[Interview] Sijie Liu from Modern Sky provides an inside look at the industry

Asian Junkie was recently able to sit down and speak to Modern Sky‘s very own Sijie Liu, who is the ace of Booking & Artist Development for the company. If you’ve ever wondered how any of us become involved in this industry, she’s graciously granted us a view inside the inner workings.

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AJ: Hello! Please introduce yourself to our readers!

SL: Hi, my name is Sijie. I’m currently working for China’s biggest independent music company, Modern Sky. We have a North America office based in NYC, I’ve worked there for about three years now. We do artist management, record release, festival production and promotion, etc. It is a full service music company. I’ve worked at business development, tour/festival production and currently I’m doing booking and artist development. We’ve booked shows or full tours for artists like Edison Chen, HYUKOH, Song Dongye, Ma Di, Tizzy T, HHH, etc. Before Modern Sky, I studied Finance and Data Analytics at Indiana University Bloomington, then I went to NYU for Music Business.

AJ: How did you get involved in Booking & Artist Development?

SL: When I first started interning at Modern Sky, I was assisting in Business Development/Partnership department based on my business background. It was a great experience and introduction for me to the music industry, because I got to know every part of our company and most of the partnership was heavily related with artists resource. It was great to see how to work music and business together and I felt like it attracted me a lot. So it made me think that I wanted to work more closely with the artists’ side. Our N.A. office was small by 2015/2016, and I was also helping out on the tours. That’s when I started learning the process and every detail about putting together a tour. By doing more and more tours, I then got to be involved in festival booking and managing artists’ day-to-day. For me, booking and managing day-to-day were like building blocks for working on the artist development process. It’s all connected and leading to the core: artists.

AJ: What are a few positive and negative aspects of your job?

SL: There are plenty of positive aspects. for example, I get to work with all kinds of creative people which always make me so excited and inspired! And I really appreciate working at Modern Sky, as I was able to rotate my roles. I guess one negative is that our working hours are not fixed, and lots of my working contacts are based in China so it makes it more uncertain due to time difference. But I actually like this working style and I’m already used to it.

AJ: When working with artists, what are your top challenges or concerns?

SL: My concern would always be how best to communicate with artists in order to understand what they want and vice versa, and to let artists understand what’s our plan.

AJ: How does one get to work with some of the hottest artists coming out of Asia today?

SL: The artists I started working with, most of them are Modern Sky artists. Our artists range from rock bands to singer-songwriters, and electronic artists to rappers. And they are the top ones, so there’s a demand for them in the market here.

AJ: When putting together an event such as Modern Sky Festival, what is your process in choosing the artists that will participate?

SL: This is not a one-person effort to do festival line-up booking. We have a team in our NY office working on this and we also work with Beijing office. Usually, we will prioritize our Modern Sky artists for the lineup, and we would look at the current trend in the market both in North America and China. We also like to make our line-up diversified. The crucial thing is to balance among the booking budget, targeted artists’ availability, and targeted artists’ fees.

AJ: What do you think about the current rise in representation and visibility for Asian and Asian-American artists in American entertainment today?

SL: I think the increasing visibility means there’s a demand for these artists. Mostly due to the increasing popularity and purchasing power of Asian community. Also, the quality of music or music related events, online shows are on a different level now. However, I’ve also seen more promoters went out of business during these couple years, and the market always likes to see new stuff which makes the demand for booking or touring same artists more challenging if there’s no new contents or concepts.

AJ: How do you approach marketing a festival like Modern Sky to the American market?

SL: We usually do two sides of the marketing: traditional and Asian community focused. Traditional marketing would include a PR campaign to western media outlets, street marketing team, and radio promotion for selected stations. And then for Asian community marketing, especially for Chinese community, lots of our targeted demographic are younger generation who come to the states for undergrad or grad school. Their ways of receiving info are very similar to people who live in China, like using WeChat and Weibo. So we do that new media marketing as well.

AJ: Can you share a memorable story of working with an artist that may have changed your view of the industry or left an impression in your work?

SL: The tour with Ma Di, it was my first time working on a tour, and I’ve never been on the road before. One of the reasons that I started helping on the tour was because the team was looking for new markets for having shows. I went to school in Bloomington, Indiana and I told the team that it could be a suitable market due to the increasing number of Chinese students which were the targeted audience for Ma Di’s tour. So I helped contacted venues and local communities such as CSSAs (Chinese Students And Scholars Association). And I then went on tour with them and helped tour managing. From this experience, we started to realize the potential of the market (we sold out almost all the shows including the Bloomington show), and for me personally, I got to know how to organize, promote, and tour managing a full tour.

AJ: Who is your favorite artist that you’ve worked with to date?

SL: Hmmm, this is really hard to choose. Every artist is unique and they all have different working style and ways of thinking. This is why I like my job that there’s no sure way of doing one thing and I always need to adjust for new styles or challenges.

AJ: After Modern Sky, do you have anything planned in the works in the near future that you can share with us?

SL: You mean after Modern Sky Festivals? We soon will have Crowd Lu’s North America tour, and we will be focusing heavily on releasing music for Asian artists, which we also do for non-Modern Sky artists as well.

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From the experience I’ve had with Modern Sky, there’s been quite the refreshing level of professionalism and organization that seems to be rare in this industry. I appreciate their time and I hope you’ve learned something today. We know that Chinese artists, especially Chinese hip-hop has started to break into the market pretty heavily and I for one look forward to seeing it grow.

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Yaaaaaas
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