Globally, the music industry is in decline, with growth pegged at just 0.2%. However – largely ignored by Western eyes – East Asia’s music industry is bucking the trend.
Thanks to China’s strict import limits on Western media, pop artists from countries such as Japan and Korea have had largely unchallenged access to the world’s largest population. While many of the region’s most popular names are largely unheard of here, those who make it make it big.
Japan and Korea aren’t the only players however. Vietnam has long been overlooked, but the genre of V-Pop is rapidly gaining popularity.
While the industries of Korea, China and Japan are still dominated by major studios, many of Vietnam’s artists are completely independent; an underground trend here is the norm there. However, artists still need to abide by Ministry of Culture guidelines to be approved for national distribution.
V-pop’s style is influenced by the intersection of domestic and Western media in the lives of many young Vietnamese. This combination has allowed some artists to break out of the Asian bubble and gain international followings from the US to South Korea – such as 26 year-old Trần Khởi My.
Born in Dong Nai province (near Saigon), Trần Khởi My has become one of Vietnam’s biggest and most celebrated singers, actresses and show hosts to date. She has received numerous accolades – including being ranked a Vietnam Top 10 Artist of The Year – and boasts over 10 million Facebook fans.
“The Vietnamese music industry is in its early developing stages” Trần Khởi My answers when quizzed on its current state. “ Of course, we learn a lot from the beauty and creativity of foreign music, but in my art, I always try to maintain the distinct characteristics of Vietnam and our culture.”
“Composing songs myself from my experiences and culture, I am able to connect with my audience on a deeper level, closer, and they love it.”
Naturally, with the rise of forward-thinking producers and artists like Trần Khởi My onto the V-Pop scene with a passion for pursuing music, the country has begun to create its own unique content influenced by elements of EDM, Pop, Rap and Dance music.
“I had experienced musical influence from a very young age and had entered a singing contest at just 3 years old which I won”, as she recalls back to her childhood.
“During my growth as an artist, I have at times thought my art has been limited by my surroundings, yet it still varies dramatically. Sometimes it’s humorous, sometimes blithe, and sometimes sad. Regardless, I want to create something special, always, to bring more emotion to my audience. I’m so grateful for them and I take my work very seriously.”
Historically, Vietnam saw ballads dominate music until the invasion of K-Pop, a genre that appealed to the overlooked and underestimated youth of Vietnam. Their growing demand gave birth to V-Pop and allowed for Trần Khởi My and many others like her to capitalise on this demographic.
She considers each artist unique to the industry and refuses to compare herself to any western counterparts; Trần Khởi My wants to become “the bridge that connects Vietnam’s music to the rest of the world”.
Her power and influence over the youth of the world’s 14th most populous country are obvious. Approached by worldwide brand names and companies for sponsorship and advertising deals, Trần Khởi My, independently, is handling the new era of the music industry exactly how it should be done.
Her hopes of the Western world increasingly taking interest in Vietnamese and East Asian music is parallel with the clear influence of Western culture cascading overseas, fusing cultures and language and growing an Industry in East Asia which, quite frankly, the Western music industry could learn some lessons from.