The Other Half: The head of ADA in Asia unravels the growing landscape for emerging artists
With over 20 years of experience in the music industry in Asia, Chee Meng Tan transfers his wealth of knowledge to Warner
After heading North East to Tokyo last month, we turn right back around and travel South West for this edition of The Other Half, and we caught up with Chee Meng Tan in Singapore. With over twenty years of experience in the music industry in Asia, Chee Meng has held senior positions with Spotify Asia and MTV. He was recently appointed to a new role as the Head of Asia for ADA, the Warner Music Group-owned distribution platform. At ADA, Tan and team provide a channel for independent artists in the region to efficiently reach fans around the world. We spoke with Chee Meng about how his journey in the music industry, the growth of the Asian “indie” market and the benefits that ADA – and similar distribution platforms – can bring to emerging artists.
Otto Clubman: Thanks for joining us. So, how did you first get into the music industry?
Chee Meng: I grew up surrounded by music but quickly realized at a very young age that I have zero musical talent and the only thing I could play is the play button! As cliché as it sounds, I started putting live and broadcast shows together on my university campus grounds. That was my first experience working with artists and musicians. My first job once I finished school was part of the “street team” for a local radio station, and MTV came calling shortly after, as they have just launched the network in Asia. I jumped at the chance, and the rest is history!
Congrats on your new position at ADA. For those that don’t know, what is ADA?
ADA is the independent music distribution arm of Warner Music Group. ADA gives the indie community access to an unparalleled global distribution system and a dedicated team that provides a complete spectrum of marketing, merchandising, promotion and music licensing services. We launched ADA Asia in September, and have already signed some incredibly exciting deals with independent artists and labels, including the DPM — one of Indonesia’s largest music companies.
What kind of artists are on ADA now? Is it all emerging artists or are there superstars as well?
ADA worldwide has a massively diverse roster from some of the biggest artists around such as Anderson Paak, Iron Maiden, Macklemore (Bendo) and Run The Jewels (BMG) to up and coming future stars like AJ Tracey, KSI (BMG) and Idles (Partisan). Within ADA Asia we have already signed artists such as Armada (DPM), Jamrud (DPM) and Slank (DPM). And on the dance side of things we work with Heldeep as a sample partner. We have such a great global infrastructure that we have the capability to work with the world’s biggest artists as well as breaking new talent.
Let’s talk about electronic music. How does ADA view the Asian electronic scene?
The electronic music scene across Asia is vibrant and electric. It’s fascinating to see the rich and diverse culture across the region mirrored in the music genre and trends. Essentially, every market has its own spin and take on electronic music, which is great for us as we get to work with some amazing music. Even if you look at K-pop, you can hear a mix of hop hop, trap, pop and EDM all wrapped up into a three to four-minute song.
"At the moment, the appetite for Asian music has never been stronger."
How can ADA help Asia's DJs and producers? Can they utilize their platform to reach more fans?
With ADA being a part of Warner Music Group, we can offer them an unrivalled global network that they can tap into and be a part of. We have global DSPs that we work with every day, which also helps promote and distribute artists’ music. We have an incredible global reach and can help fans from all over the world to discover new music. At the moment, the appetite for Asian music has never been stronger.
You are based in Singapore. Some great dance producers have been coming out of there — Jun, MYRNE... It seems Singapore is punching above its weight for a place of only five million people. Why do you think this is? And any acts we should keep an eye on?
Singapore is the home to many incredibly talented artists and producers, with MYRNE being one. While we’re based in Singapore, we cover the whole of Asia and I’m a firm believer that producers from Asia are most successful when there’s a unique take on the music which showcases our cultural heritage. There’s a lot of amazing music being made at the moment, and we are on the verge of singing some great artists.