal Music China and Founder of Red Roof Records

Tell us about your journey in the music/entertainment industry.

I’ve always been fascinated by labels such as Motown, Blue Note, Verve. When I look back, I’ve actually operated as a ‘one person record label’ since I was a teenager, just like many fellow artist-preneurs.  

I learnt to produce my own music at age 15 and sold them to friends, first on cassette, then on CD. I didn’t break it down then, but I was the artist, composer, arranger, producer, publisher, marketing, and merchandise director all rolled into one. It was a lot of fun, and I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life.

After JC, I attended Berklee College of Music where my final year project was producing another CD of my own. I also recorded and released a live CD. Both sold fairly well! They were early lessons in accounting and merchandise.

After college, I played in a band... wait for it, yes we produced our own CD. We were a team now, this 'record label’.  There were more of us to handle the music marketing and promotion. We took pre-orders for the CD at a live concert we organized and ended up selling a few thousand copies. These were early lessons in teamwork and event organization.

Although I studied music production, I seized the opportunities to play live, and became a touring musician with A-list Mandopop stars. I got into Mandopop, Xinyao, as well as the wedding gig scene and jazz clubs. This experience playing live served me well in meeting new musicians, production crew, promoters and venue owners.

I also got into the Musical Theatre scene, scoring no less than 10 shows with SRT, including the Trilogy of Threes with Westend composers George Stiles and Anthony Drewe, as well as Dick Lee’s Fried Rice Paradise. This solidified my reputation as a composer, arranger, and music director.

However, I was only in my early thirties and I wanted to do more to reach out in a bigger way. I knew I had weaknesses in areas such as leadership, community, sales, business development and I was hungry for improvement.  

I built a studio and started Red Roof Records in 2012. I started hiring people in different roles. We signed Joanna Dong as our first artist in 2015 and Becka in 2016.  We led an SG50 project involving over 20 local artists, with veterans such as Stefanie Sun and Corrinne May collaborating with rising stars The Sam Willows, Charlie Lim, and Nathan Hartono. Now, I was producing and releasing other people’s records.

Things exploded for our little indie label when Joanna came in third place in 2017’s Sing China. I quickly learnt the ropes of being an artist manager, concert promoter, record label executive producer. Our music was released on all major platforms such as Spotify, and our music videos appeared on partner platforms such as Singapore Airlines and Sentosa. I enjoyed having my own team, seeing us grow together. I enjoyed setting the tone for our culture, which permeated all we did.

Red Roof Records was also the executive producer for 2018 and 2019’s large-scale Sing Lang concerts organized by Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre, featuring homegrown celebrities such as Kit Chan and A-do

You could say I was then talent-spotted by Universal Music China. At the heart of what I do is A&R, working with artists and their music, artist development and branding. Universal gives me the opportunity to do all that with the best resources, on a larger platform.

How do you feel women are represented within the music industry today?

In Singapore, most women in the music industry fall either into performance roles, mainly as singers, pianists and violinists, or record label executives, often in sales, marketing or event departments.  A lot of women musicians end up as teachers, or artist managers, which are nurturing roles. For every one female arranger/producer I know, I can rattle off ten more male ones.  

Many women are put off by the technical hurdle of having to learn digital production and sound engineering. Women musicians are generally not keen on business-related operations such as accounting, risk-taking, pitching, and networking.

In what ways has the music industry grown in diversity and equality since you first jumpstarted in this line of work?

I’m not sure it has, but in my experience, it has always been fairly meritocratic—if you can deliver the work, you will be hired. In fact, as a performer, women often have an edge because they bother with appearance.  

If one can deliver results as a leader, which includes managing your team effectively, or being assertive when the situation calls for it, you will be hired. I have not experienced pay discrimination due to my gender.

In what ways do you hope to contribute to the scene to make it more inclusive and safe for everyone?

I would like to do more to bridge music opportunities from China to Singapore.

If there was one thing you wanted for the Asians in this industry in its current state, what would you wish for?

The discipline to think big, and the courage to go for it.


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