Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Tiger Hagino Reid, Tiger Projects, ESEA Music, Chorus

Women In Music Roll Of Honour 2023: Tiger Hagino Reid, Tiger Projects, ESEA Music, Chorus

During this year’s Women In Music Awards, we inducted game-changing industry executives (including one posthumous award) into the Roll Of Honour, in association with TikTok.

They join the pantheon of previous honourees, including some of the biggest names in the business, from Emma Banks, Sarah Stennett, Rebecca Allen to Kanya King, Stacey Tang, Charisse Beaumont and Mary Anne Hobbs, who have been selected since the awards began in 2014. The Roll Of Honour aims to highlight the breadth, depth and variety of individuals who are trailblazers in the music industry, with their activities consistently benefiting women, or focusing on empowerment/gender disparity.

Following the Women In Music Awards ceremony, Music Week is running Q&A interviews with all of this year’s Roll Of Honour inductees.

Tiger Hagino Reid is a British Japanese artist manager, campaign manager, writer, community organiser and leader.

Over the past 15 years, she has developed hugely influential artists and campaigns. She spent 10 years working at Beggars Group and XL Recordings, where she led global campaigns for artists including Adele, Jungle, Vampire Weekend, Kamasi Washington, The XX and FKA twigs, and she was responsible for the global launch of Adele’s Hello single and music video. 

In a desire to reshape the direction of her career, and on becoming a mother not long before the Covid-19 pandemic, her own personal priorities shifted. Developments like Black Out Tuesday spurred her to examine identity and inequality, through the lens of her experience in the UK music industry and her own East Asian heritage. 

Reid began a master’s degree in Culture, Diaspora and Ethnicity at Birkbeck University, where her thesis traced the development of the East & Southeast Asian (ESEA) cultural identity in the UK and music industry. In 2022, she founded her own company, Tiger Projects, as a platform for her work as an artist manager, campaign and creative producer. 

Reid has been widely respected for her industry expertise and deep interest in supporting Asian artists, her current roster includes Rina Sawayama, Bat For Lashes, Yaeji, Lucinda Chua, Tohji, Millennium Parade and record label Eastern Margins. She is working with London’s Southbank Centre on its music and programming opportunities for ESEA people, alongside being the head of campaign strategy for Giant Artists Management.

In 2021, alongside music executive Hiroki Shirasuka, Reid co-founded ESEA Music, an industry community group dedicated to supporting and advocating for ESEA artists and professionals in the UK music industry. In the two years since its inception, ESEA Music has launched a mentorship scheme, appointed representatives to UK Music’s Diversity Taskforce, hosted a writing camp for ESEA artists, and more. Reid and Shirasuka also recently co-founded Chorus, an entertainment company that connects Asian artists to the wider world. 

Reid is the organiser of Rhythm, Race, Revolution, a music course taught by academic Aditi Jaganathan. The course explores music as a medium to study ideas of race, sexuality, gender, class and colonialism, and as a contested site for revolution and the challenging of norms.

How do you feel about joining the Music Week Women In Music Roll Of Honour?

“It's a true honour to be included in this group of brilliant women, past and present. I’m touched that so many people from the ESEA Music community group nominated me and shared their testimonials, which have put me in the position of even being considered in the first place. But I also feel conflicted, because whilst I’m happy that my peers have positive experiences of knowing and working with me, I am looking forward to the point in the future when we no longer need to highlight women, trans and non-binary people working in the music industry, because our achievements are already taken as seriously as those of our male counterparts.”

How do you look back on your early years getting into the industry?

“I had no connection to the creative or cultural industries. My father is a mathematician and my mother had immigrated to the UK from Japan, and I studied mathematics at the University Of Edinburgh without an existing idea of what a job in culture or the creative industry could be.

“I started out in the music industry in the mid-2000s. It was an era of lad-culture and body shaming, from your Nuts Magazine and Bridget Jones’ Diary to a generation of friends that survived working for Vice Magazine. Every woman dealt with varied forms of blatant sexism and, if you weren’t white, an additional layer of racism on top of that. My first job after university was in the marketing department at the Edinburgh Film Festival. An older music video director hit on me at an afterparty, I told him I wanted a job in music in London, and he suggested that I intern at his production company – an opportunity that I took up when I moved to London. At the same festival, Harvey Weinstein was flown in at the last minute. The screening for his film, An Unfinished Life, starring Jennifer Lopez, looked like it was going to be empty. It became my job to give away free tickets to make the theatre look full for Weinstein by the time he arrived. 

