Quick, name your top five Asian American musicians.
Sadly,with the exception of a few audiophiles, many of us would have a tough time with that question.
Bustle talked with a number of Asian American artists about their struggles to break into the mainstream.
Former American Idol contestant Paul Kim, also known as P.Keys says music executives have actually told him if he wasn’t Asian he would have been signed to a major music label. Wow, you can’t get any more blunt than that.
“When I first started, I would get so frustrated about it, but now that I’ve been in the game for a bit I understand… from a marketing standpoint it’s a huge risk, and no one has yet taken that risk.”
Kim is one of nine Asian American musicians named by Your Voice in an article 9 Asian American and Pacific Islander Musicians You need to hear.
The others are Low Leaf, Awkwafina, Run River North, Clones of the Queen, Asobi Seksu, Blue Scholars, Kishi Bashi, Mitski, and King Khan.
Sure, there are a few Asian American artists in the mainstream, but many don’t even realize they are Asian American.
“The reason why artists like Bruno Mars, Yuna, and Nicole [Scherzinger] become so successful is due to the fact that [people] can’t tell that they are Asian,” says singer Z. Woods. “Some people don’t even realize that Bruno Mars is Asian. They have the luxury of looking ambiguous — they don’t have the stereotypical East Asian look.”
Many Asian Americans are making inroads on the indie scene and on various social platforms, but executive struggle with a way to market them because supposedly they don’t have “the look.”
That’s a loaded term.
The bottom line is that the talent of these various musicians needs to shine.
“Our Asian-ness is something that we can’t not be, but as a band, that shouldn’t be what we’re about,” says lead singer Alex Hwang of Run River North in an interview with NPR. “We should have good music for you to listen to.”
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. You can show your support by liking our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/asamnews, following us on Twitter, sharing our stories, interning or joining our staff.