Name and where are you based?
My full name is Piyapong Muenprasertdee, but most Thais go by nickname, which mine is Py (pronounced like ‘pie’). I am based in Bangkok, Thailand.
Tell us a bit about yourself and career leading you to where you are now?
The exact moment that got me into music was when I saw the music video of ‘Heart Shaped Box’ by Nirvana on MTV at my friend’s house in 1993. Having very strict parents who got out of poverty by studying and working very hard, music was never seen as a viable career path, so I was pushed to excel in academics. Despite that, I was able to play music with my friends, form bands, play gigs - without letting my parents know too much about it.
I studied Industrial Engineering for both my Bachelor and Master degrees, and my first and second jobs were a Product Engineer for an aircraft tire company and a consultant in the field of Sustainability and Climate Change.
However, my life changed when I decided to pursue an MBA degree in Boston, MA, USA. I interned at a small music startup and stayed with them for another 8 months after graduation just to learn more about how the music industry works. Then in 2013, I came back to Thailand with a dream to start my own startup company. Long story short, I failed miserably, but gained a lot of knowledge and experience from joining the startup community, entering pitching competitions, applied for accelerator programs - the whole nine yards.
After that failed attempt, I found a job as a marketing officer at an audio engineering and film production education institution just to be as close to the music industry as much as I could, and wrote for an online magazine and my own music business blog on the side. The job gave me opportunities to meet artists and people in the music industry, which allowed me to interview them for my articles.
Finally, around mid-2014, I discovered the original co-founders of Fungjai (my current company) through a pamphlet my younger sister (who is an indie rock star bassist, by the way) got when Fungjai’s CEO pitched her the idea of a Thai indie music streaming platform. I immediately contacted the guy, scheduled a meet-up, volunteered as their marketing manager, then a couple months later eventually quit my old job and joined them to found and register the company.
Tell us a bit about your current job and company?
My job title keeps changing, depending on what I focus on. It started as ‘Marketing Director’, then ‘Community Director’, ‘Director of Partnerships’, and now my current one is ‘Director of Educational, Governmental and Overseas Partnership’. My responsibilities revolve around education-related projects, building relationships and developing projects with government agencies, and finding new business opportunities from overseas.
Our company, Fungjai, started as a local and niche music streaming platform, which we quickly realized that it was really hard to monetize and survive with that business model. So, we started organizing concerts and found that there’s an opportunity for us to make money and keep the music streaming platform running. After getting investment from a VC in 2015, we were able to expand and do more things such as organize seminars and workshops for musicians and music professionals, start an online music magazine, and many other projects that have succeeded and failed. Whenever we get asked what do we actually do, our answer would be almost anything related to music except for being a record label.
Our company’s vision is to see the indie musician become a stable and viable career choice, and help develop the Thai music industry in a sustainable manner, which actually stemmed from my experience working in the field of sustainable development back in my old job.
How is your work &/or company contributing to the development of your city as a music city? What short &/or long term plans do you have to contribute to your city being a music city?
Fungjai in collaboration with NYLON Thailand - another media and events company, co-founded Bangkok Music City - Thailand’s first international music conference and showcase festival. We’re not actually developing Bangkok into a music city because it already is one, and is the country’s center of the music industry, but it isn’t quite known for its music scene and we wanted to change that. So, we are merely using Bangkok as a platform to promote Thai music and attract international music tourists that would help bring in new money to support local musicians, music businesses and music professionals that could help contribute to the sustainable development of the music industry.
Another goal is to set an example for other cities all around Thailand that are rich with local music that they too can be a music city and attract music tourists. Currently, we are involved in other music city projects such as Nakhon Pathom and Khon Kaen provinces working with government agencies, educational institutions and local partners to help make it happen. My grand vision is to make Thailand recognized as a ‘Music Country’ with many ‘Music Cities’.
We also hope to help promote and develop Southeast Asia’s music industry because I have personally learned and seen that the music scenes in our region are so rich, creative and diverse, but so little people around the world know about us. I hope that more music cities can be developed in the region and the world will recognize us as a musical region - whether for music tourists to discover new and interesting music or a destination for international touring artists.
To make my above dreams a reality, I believe that we must make the government understand the importance of music, art and culture as an essential tool towards sustainable socioeconomic development, eventually changing their policies, adjusting their strategies and increasing their financial support, which I do by working closely with government agencies such as the Creative Economy Agency (CEA), Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB) and the National Innovation Agency (NIA).
Connect with Py via the Members Directory by heading here.