“At the time, the two events didn’t feel connected. But now, looking back on how I got my first job in the music industry and knowing what we do from the #MeToo movement, I can see the common threads at play. Don't get me wrong, that era wasn’t all bad through and through. But I remember having to make the conscious decision as a new starter in the industry not to sleep with anyone in a position of power – most of the time – in order to be taken seriously as a professional.”

Did you have a mentor at that stage? 

“Although not officially, I would call artist managers Andrew Mansi and Mikey Stirton my mentors. Mansi gave me my first paid job in music, because I could use a spreadsheet properly and I had jumped the fence at Glastonbury once – that was a lie, I was a goody two shoes! Alongside Mikey Stirton, we formed Fourth Floor Management and started representing Basement Jaxx, FKA Twigs, Django Django and many more. Although both of them were my bosses at the time, they treated me like an equal, taught me so much and led by example. Mansi showed me the importance of attention to detail in management and Mikey always fought for the dreams of the artists we managed.

“Another of my mentors at that time was Imran Ahmed, who had signed Damn Shames, a band that I was managing, to XL Recordings. He was one of the few non-white people I knew in the music industry. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, but he was one of the first people in the industry who would talk about me being mixed and Japanese in a way that wasn’t weird or a casual microaggression.”

You used to work inside Beggars and XL Recordings and now work for yourself across management, marketing and campaign manager and run ESEA Music. What are your main motivations as a music exec these days? 

“I have worked more and more closely with artists directly as my career in music has progressed, and there are a few reasons I’ve been motivated to take my career in this direction. Firstly, artists do deep emotional work to create their art. It’s a public service. They help us all to feel more by processing their emotions and, often, trauma. Working closely with artists and supporting them allows me to witness and share in their honesty and vulnerability more closely and directly than if I worked within a record label. This has helped me access honesty and vulnerability more in my own life, as I tend to do everything to avoid my own emotions, and being in such close proximity to these elements through my work helps me open up a new landscape of feeling. 

“Secondly, I love working with artists because they believe in something, which is, especially in these times, worth getting out of bed for. Third, I am determined to work with people, not for them. Freelancing is hard financially, but gives me the freedom to choose the artists and the teams I work with, which is hugely important to me. And finally, there is something about music as a form of popular culture that is so potent, that brings people together and that is political. Whilst I don’t think these elements are exclusive to the art form of music, it's what draws me so much to the medium. As Marina Abramovic says, ‘The function of the artist in a disturbed society is to give awareness of the universe, to ask the right questions, and to elevate the mind.’"

ESEA Music is a relatively new organisation. How have you taken to campaigning and what does it require? 

“We’re just over two years old now. For those who don’t know, ESEA Music is a community group that represents UK-based East and Southeast Asian (ESEA) artists and professionals who work in the music industry. We now have over 400 members, including artists such as Rina Sawayama, Yunè Pinku, Lucy Tun, Miso Extra, Lucinda Chua, Hinako Omori and folks from across the industry. 

“I’ve always been an organiser in a sense. From putting on warehouse parties in my 20s, to organising football tournaments in my 30s, I like bringing people together. The political side of organising came as I spent more time in the industry and the dynamics of race-based, gender-based and other forms of inequality became more and more apparent the more rooms full of white men I entered. There are only so many marketing meetings of presenting projects to a wall of man-spreading men one can take.

“The idea to organise a music industry group around the ESEA identity was informed by a number of elements outside of the music industry, including studying for my MA in Culture Diaspora and Ethnicity. In the last few years, the ESEA acronym has gained popularity in the UK, which has helped to galvanise various diasporic communities under one umbrella. I’d seen so many collectives and communities spring up, in and outside of the arts, around the ESEA cultural identity, and a groundswell in activism and community organising, so, inspired by this phenomenon, I co-founded ESEA Music in September 2021 with Hiroki Shirasuka.”

Our ambition is to be able to scale up the organisation by onboarding more partnerships with music industry trade bodies and institutions

Tiger Hagino Reid

Should more people in the industry be getting involved in fighting for change and how should they be going about it?

“Yes, as individuals, we hold power to make and demand change. However, on an institutional level, I want to suggest that companies of a certain size that have charity committees, mental health first aiders, diversity committees run by volunteers within their organisations, should be paying those organisers for this work, instead of reaping the benefits from unpaid volunteers. It is often women who fill these organising roles, and I wonder if paying them for this free, often emotional, labour could actually improve the gender pay gap somewhat.”

