Guest Post: CAA’s Marlene Tsuchii On Asians Always Rising

Marlene Headshot 02.2021 v1

By Marlene Tsuchii
CAA Music Agent & Co-Head of International Touring

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, or AAPI Month, occurs every May since 1992 when it was signed into law. As a celebration of Asian culture and influence, it is exciting to see how much has evolved since that legislation was passed. Michelle Yeoh perfectly summarized the changes in Asian appreciation when she said, “Becoming begins with seeing – and it shows how we’re just getting started.”

Asians across all areas of entertainment – from music to film and TV – are making their mark in an unprecedented way. I have been so inspired by all the changes and have strived to make it my personal mission to represent and support Asians in the music space. This started with the pursuit of SM Entertainment, 88rising and artists forging new paths like H.E.R. and The Linda Lindas.

The trajectory of Asian music has skyrocketed since the invasion of K-pop. In 2012, Psy hit the Billboard charts with his massive hit, “Gangnam Style.” He was one of the first Asian artists to hit 1 billion views on YouTube. Since then, K-pop phenomenon BTS have had several songs reach over 1 billion views, as has female K-pop group BLACKPINK. The onslaught of K-pop artists, many reaching No. 1 on the charts, from Twice, SuperM, SEVENTEEN to TXT is mind-blowing. K-pop has had an incredible effect on physical record sales due to the meticulous and artful CD packaging, which has resulted in fans buying several versions of the same albums in record numbers.

Speaking of astonishing numbers, this is a genre where artists have their first tours start in large theatres and move to arenas and stadiums within a year or two. The fandom is rabid, loyal and big spenders as we have seen with record-breaking merchandise numbers. Festivals across the U.S. are seeing firsthand how engaged the fans are, from J-Hope’s incredible appearance at Lollapalooza in 2022 to BLACKPINK headlining Coachella this year. There used to be just KCON that showcased K-pop but now I have booked aespa at Governor’s Ball and Outside Lands and Red Velvet will be at Primavera Sound.

BLACKPINK will be playing Hyde Park and TXT is headlining Lollapalooza this summer.
It isn’t just K-pop that is storming the charts and selling tickets – Asian artists across all genres are breaking in never-before-seen ways. The Asian music and media collective 88rising have seen the meteoric rise of their artists such as Joji’s recent sold-out arenas, NIKI’s sold-out global shows and Jackson Wang’s hugely successful first solo tour in the U.S. and Coachella appearance as the first solo Chinese artist to perform at the festival. In 2018, 88rising launched the Head in the Clouds festival in Los Angeles, and it is now expanding to New York and overseas. Head in the Clouds is devoted to showcasing Asian talent and its curation is the intersection of diverse and broad music tastes.

The incredible success of new artists such as Olivia Rodrigo, Keshi, Rina Sawayama, H.E.R., Conan Grey, and beabadoobee is proof that Asian talent spans all genres and has broad appeal. It is reassuring to see that inclusion is happening organically with Asian artists being featured on huge tours such as beabadoobee supporting Taylor Swift and H.E.R. supporting Coldplay. This is not just in the U.S. but happening globally across Europe and Latin America.

In film and television, we witnessed the broad appeal of Asian content at the Academy Awards this year, which was dominated by the success of “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and its primarily Asian cast. It was as momentous as 2019 Academy Award-winning Korean film “Parasite” and the Academy Award-nominated 2020 film “Minari.” But it isn’t just about awards. Could we have imagined a few years ago that there would be an Asian Marvel superhero, Shang-Chi, and a female Asian counterpart, Ms. Marvel? It is a testament to Asian writers, directors, actors and producers that we are enjoying the fruits of their collective labor over the past few years with “Crazy Rich Asians,” and Netflix supporting Asian content with “Squid Game” and “Beef.” We even have an Asian “Ken” doll with Simu Liu in the upcoming “Barbie” film!

It is important to note that nonprofit organizations such as Gold House and Asian American Collective are supporting and empowering Asian talent and pushing Asian representation to the forefront. Gold House recently rang the NASDAQ bell to start off AAPI month in a symbolic gesture at the beginning of May. They also launched a $10 million creative equity fund to support “emerging creative talent.” Their A100 list celebrated the impact of Asian leaders across all businesses, sports, arts and politics and culminated in the Gold Gala, an event to celebrate the honorees.

I am immensely proud of all the strides Asian talent has made across a wide spectrum of entertainment. In the last few years, our voices are being heard and “we are finally being seen,” as said by Michelle Yeoh, once again. It is my wish that with this shift in Asian representation, there will be more opportunities to change the narrative and that our presence is not the exception. While AAPI month highlights Asian culture and influence throughout May, I hope that this acknowledgment becomes the norm as we seek to attain true diversity and inclusion.