In May, US-based entertainment company 88rising held a live stream Asia Rising Forever, described as "an online festival celebrating the most exciting Asian talents from around the world." It also served as an opportunity to donate profits raised to Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Presenting 23 musicians performing from their own residence, the live stream was a huge success, with over three million people tuning in. And 88rising has more in store for its fans.
"The next one that we do is going to be massive, and we're just excited about that. We've been working on it every single day. It is happening this year," says Sean Miyashiro, founder and CEO of 88rising.
Growing up surrounded by a diverse culture in the Bay Area in California has turned Sean, a Korean-Japanese descendant, especially interested in music. Since high school, he has loved to throw many events for all types of music and bring people together, which makes the basic concept of 88rising that he founded in 2015.
With the vision of representing Asian artists from around the world, the company is now home to iconic young musicians, such as August08, Dumbfoundead, Higher Brothers, Joji, Keith Ape, NIKI, Rich Brian, and Stephanie Poetri—the last three coming from Indonesia. In the rapidly changing music industry, 88rising has undoubtedly established its influence with a diverse roster of musicians who carry unique backgrounds, styles, and genres.
"Trends can come and go, you have to be mindful of those things. But you, at the end of the day, still have to make good music. That's key for us. Our original mission of bridging east and west is really more clear to us today, and we find it a responsibility to push ourselves and be the most creative, put up stuff, and try to lead by example," Sean says.
Far from one-hit wonders, 88rising's musicians have stayed in the limelight. Japanese-Australian Joji's Ballads 1 topped the Billboard's R&B/Hip Hop albums chart, rapper Rich Brian is the first Indonesian to sit among the top 20 of Billboard 200 with his debut album Amen, and Chengdu-based hip hop group Higher Brothers is leading the scene in China—and that's just to name a few.
88rising's expertise goes beyond a music collective, ranging from a record label to managing tours and brand campaigns. It also handles music and video production, and holds its own festival, Head in the Clouds Music & Arts Festival.
"Us as Asian people in the music industry in America, we're the only ones that have any success at this, doing what we're doing. We have our own unique challenges in terms of being Asians too. Still, at the same time, it's also a great opportunity and a great blessing that we have, to trailblaze and pave the way for all the people that are being inspired, not to just be great musicians but to just follow their creative dreams.… I think that seeing us have some level of success in music is very inspiring to them, and that's really important to me. If 88rising stops tomorrow, that's something we would hold on to be very proud of," Sean says.
Initially, 88rising had a list of agendas planned for this year, such as their Coachella performance—where Brian and NIKI would have been the first Indonesians to perform there—as well as their festivals in various countries. Since they were canceled due to the pandemic, 88rising has been engaging with online concerts, starting with Asia Rising Forever in May, NIKI's Moonchild Experience, and Joji's The Extravaganza in October.
After expanding offices from New York to Los Angeles and Shanghai, 88rising seems to sharpen its move in Asia. In July, it teamed up with Philippines' Globe Telecom to launch Paradise Rising, a sub-label focusing on promoting Filipino artists and music to the global audience. A similar model in Japan is on its way, and Sean hopes to do so in more countries, including Indonesia. After all, despite the distance, Indonesia is no stranger to 88rising. Djarum-backed GDP Venture is also one of its investors since the early days.
"It's so important because a lot of people in America or around the world see Indonesia or Indonesian doing great things. All of these things are real steps forward for bringing the world closer together. ... I'm really proud of the fact that we have great Indonesian artists, obviously, but I think that this is only the beginning. I'm starting to work with a couple more Indonesian artists, and I think they're so phenomenal. It's going to be really exciting for the future. I hope that we can make Indonesia proud."