Is the influence and impact of the East and South East Asian community in the music industry given the recognition it deserves?

“In short, the answer is no. Unfortunately, ESEA artists and industry professionals are underrepresented throughout the music industry. The biggest ESEA artists in Britain today can be named on one hand, the likes of which include Rina Sawayama, Griff, Beabadoobee and Jax Jones. Before ESEA Music was formally established, on the industry side, most of us only knew of a handful of other ESEA music industry professionals and in many cases, we ourselves were the only such people in a room at any given time. 

“Right now, improving representation is one of the main focuses of ESEA Music and a key reason we created the (Re) Orientated report, which is the first of its kind and was conducted in partnership with the product research and strategy studio 100kicks, and drew responses from over 80 ESEA artists and UK music industry professionals about their experiences relating to their cultural identity and heritage. For example, we asked respondents 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 average rating given was four.”

What has been your primary takeaway from the time you've been running ESEA Music? And what is your ultimate ambition for the organisation?

“I can’t speak for everyone in the group, but my main takeaway is the importance of joy in bringing together the community. I have found a new sense of home from the commonalities within the diverse ethnicities that make up the ESEA cultural identity and our group. In the past, as someone who is British Japanese, I felt no strong pull for connection with other Asian diasporic groups, but now having rallied a community around the recently popularised ESEA identity united by our shared love of music, I feel a new sense of diasporic belonging. 

“Our ambition is to be able to scale up the organisation by onboarding more partnerships with music industry trade bodies and institutions, and brands centring music. I would love ESEA Music to be able to provide an income to the mostly volunteer-led core team, to create long-term sustainability for the group. This in turn will help us create more opportunities for the 250 plus artists in the group to open up access to the music industry to build careers as artists. I’d like to think we are building and providing alternative paths by reducing the gatekeeping and barriers to entry of the industry.”

What’s your biggest achievement so far? 

“My biggest achievement so far is building the independent and freelance career in the industry that I have over the last two years. I’ve learnt so much more about music, met so many more people and discovered so much more about who I am by going at it alone. As I go into my 40s, I’m proud of myself for trying to shape the life I want. When it comes to my work, having more control over the projects and artists who I have chosen to dedicate my effort, time and expertise to is vital. It’s also made a huge positive difference to my mental health, in that I don't have to deal with the politics of working for one company full-time. Importantly, I have more time at the beginning and end of the working day to mother my daughter Wolf.”

What advice would you offer young women about enjoying a successful career in music?

“Don’t just listen to what people say they do in meetings, but observe what they actually do. Listen to what the intern, the assistant and others in a team say about the bosses, not what the bosses say about themselves, try not to let the industry side cloud your joy and passion for music, go to festivals and shows with your friends sometimes, not just the industry people and have one foot in the industry whilst equally understanding the wider cultural conversation. Finally, don’t shape your [entire] career around the advice from a generation of Sheryl Sandberg ‘Lean In’-style feminists who have acted like men to get where they have.”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever had?

“From Sian Rowe – [who works at] Young – who says that all the best [marketing] ideas come directly from the artist. So, all one has to do is actually listen to the music and listen to the artist when they talk. You might have to learn how to ask the right questions and this might take time, but it works.”

Is there a young woman you'd like to shout out who you think is a rising star in the industry?

“Tons! Here are three through. There’s PIAS’ Kityu Grace, a brilliant A&R and artist whom I work with on ESEA Music projects. She’s been running all of our writing camps, which have spanned eight days of music-making to date, and I’m excited for what we are going to do together. Giant Artist Management’s Isla Fabinyi, who I work with on Bat For Lashes and [who]I know is going to be on this list in the future. Finally, Alice Harvey, a brilliant social media marketer who has recently graduated from XL Recordings to go freelance. I highly recommend folks hire her.”

Similarly, is there a young woman artist whose music you're excited about right now?

“Cathy Jain is a young woman artist who has just moved to London from Manchester, and writes beautiful melancholic and raw songs. There is something about her that makes my younger, more emotional self, feel heard. I’m really excited for her future as she takes her place within the future generation of British ESEA artists that are coming through.”

What’s your biggest lesson from 2023 so far? 

“Giving space to just listen to the more uncomfortable emotions of my artists, especially the ones I manage. I’m trying not to immediately think it's my fault or run to fix it.”

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