Trailblazers is an MBW interview series that turns the spotlight on music entrepreneurs making waves in their local markets, who have the potential to become the global business’s power players of tomorrow. This time, we speak to artist and producer Pollakit Srisamut (aka Lunaticfluker), one of the co-founders of prominent Thailand-based record label and media company YUPP! Entertainment. Trailblazers is supported by Believe.
With 54.5 million internet users and an internet penetration rate of 77.8% of the total population (as of January 2022), Thailand’s digital music business shows a lot of promise.
Spotify has been available in the market since 2017, and in 2021, media giant GMM Grammy launched what was claimed to be Thailand’s first localized streaming app (in partnership with Tuned Global).
One streaming platform in particular that stands out for its reported reach in the country however, is YouTube, which was reportedly seeing 42.80 million users in Thailand in early 2022.
That’s according to a report from Datareportal, citing updates to Google’s advertising resources. The report added that YouTube’s ad reach in 2022 was equivalent to 61.1% of Thailand’s total population at the start of last year and 78.5% of Thailand’s total internet user base.
Yupp! Entertainment, a prominent hip-hop-focused indie label in Thailand has capitalized on YouTube’s reach in the market.
The company, which is also behind the ‘Rap is Now’ hip hop community, and provides creative expertise on popular TV talent show, The Rapper, currently has 2.45 million YouTube subscribers and claims to have reached the first 1 million after just one year.
Lunaticfluker (aka Pollakit Srisamut) is an artist, producer and co-founder at Yupp!, which stands for “YOUTH WITH DOUBLE UP. He tells MBW that the label uses its YouTube channel to drive engagement with fans in Thailand and globally and then pursues live opportunities outside of Thailand.
A great example of this strategy in action in action is YUPP! artist Milli, who was a contestant on the Rapper TV show, three years ago.
The video for her track พักก่อน (Prod. by NINO), has generated 93 million views alone, with several others racking up millions of views of their own.
Milli went on to perform at Coachella last year, and was claimed to have become the first Thai-language artist to perform at the festival.
“We are passionate about searching for, developing and showcasing local youth talents to the world to inspire the new generation,” says Lunaticfluker.
“We are trying to create a highly reputable music label with strong local content creation with regional and global impact.”
Commenting on the label’s YouTube audience and subscriber base, he notes that live music was Yupp!’s biggest revenue driver prior to the pandemic, but that it has now been overtaken by digital revenue and specifically from YouTube.
“[In terms] of [sources] of digital revenue for YUPP! Entertainment, 50% comes from YouTube Music Premium,” says the label’s co-founder.
He adds: “It is very promising.”
Here, MBW speaks to Yupp! Entertainment co-founder Pollakit Srisamut about the hip-hop landscape in Thailand, the growth of digital platforms, and the company’s ambitions for the future…
Tell us about YUPP!’s origins…
We are the founder of Rap Is Now, the biggest community for Thai rappers with the purpose [of paving] the way for a new generation of rappers to shine in Thailand and the SEA market.
We created YUPP! to allow Thai rappers to continue their journey to become professional artists and to feed high-quality artists into the Thai and global hip-hop market.
YUPP! is [positioned] to fully leverage Rap Is Now to create its own USP as the strongest hip-hop music label in Thailand.
Once [we created] a strong reputation in Hip Hop, we started to expand to several music genres that are relevant to our expertise.
Tell us about your ambitions for YUPP!?
During [the] COVID [pandemic], we saw an opportunity from streaming music. [Streaming is now] obviously larger than what we used to imagine [it would be]. It has become [a priority] to [develop] a much stronger footprint on digital platforms and to generate a significant [portion] of revenue [from digital sources] and to rebalance [our portfolio] to not focus on Live only.
Now, YUPP! has gained enough [digital] experience and has built a strong YouTube channel. The strength of our channel is not only from production of great content, [but] we also [carry a large quantity of] content.
What differentiates YUPP! from other players in the market?
