In the face of the ever-evolving American entertainment landscape, the Asian-owned company, Jaded, is breathing life into the global music scene by spotlighting deserving Asian talents. 

With the core mission of bridging the gap for Asian artists seeking recognition in Western markets, Jaded’s monumental event, FRIENDS:FOREVER serves as the second run of their all-Asian showcase, and is poised to put the spotlight on a whole lot of deserving names. Taking place this March 14 and 15, the display isn’t merely an ordinary music festival, but a showcase that embodies the cornerstone of Jaded’s live event strategy ––one that offers a unique experience that can bridge and transcend cultural boundaries.

FRIENDS:FOREVER serves as a response to the challenges Jaded faced while building a global media brand centered on Asian youth culture. In a landscape shadowed by historical biases, Jaded strives to position its brand and artists based on the quality of their work –– fostering true representation beyond cultural stereotypes. In collaboration with SXSW, the music event leverages a global platform to amplify its impact, reaching audiences and industry stakeholders worldwide.

In an interview with Billboard Philippines, the team at Jaded tells us all about their commitment to uplifting vanguard artists extends beyond the festival’s stage –– one which serves as a tangible manifestation that breaks down barriers at the infrastructure level, where representation extends behind the scenes to a whole world of creatives who bring these events to life.

Billboard Philippines: Can you tell us about the inspiration behind organizing the FRIENDS:FOREVER music event, and how it aligns with Jaded’s mission and core beliefs?

Team Jaded: FRIENDS: FOREVER is inspired by the artists themselves. There’s so much incredible fresh talent from Asia, and so few channels in the western markets for people to discover them. Closing that gap was our founding purpose – to help create these opportunities for Asian artists, while meeting the demand that we know exists in the market. FRIENDS:FOREVER is the cornerstone of our live event strategy –- it’s a vibe and an experience that we can uniquely create, and it’s very validating to witness the excitement surrounding it. 

What challenges did you face in building a global media brand with a focus on Asian youth culture, and how does FRIENDS:FOREVER contribute to overcoming those challenges? 

The narrative around Asian representation in the West is nuanced and complicated by deeply rooted historical biases. While we are optimistic about the social awareness around this topic that has proliferated in recent years, we are also concerned about the limitations that emphasizing cultural identity places on how artists are perceived and received in the broader market. 

Our greatest challenge has been positioning our brand and our artists to be valued for the quality of their work, in a market environment that consistently and immediately wants to place the focus on our Asian identities. We strongly believe that true representation is achieved not just in the public narrative, but in equal access to opportunities, resources, and exposure. FRIENDS:FOREVER allows us to manifest this belief in a tangible way – to make our point in a manner that both audiences and artists can see and feel for themselves. 

9m88 aded friends:forever music fest Coutesy of Jaded

Courtesy of Jade

Could you elaborate on how Jaded incorporates representation at the infrastructure level, and how this is reflected in the organization of FRIENDS:FOREVER?

FRIENDS:FOREVER itself is designed to be a piece of the cultural infrastructure. It was created to fill a hole in the western market and be a differentiated offering in the live entertainment space currently dominated by K-pop. Through this event, we want to shine a spotlight, literally and figuratively, on the many other genres and unique talents that artists have to offer, and that audiences also seek. 

FRIENDS:FOREVER is a labor of love for AAPI youth in the diaspora, but is also intended as a discovery platform for a much wider, non-Asian audience. Our commitment to representation extends beyond the stage – we seek out the best talent from the Asian community to work behind the scenes as well, from designers to photographers, curators to production crew. 

In what ways does Jaded allocate resources and provide access to opportunities for vanguard artists, and how does this philosophy translate into the lineup and curation of the music event? 

Jaded’s core business is in providing marketing, business, and creative services to artists. We help build strategy, offer our experience and expertise, and leverage our extensive cross-industry networks to help our artists develop their careers and achieve their goals, in the US market and beyond. 

We invest our resources, effort, and time into artists who are creatively exceptional, who have unique points of view, and who have the courage and ambition to chase big dreams. These are the same standards by which we curate our lineup, and consistently enable us to deliver experiences to audiences that feel special. 

jaded friends:forever music fest Courtesy of Jadedr

Courtesy of Jaded

How does FRIENDS:FOREVER foster creativity that transcends cultural identities, and what strategies does Jaded employ to break cultural barriers through this event? 

It’s actually very simple – we just want to create the best experience possible. We want people to remember this event not for its all-Asian lineup, but because they had an incredible time. Our artists are excited to be a part of FRIENDS:FOREVER not because it’s all Asian, but because they are joining a cohort of their peers that they respect artistically. The formation of the lineup is how we remain true to our purpose, but the experience itself is what makes the event memorable. 

