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The Other Half

The Other Half: Finding ways to connect with fans during a pandemic with Antonio Di Puorto

We talked to the manager of Asian-American dance duo BEAUZ about their Asian business strategy

  • Otto Clubman
  • 18 June 2020

Behind every great dance artist, music festival, club or dance label, there is a business partner: otherwise known as The Other Half. Every month, we talk with these power players of the Asian dance music world — those that are behind the scenes, yet hugely influential. Through exclusive interviews, we’ll look at the hot topics of the moment, speaking with “those who know”.

For our second installment, we caught up with Antonio Di Puorto, manager for Asian-American dance duo BEAUZ. Over the last few years, BEAUZ has been on a hot streak in Asia, steadily building a loyal fan base throughout the region. Then COVID-19 hit, laying the boys up in quarantine in California and halting all touring.

We recently spoke with Antonio Di Puorto, exploring how, as a manager, he has worked with the group to adapt to the circumstances and alter their Asian business strategy. We discussed how he has sought out new revenue models and ways to connect with fans across Asia in this unusual moment and, finally, looked for a few silver linings in this tough time.

Antonio, thanks so much for speaking with us. Obviously it’s been a challenging time over the last few months. What changes to the “business plan” for BEAUZ have you made to meet these changes?

"Thank you for inviting me. Like all artists, we’ve had to modify our plan as the situation has evolved. We’ve remained flexible and realize that while we cannot control the situation, there is still “business” that can be done. Given that all our Asian shows were cancelled throughout the spring, we’ve had to explore creative ways to connect with existing fans and reach new ones. Luckily, due to technology, the world is a lot smaller than it once was, and we can reach across the globe to our fans.

For example, we’ve been investing more time and resources into developing the brand and enhancing communication via social media. These platforms are very strong everywhere — but especially in China — and they give us a direct daily link with our fans. In China, our social media partner B2 has helped us to better understand which platforms play which role and how to maximize the impact. This allowed us to expand BEAUZ’ presence in that market and tailor our strategies, helping us strengthen relationships, even though we can’t be there.

Also, during this “downtime”, we’ve been focusing heavily on the music side of things. We’ve been releasing more tracks, alternating between label and self-releases. I feel truly inspired by what independent artists like Russ have been doing. Having the creative control and the freedom to release whatever we want / whenever you want it, especially in times like these, is a superpower. Of course, we love working with the labels, but we’ve also been inspired recently during this period to do things on our own."

How closely has the group been involved in the changes you, as manager, have made to the business plan?

"The guys have such an entrepreneurial mindset that has allowed us together to find solutions to the challenges that we encountered along the way. We are busier than ever since this pandemic started. Despite the obvious hardship around the world, we see it as a blessing that has given us the time to reflect, strategise and hopefully come back even stronger."

"Customer intimacy is at the core of BEAUZ. The guys are so genuine that it’s just their most authentic way of being: they reach out to their fans when it’s their birthday, send special messages in their DMs, listen to all demos -- all that.

Regarding keeping BEAUZ’ fans engaged (and Asian fans, in particular), what have you done in this time period to keep the fan “relationship” alive?

"Customer intimacy is at the core of BEAUZ. The guys are so genuine that it’s just their most authentic way of being: they reach out to their fans when it’s their birthday, send special messages in their DMs, listen to all demos -- all that.

With BEAUZ we always strive to be at the forefront of innovation. We try new apps, platforms, sounds, strategies. This pandemic has just accelerated this process for us. We try to be an example for the future generations of artists, and that entails doing things that not many have done before — we are willing to take risks with new technologies.

In this period, we’ve reached out in every way we can, using every technology available. Why do fans go to shows? Because they want to see their favourite artist, yes, but essentially to bring home memories that will last forever; to feel part of a community. We can replicate — or at least approximate — this using technology."

An example of that is the recent Blockeley Festival. What an amazing event; congratulations on the success. Can you explain a bit how it came about?

"Thank you! As you may know, this year‘s graduation ceremonies have been cancelled all over the world due to the Coronavirus. Elliot Choi, the current president of Golden Records (an organization that Johan founded when he was a student at UC Berkeley) reached out to BEAUZ because they were doing a 1:1 replica of the whole campus to host the commencement on Minecraft. Johan brought up the idea to me, and together we decided to come in and help them to organize the post-graduation party. That was on April 29.

By May 16 we had over 60 artists including BEAUZ, Sam Feldt, Vini Vici, and Vicetone performing at Blockley. It took me about 250 emails and dozens of phone calls to convince all managers and labels in ten days that this would have been a historic event. I am grateful to every single one of them who eventually believed in our vision. The rest was all possible thanks to a team of over a hundred volunteers composed by UC Berkeley students and friends of BEAUZ that we brought in -- they made the dream come true. Special thanks go to Cindy Gu, Luigi Porcari, Adriano Romitti, Iris Gao, Lorraine Lu and many more."

What were the economics of the event?

"The event was a fundraiser, so from a business perspective, it wasn’t aiming at making a profit. Instead, we wanted to experiment and scale the event as much as possible with strategic partnerships. We partnered with one of the biggest club owners in China — One Third — to broadcast the whole event on their social media channels. We also partnered with Razer, which provided us with their THX Spatialized Audio technology and merch to giveaway, as well as marketing and PR via their channels. The fourth-ranked esports team in the world, NRG, also decided to get involved and bring in one of their most acclaimed players, Moth, at the festival for a virtual meet and greet.

Our goal was to make a noise in the field of virtual events and show that there is room for innovation. Given the great success and the positive feedback that we got, my management agency KEYTEM in partnership with BEAUZ will be soon launching Genesis, a new company that will be focusing on virtual events and its many unexplored functionalities."

So you think these streamed events are here to stay?

"For sure. Some think that these virtual events work now because everybody is forced to stay at home. I disagree. Yes, people will be going to concerts, but there will always be concerts and festivals that you cannot attend. This is the closest thing you can experience if you still want to be there and see your favourite artist perform.

The potential market is huge. Today, the gaming industry alone is worth more than the music industry and the film industry combined. When you mix them, you create something magical and special. We saw the Fortnite x Travis Scott activation and Marshmello before him. These are just the tip of the iceberg. There will be many more coming in the future."

Any idea when the group will be back to Asia? In the meantime, what else can you do to not lose momentum?

"Even though the live event sector is on pause, we keep getting many offers from club owners and promoters to come back in China and neighbouring countries when this is over. Promoters and fans are looking to the future. One of our new songs, 'Count The Hours', has recently gone viral on Douyin, so the momentum and presence in the market continues, even though we aren’t there it the moment.

We always try to engage in new ways that could connect BEAUZ with their fans. I see TikTok and Douyin seizing fans’ attention right now, and I think this is currently one of the most important platforms. Bernie is a really good shuffle dancer, while Johan has a natural talent for acting, so this platform also allows them to show their “human” side and go outside their comfort zone. This has been a great way to reach fans, while we haven’t been able to travel back to Asia. Once people “meet” BEAUZ on platforms like TikTok and Douyin, they can explore more on Spotify and NetEase. That’s where a casual user becomes a fan; so it all fits together.

We’ll keep using all the platforms available to keep fans engaged until we can get back over to Asia. Of course, this time has been a challenge, but it has also forced us to utilize the full range of platforms available. We’ve found great new ways to stay in touch with fans, and even expand the base.

That said, we can’t wait to physically get back to Asia!"

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