The artists and our blend of genres are based on rap and hip-hop. Our artists are unique and authentic. These are the key characteristics our artists need to have to [attract] gen Z audiences, which are our main target audiences
A strong focus on digital content production of both music content and video content especially on YoutTube, which has very high penetration in Thailand and SEA
We also focus on enhancing the audio streaming experience by focusing on creative visuals to improve marketing and promotion on platforms.
We blend our own and unique creative vision together with leveraging our partners to drive our digital presence and audience development across platforms to gain traction, so that [we] can drive our Live business further [both] domestically and internationally.
What does YUPP! look for in the artists that it works with?
We are looking for dedicated, authentic and unique talents.
Last but not least, they have got to be digitally savvy and able to understand and engage with fans digitally as well. Thailand is a great space because creative work is super dynamic with strong streaming consumption YOY.
You mention on your website that you achieved 1 million YouTube subscribers within one year. How did you achieve that growth?
In the first year, we focused on releasing a lot of music videos of songs to ‘break’ the internet, and we did.
We have got a few music videos for songs that are making waves, from artists like, Morning, TMRW, and มนต์รักนักแร็พ. Their hit songs made [our] subscribers skyrocket.
We learn from the data we have. The data [informs] us [about] how to [implement] better strategy to engage and develop our fan base. We listen to video experts on the nature of the music industry and digital fans.
How important is YouTube for YUPP!?
It’s our No.1 priority. We were born on YouTube and still going strong. It’s the community for us. I really appreciated all the love from the fans that supported us [on YouTube].
Thailand has very strong premium subscription [rates]. YUPP! [also] has a very high revenue contribution from [YouTube Music] premium as well. It is growing. We want to [make] it even stronger in the future.
What are the biggest challenges for the music business for independent labels in Thailand right now?
For me, the challenge is to [break] out, stay fresh and keep fans close. Social media is going so fast, every day we achieve new viral [videos] that get people’s attention, so we need to work a lot more to stay on top.
The market is growing very fast across all platforms. YouTube is very big, but audio streaming is coming in fast as well. We need to ensure we stay ahead of the curve to understand audiences on each platform and how to engage them.
What trends are you seeing in the market that you can tell us about?
I’m seeing cross/blend genre going more mainstream. You can’t tell what exactly the song’s genre is, but you can tell people are starting to enjoy it.
In the past, Live [music] was [YUPP!’s main revenue Music Business Worldwide, by far more than digital, but COVID has changed everything.
We are clear now that digital revenue can be the [main revenue source] as well. Therefore we are focusing a lot on building our digital experience.
How is hip hop and rap positioned in the music business in Thailand in 2022 and how is that evolving?
The hip-hop scene in Thailand started in around 2016, from underground rap battle platform ‘THE WAR IS ON’ by Rap is Now.
We also have two TV programmes called “The Rapper and “Show me the money” [in Thaliand] that made rap and hip-hop become mainstream [between] 2018 to 2020.
It used to be more [popular] at that time, but right now we can still see a few songs on a chart.
Hip hop leads the way [in terms of genres’ ] digital fan bases. Given that hip hop will be blended with several genres in the near future, it should bring digital fans to those genres that we will create [songs in] as well.
What are your ambitions for the coming 12 months?
We are focusing on creating a fan base locally and overseas, again leveraging streaming platforms to further drive [our] live [business]. We are going to hold small gigs all around the year for all our local fans, and will go to the overseas festival [market] to meet our fans [abroad].
As I keep saying, digital music will be the main [revenue source] for our business.
If there was one thing you could change about the music business what would it be and why?
It would be great if we can get more revenue on digital sales/streaming, because the production costs are quite high. We don’t really have physical sales anymore. it would help a small independent label to [grow].
We are expecting to leverage more innovations like NFTs and the Metaverse to help us engage with fans better, with better ROI compared to physical or normal Live activity.
Trailblazers is supported by Believe. Believe offers advice to independent artists and labels, in addition to distributing and promoting their music through a portfolio of brands including TuneCore, Nuclear Blast, Naïve, Groove Attack and AllPoints.Music Business Worldwide