Can you share insights into the collaboration and partnership with SXSW and how it enhances the impact and reach of FRIENDS:FOREVER on a global scale? 

SXSW has been a supportive and meaningful partner to Jaded since our inception. It has provided us a global platform upon which we’ve been able to grow FRIENDS:FOREVER to the scale that it is today. The cosign from SXSW has given us credibility in these important early years, amongst music fans, industry stakeholders, and artists alike. We are grateful for their interest in us, and validated by their belief in what we are building at Jaded. 

ena mojaded friends:forever music fest Courtesy of Jadedri jaded friends:forever music fest Courtesy of Jaded

Courtesy of Jaded

Jaded emphasizes cultural marketing advisory to select brands. How does this aspect come into play when organizing and promoting FRIENDS:FOREVER, and what role does it play in the overall success of the event? 

Our business model is structured to be an ecosystem. This approach allows us to leverage each part of the business in service of the others. Our cultural marketing advisory line of business allows us to access an established client base and network of brands that can act as sponsors, partners, and help us amplify and promote our proprietary events like FRIENDS:FOREVER. 

Since its launch in 2021, how has Jaded evolved in its approach to organizing events like FRIENDS:FOREVER, and what lessons have been learned along the way? 

Our first SXSW event took place in March 2022 – four months after we launched. The opportunity came well before I’d anticipated, and in all honesty, well before we were prepared to receive it. But I’m a firm believer that when opportunity knocks, you answer. At that time, we had two full time employees and a handful of volunteers. It was truly a struggle, but we were ultimately successful in executing an event that felt special, and that showed promise. In the time since, we’ve grown our operations to meet our ambitions. 

We’ve learned a lot – from which promotional tactics are most effective based on the data we’ve captured, to how to structure the team in order to streamline and optimize workflows. Most importantly, we’ve learned to drown out the myriad of distractions and expectations of how things are “typically done,” and stay true to our own standards and ideals – this is how we create an event that stands out from all the rest. 

balming tiger jaded friends:forever music fest Courtesy of Jaded

jaded friends:forever music fest Courtesy of Jaded

How does Jaded navigate the balance between celebrating cultural identities and promoting the idea that creativity knows no cultural bounds, especially in the context of a music event like FRIENDS:FOREVER? 

This is the ultimate challenge – finding this balance is the key to our success. We have an internal company mantra – “‘Asian’ is the byline, not the headline.” Metaphorically, it is a constant reminder to position our original work and the work of our artists based on its merits, and not on our cultural identities. In practice, this means that we are constantly seeking excellence, from ourselves and everyone around us. We do not want to be a container for all things Asian. Our curation, our taste, our point of view – these are the contributions that we believe we can make to drive global culture forward.

Looking towards the future, what are the aspirations and goals for FRIENDS:FOREVER and Jaded in your efforts to continue to make a significant impact on Asian-centric youth culture and breaking cultural barriers in the entertainment industry?

We have very ambitious plans for the future. We are actively working to grow the concept behind FRIENDS:FOREVER into an experience that we can put into broader markets in 2025 and beyond. Soon, we will be launching our roster for our artist and label services line of business. In the medium term, we are looking forward to expanding our ecosystem to include original content and additional IP. Ultimately, we are dedicated to change – change in what’s “normal,” change in what’s valued, and change in the global cultural narrative.

jaded friends:forever music fest Courtesy of Jaded

Courtesy of Jaded

The full lineup of artists performing at FRIENDS:FOREVER in alphabetical order is as follows: 

  • 1300 – Australia
  • Ako – Japan
  • Alice Longyu Gao – US
  • Araya – US
  • Arches – Hong Kong
  • Arexibo – South Korea
  • BÉBE YANA – South Korea
  • Bryn – South Korea
  • Bubble Tea and Cigarettes – US
  • Chih Siou – Taiwan
  • Chloe Tang – US
  • Elle Shimada – Australia
  • Gliiico – Japan
  • Hien – Hungary
  • HYPNOSIS THERAPY – South Korea
  • iiso – South Korea
  • Kaz Moon – US
  • Kikuo – Japan
  • Lo Moon – US
  • MEMI – South Korea
  • MEYY – UK
  • Mong Tong – Taiwan
  • mui zyu – UK
  • Nhạc Gãy – Vietnam
  • Peach Luffe – Canada
  • PIAO – Canada
  • Pony Girl – Canada
  • Raaginder – US
  • Reality Club – Indonesia
  • REI AMI – US
  • SE SO NEON – South Korea
  • Shelhiel – Malaysia
  • STUTS – Japan
  • Su Lee – South Korea
  • Subsonic Eye – Singapore
  • TENGGER – South Korea
  • The fin. – Japan
  • thuy – US
  • zzzahara – US

Listen to the official FRIENDS:FOREVER playlist below: