Having lived and worked overseas, Priya Dewan returns to her hometown of Singapore with renowned vision for the future of music festivals in Asia. Meet the brainchild behind Feedback Asia, a booking agency born out of the ten years experience she had in the Western music industry.
To know more about her vision, JUICE had a chat with Priya to talk about home, her experiences living and working abroad, and the Asian music festival landscape.
In the list of incredible achievements Priya has, some of the notable ones include her time as North American Label Manager for UK-based label Warp Records, and her time as an active member and board member of the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM).
To add more into that list, she has also been featured as Billboard Magazine’s ‘Top 30 Movers and Shakers Under 30’ and was quoted in the New York Times, Billboard, The Boston Globe and more.
Now, she looks back to her past experience and the extensive relationship she’s developed in the Western music market, combined with knowledge and relationships developed since moving back to Asia to produce a more proactive approach to how artistes – regardless of their genre or which part of the world they’re from – can promote their music and find live opportunities within the Asian market.
Hi Priya, welcome back to Asia. How does it feel to be back in Sunny Singapore?
Thank you! It feels great! I am absolutely loving being back home, in the warmth, by the water, near family and the ability to travel to some awesome events and festivals across the region quickly and affordably.
What was your motivation to move back to Singapore and start Gig Life Asia? Considering that you’ve been doing great back in the States?
I actually came back home six years ago to start my booking agency and consultancy, Feedback Asia. Over the years I have been to numerous festivals and concerts across the region, made some awesome friends who work in Music, F&B and events in each city and eaten some great food. I launched Gig Life Asia to share this information with anybody who loves to experience a city like a local and who loves travel and music.
You’ve worked with big names like Grizzly Bear, Beach House and our own Yuna. How was your experience living and working in the States, were there any setbacks? Given that you come from a different background.
The biggest struggle while working in the States was actually staying in the States. Music industry jobs starting off don’t pay as much as entry level PR or marketing jobs, which was my major, so it was tough to get work Visas and I had to get a new one every year. I managed to live and work in the U.S. legally for 10+ years, though, so it worked out in the end! Culturally, having attended Singapore American School for nine years helped me assimilate much more easily, so much so that my new friends in the U.S. didn’t realise I grew up in Asia! There would be small clues every now and then, like when I told them I didn’t know what the Goonies is.
Gig Life Asia is a great platform for music lovers and festival goers alike. Do you also look for the same music-loving spirit in the people you hire?
Thanks! I definitely look for employees and partners who share my love of music and festivals. I believe you are your best when you do what you love. Luckily for me, there are lots of smart and talented people who love music and travel!
With the amount of events that pop up every now and then, how does the team maintain a level of physical and emotional strength when times are tough?
Luckily through Feedback Asia, I am notified of these new events as the promoters approach me for talent. These days event organizers have started reaching out to Gig Life Asia directly to have their events listed on our website. In general when times are tough and I feel a strain on my emotional and physical strength I force myself to rest. Meditation also helps a lot.
Music events and festivals have been on the rise in Asia. What holes do you think Gig Life Asia can fill that’s different than the rest?
You are absolutely right! There are so many incredible boutique festivals popping up across Asia – from Fort-Palace festivals in India to resort festivals in Bali. On top of that, global festival brands like Ultra, Laneway, EDC, Bestival have also come into the market. Gig Life Asia is the only one-stop portal in Asia that has all of this information available in one place. On top of that, we offer useful travel tips and F&B recommendations that come from my experiences in those cities or from good friends who live there. Our weekly newsletter #GLAGUIDE features a different city each week and features five questions with somebody interesting who lives there, followed by a gig recommendation (usually with a discount code) and F&B recommendations.
In Malaysia for example, culture and religion can be a barrier when it comes to certain shows/artistes. How do we expand the possibilities without crossing the line?
I think working closely with the authorities, like the promoters in Malaysia are doing, will open up more opportunities for concerts and festivals in the future. Understanding and working with the authorities allows for fewer shock cancelations and an opportunity to get some more flexibility.
Travelling abroad for a show is indeed a commitment, but many are willing to do it. So do you think the music industry will ultimately work hand-in-hand with tourism boards in the near future?
Most festivals and promoters across Asia actually already do work closely with tourism boards, which is great! Gig Life Asia is also going to start working with tourism boards as our entire business is about traveling for music – for example we are doing packages for Katy Perry in Jakarta, specifically targeting the Malaysian market since she is not doing a show in KL this time. Next time we will definitely reach out to the Indonesian Tourism Board and see if they can support this.
Personally, is it more important to accommodate to existing fans? Or create new fans by introducing new music?
I think it is good to have a healthy balance. Ideally the content you are presenting to fans will be enjoyed by existing fans, as well as new fans. There are so many different kinds of festivals and concerts across Asia in terms of genre, location, size that there is definitely something for everybody.
How big of a part do you think music festivals play in the social or historical aspect of a region? For instance, Woodstock or even Coachella, which has been around for awhile, and has made its mark in their culture.
Music festivals are already playing a big party in culture in Asia. Festivals like Zookout and Djakarta Warehouse Project are legendary electronic festivals in the market, having been around well before the global electronic festivals entered the market. You also have new festivals built around terrific, socially conscious ideology, like Wonderfruit in Pattaya. Wonderfruit is changing the way festivals operate to make them less damaging to the environment, while educating festival goers about how they can be more sustainable day to day, while giving us a great line-up of DJs, bands and artists to enjoy it all.