As the latest addition in our rolodex of social media apps, Clubhouse has quickly shown why it today attracts 10 million users weekly. The invite-only app is favoured by everyone from mainstream celebrities to niche subcultures for its intimate and easy-to-use audio sharing features. Vogue Singapore’s own channel is focused on igniting critical conversations about fashion and beyond with key industry leaders and creatives as participants.
One of these conversations took place on Tuesday in dining concept Appetite, with top local musicians like Nathan Hartono, Yung Raja, Jasmine Sokko, Narelle Kheng, Sandra Riley Tang, Charlie Lim and Benjamin Kheng coming together to answer the question: What does it take to make it in the music industry? Moderated by Vogue Singapore editor-in-chief Norman Tan, also joining in the forum virtually was Vogue Singapore’s April cover star Yuna.
Founded by Michelin-starred chef Ivan Brehm as first a research centre and then a restaurant, Appetite’s ethos of combining art, music and food to spark conversations about culture formed the perfect conduit for the Clubhouse participants to share their thoughts on the ups and downs of finding success in the entertainment industry today. With glasses of premium Krug champagne in hand, each of them revealed insights on topics like personal branding, fashion as expression and the importance of taking pause. The aim, ultimately, was to provide listeners with an unfiltered and honest view of the challenges faced in the industry by these boundary-pushing creatives, and to cultivate interest and passion for local music. Here, some key takeaways for anyone who didn’t manage to tune in on Clubhouse, or those who simply want to recap the highlights.
Yung Raja on the power of style
Known not only for his spitfire Tamil-English rap remixes but also his subversive style choices, Yung Raja believes in the power of fashion as a means to expression. As gender boundaries in fashion continue to blur, he commented, “I have a strong sense of personal style. I like bold, bright colours and wear items that most men won’t wear. Growing up, my mother used to tell me that “You’re half a man, the other half is what you wear.” As an artiste, how you present yourself to the world is important, and your fashion plays a huge role in that. It’s imperative that you care and rep yourself well.”
“Reaching out to Gen Z is important. They know what’s up—there’s a lot to learn from them”
Nathan Hartono on the value of each opportunity
“Not every opportunity is going to be about creative actualisation as an artiste,” shared Nathan Hartono. “Sometimes, it’s about gaining a deeper understanding of how the industry works. In 2020, I sang the official National Day Parade song. It was a very interesting experience, especially to be part of something so large-scale and seeing how it all came together. It definitely helped me reach a wider Singaporean audience, but did they necessarily get a sense for my style of music? No. But every opportunity has its own pros, and it’s important to have an open mind and learn as much as you can.”
Yuna on building a fanbase
As the most successful Malaysian popstar in history, Yuna knows a thing or two about growing a regional and global fanbase. She said, “Supporting local cannot just be for the sake of patriotism. You have to be good enough, and you have to be genuinely relatable to your audience. Reaching out to Gen Z, for example, is important. They know what’s up—there’s a lot to learn from them. They have very strong values against things like racism and sexism. Social media is a tool you can use to widen your network, and you never know who you can connect with if you don’t try.”
Sandra Riley Tang on defining success
Sandra Riley Tang weighed in on the various ways a musician can be successful. “What does success look like for you as an artiste? Is it releasing a track, or playing during national day, or being on the billboard charts? The first time we heard our track on the radio we went crazy. It seemed like a huge milestone. Suddenly, you realise it’s a small checkpoint, because your definition of success evolves. Now we want to make it to a billboard, or win a Grammy and expand beyond borders. We all have to pave our own way as we go along, but its important to celebrate and be thankfully for each milestone along the way.”
“Music wise, I think it’s essential that I pause, recharge, and then go back to it when I feel creative and inspired again”
Narelle Kheng on storytelling through music
Beyond seeing the industry as an endless grind, Narelle Kheng’s heart lies in expressing her true emotions through her craft. She shared, “My music is like my private journal. I went through depressive and dissociative periods where I couldn’t be creative. Then, I tried to pin down different emotions and classify my feelings through my music. Personally my goal is not just be a part of the industry, but to find the joy of telling stories through my music. I want to love my product first, and put out something true to myself and something I find worth sharing.”
Benjamin Kheng on finding pause
Having just gotten married, Benjamin Kheng has spent the last few months taking time to recharge. “The industry is very much an endless race. I wish I had things to plug right now, but honestly, I don’t. I’ve been doing stupid things on Tiktok because that’s where my head is at, and it helps to create a community and retain my audience. Music wise, I think it’s essential that I pause, recharge, and then go back to it when I feel creative and inspired again. It’s hard to do but it’s important.”
Jasmine Sokko on personal branding
Jasmine Sokko is known for two things: her ethereal voice and the signature face mask she is never seen without. She commented, “The mask narrative started because I wanted people to know me for my sound before they saw my face—it wasn’t necessarily about personal branding, I wanted my music to speak for itself. It became my personal brand eventually, a visual way that audiences remember me.”
Charlie Lim on collaborations
Charlie Lim is easily counted as one of Singapore’s top musicians, and he has a keen interest in consuming music from artistes all around the world. He shared, “Collaborations are a great way to cross-pollinate fanbases, especially when it is organic and there is a ton mutual respect. I collaborated with a bunch of Japanese and Filipino singers that I genuinely like—it was loads of fun, and ultimately a great way to get exposure and find reach to new audiences. ”