ESEA Music Sony Meet Up (Picture: Koto Shimada)

ESEA Music share results of '(Re) Orientated' representation survey

It's a first of its kind study into the representation of East and Southeast Asians in the UK music industry.

Sam Moore
  • By Sam Harteam Moore
  • 8 Sep 2023
  • min read

ESEA Music has shared the results of its innovative study into the representation of East and Southeast Asians in the UK music industry. 

Conducted in partnership with the product research and strategy studio 100kicks, the '(Re) Orientated' survey drew responses from over 80 ESEA artists and UK music industry professionals about 'their experiences in relation to their cultural identity and heritage'.

Among the main themes uncovered by the study, which is being shared now to mark the start of ESEA Heritage Month, is the 'invisibilisation' of ESEA people within the 'Asian' category in the UK, where the 'Asian' cultural identity typically refers to 'South Asian' and not 'ESEA'. 

The study also found there to be a lack of ESEA representation among both artists and music industry professionals, particularly in positions of leadership and influence within the industry. When asked to rate how well represented they feel in their cultural identity within the UK music industry on a scale of one to 10 (with one being none and 10 being great representation), the respondents gave an average rating of four.

A notable recurring theme among those surveyed, meanwhile, is a specificity of experience for ESEA women, trans and non-binary people in the UK music industry, with the organisation noting: 'The responses reveal an enduring influence of stereotypes that typecast Asian women as exotic and alluring, a phenomenon rooted in colonialism and Orientalism.

'In addition, for ESEA music artists, it explores how cultural attitudes can influence familial support for pursuing musical careers, the extent to which their ethnicity is connected to the music they are making, and how that is perceived by the media, bearing in mind the lack of representation.'

In a statement accompanying the results of the '(Re) Orientated' survey, ESEA Music said that these findings 'stress the importance of having organisations such as ESEA Music to pave the way for ESEA representation in the music industry and beyond'.

'With every mentor meeting, community gathering, music writing camp and initiative spearheaded by ESEA Music, the group is taking steps to improve representation, to create visibility for ESEA people throughout the industry, to support artists in making music that can be connected to their cultural identity, and to make room for the unique experiences of ESEA women, trans and non-binary people.'

Commenting on the survey, ESEA Music co-founder Tiger Hagino Reid, who wrote for M last year about the origins of the organisation, said: 'Through my conversations with ESEA Music members over the past couple of years, as we embraced our newly collectivised ethnic identity, ESEA, and the music community, I’ve come to better understand the nuances of our experiences.

'From the joy of new diasporic connections to feeling "othered" in the UK, from industry representation issues to a growing sense of activism, these shifts in identity and action have become evident through our meetups, creative collaboration and WhatsApp groups.'

Tiger added: 'To document for ourselves, and help others understand, the unique challenges faced by ESEA artists and professionals in the UK music industry, we've created the "(Re) Orientated" survey. This report is a pioneering effort to comprehensively collect data on this underrepresented intersection within the industry, and I'm immensely proud of it.'

You can read a detailed summary of ESEA Music's 'Re Orientated' survey here.