Voices Of Live: Sean Miyashiro, Founder And CEO Of 88rising

– Sean Miyashiro
From Indonesia to Coachella Sean Miyashiro stands out among the crowd in the live business

Sean Miyashiro is in the midst of building what he hopes will become the largest and most influential Asian music company in history. His end creation, if all goes well, will surpass anything that has come out of Korea, Japan, China, or any other East Asian country, and while that might have sounded like a pipe dream five years ago, anyone paying attention to 88rising’s trajectory knows he is serious.

88rising does pretty much everything for its clients: it is a digital media company, video production-capable, a record label, and performs artist management duties. Clients like Joji and Rich Brian have already achieved worldwide fame through their digital content (viral videos) and the company has grown to represent their interests by producing music videos, handling label duties, and organizing massive events like the 88rising Double Happiness tour (which included dates at L.A.’s Shrine and NYC’s Terminal 5), the Head In The Clouds Festival and the Asia Rising Forever digital event.
When Pollstar spoke to Sean Miyashiro prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said music is at the center of everything 88rising wants to be doing now and well into the future, even though its merch and digital content has done very well.
“As much as we love to make dope t-shirts [and digital content], music is what we’re most passionate about and it’s also the hardest thing to continuously be good at. There’s a billion musicians on Spotify, we’ve gotta focus on making the best music.”
88rising’s roster now includes artists representing a broad spectrum of cultures and languages in East Asia, including Rich Brian and NIKI (Indonesia), Joji (Japan/U.S.), Keith Ape (South Korea) and Higher Brothers (China). While 88rising does have non-Asian artists on its roster, including August 08 and a number of others yet to be announced, the fact that 88rising gives voice to many different kinds of Asian artists is a huge point of pride for Miyashiro, who founded the company in 2015 and now operates it out of New York.
“What I think is incredibly important, based on what’s happening with Asian music as a whole right now, is making sure we are representing people that don’t have a voice from all of these Asian countries. Look at our success in Indonesia with NIKI and Brian. Before that, as an Asian American I didn’t know too much about Indonesia, and I’m sure a lot of my friends didn’t know anything about Indonesia. Even though it’s so big – the fourth-largest country in the world – a lot of people don’t know what the culture is like. What do the people look like? What do they eat?
“When Brian and NIKI have big success you have a whole generation of young people in a country of 267 million people being super inspired, saying ‘I can do that’ or ‘I can do what I believe in.’ It seems possible. It sounds crazy, but it’s really what has happened. 
“That kind of energy is critical and that’s something we are super proud of. If we can replicate that in any sort of way, not forced, but when it comes, we’d love to have acts that the country is super proud of from the Philippines to Vietnam and all the way to Thailand, Myanmar. 
“There is talent to sign, develop and make this happen with. All this together, combined, will allow us to achieve that goal of being the biggest and most impactful Asian music company in the world.”
When asked about what he wished he had learned sooner in his journey Miyashiro, who is originally from San Jose, Calif., said he wished he had been better prepared for what it meant to own and operate an effective business.
“[When I got started] I knew nothing about having a company. I knew how to be a good creative, but there are so many things you have to consider, especially when your organization grows quickly. When 88rising started to pop off it was a very small group of people doing everything very DIY. Things started happening and you bring on a lot of people to service demand and plug holes. What ends up happening is you might hire reactively, there might not be a lot of management.
– Higher Brothers
“There were all these different things that I did not consider, I was growing the business because it needs to grow, and it needs to be done at a high level, but I wasn’t thinking about all these people that were being added and I wasn’t thinking in detail in terms of how to effectively manage these people that were being added. 
“I now realize how important it is that everyone is super clear on what they should be doing every day. It goes from corporate structure to operations to all that, it’s all so important. We can have good creative all day, but if we don’t have all that stuff in place, we’ll get messed up.”
As is becoming a common story, 2020 was going to be a great year for 88rising, as it was scheduled to have a special edition of “88rising Double Happiness” at Coachella, with immense production and fanfare, and those plans have now been pushed to 2021. 
This year was also going to have the largest Head In The Clouds Festival in the U.S. and another in Jakarta, but like so many other live events those plans were changed and now depend on factors completely out of organizers’ control. 
But 2020 is still a great year for music, as Joji’s new album Nectar is due out Sept. 25, Higher Brothers have produced a steady stream of content, including solo albums from group members Masiwei, Melo, and Psy.P and artists like Rich Brian, Stephanie Poetri, Jackson Wang, NIKI, Dumbfoundead, and Don Krez all have singles out. 
And the Asia Rising Forever livestream event garnered a massive 7.75 million views with performances and content from the likes of Rich Brian, KANGDANIEL, Higher Brothers, NIKI and many others.  
When asked if there are any Asian music companies he is currently inspired by or learning from, he says no, though he would love to collaborate with many of the powerhouse companies in Korea and Japan as circumstances allow. 
“We take pride in the fact that we were first at this level of success, or notoriety. We love that. At the same time, we want things to continue to get better. We want to push ourselves to put out things we are even more proud of, that’s the only way to continuously grow.”