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Using music & artists to attract visitors to destinations across Asia - An interview with Becky Yeung, Head of Brand Partnerships and Sync at Warner Music for Asia.

On May 29-31st, 2023, the Music Tourism Convention will be travelling to Cape Breton Island in Canada, which is one of the most unique music destinations of the world.

As we get ready for the event, we’re expanding our new #musictourismhub series, a place to discover stories, profiles and resources from people working at the forefront of Music Tourism from all around the world. 

On this occasion, we head up to Hong Kong to talk with Becky Yeung, Head of Brand Partnerships and Sync at Warner Music for Asia.

In this interview, Becky shares her exciting experience developing a long list of projects in which several countries across Asia leverage the music and profiles of Warner Music’s artists to attract visitors to their destinations. Scroll down to get inspired by the insights on how these projects came about and all of the creativity that surrounds them.

Hi Becky, thanks for taking the time to do this interview for the Music Tourism Hub. To begin, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you end up working for Warner Music Asia doing exciting music tourism projects with destinations such as Macao, Dubai, Singapore, or Hong Kong?

I’m Becky Yeung and I’m the Head of Brand Partnerships and Sync at Warner Music for Asia. I spent almost 10 years in advertising, mostly in the UK, before moving over with my agency at the time (BBDO) to lead the APAC business, based out of Hong Kong. Then just under 6 years ago, I was approached to set up the Brand Partnership department for Warner Music in Asia. Since then, it’s been an exciting journey expanding the department, building our expertise, and driving more creative and strategic music partnerships between Brands and our music and artists, spanning our entire Warner Music roster locally, regionally, and globally. 

What is the context or inspiration behind the idea of developing these projects that leverage the artists and music from Warner into tourism? Is this a project that you initiated yourself?

Funnily enough, the first discussions and initiatives with tourism boards were sparked by COVID. It was during this time when travel was at a standstill that one of our artists, David Guetta inspired me with his incredible live streams around the world, through a series named ‘United at Home’. From global live streams off a rooftop in Miami to the helipad of the Burj Al Arab. 

David Guetta - United at Home - Dubai

It was at this time that it inspired me to work together with my teams across the region to start conversations with key travel partners in the region including Tourism Boards, Airlines, travel sites, etc. with the view that we could strategically explore live streams during the non-travel period and future plan for when travel resumed. Little did we know COVID would last so long that it’s only been the last couple of years we’ve really amped up the in-destination activations, but it’s led to all these incredible campaigns and conversations since. 

How does Warner Music Asia determine the destinations that it works with? What are the benefits that it brings to them through these projects?

There are very few universal passion points that have the power to bring people together and Music is one of them. It transcends borders and languages like no other medium. We have also seen a lot more willingness from people to travel for music and sports events following years of pandemic-era lockdowns, which has fuelled a YOLO mentality. As a result, destinations that are leaning in are seeing the benefits through the injection of travel, accommodation, F&B, and shopping spending in their economies. Major concerts in Singapore for example projected tourism receipts between $350m-$500m.

For us, a lot of the projects have been driven by the Tourism Boards who have been most proactive and seen the opportunity and influence that artists and live music can bring to a location. The added benefit of ‘soft selling’ locations through the eyes of our artists is that it is such an authentic, genuine reaction, which makes for great content too. It really appeals to audiences these days and enables them to see destinations through a completely new lens.  

How does Warner Music Asia choose the artists that it involves in these projects? 

There have been many driving factors in artist selection. Some have been driven by tour dates and when artists have been due in the Asia region, taking advantage of their time whilst they’re here. Others have been driven by data-informed, strategic selections based on target audience alignment, shared passion points, and genuine love for particular locations or activities - be it superstars for the statement name and mass appeal, or being part of the rising star's journey. It can also come down to the level of investment partners are willing to spend, whether it’s more of the up-and-coming, social media/influencer approach, or bigger-scale activations. Whatever the message, budget level, or audience, we’ve always worked hand in hand to understand the objectives to tailor the solution and artists to answer the brief. 

Not many artists have pitched the projects themselves, but they have definitely caught the attention of artists and managers who just think the campaigns look so fun and are keen to hear how they can get involved!

Now, let's dive a bit into a bunch of the cool projects that you’ve been doing regarding music and tourism.

Can you share with us some insights into the collaborative process between Warner Music Asia and the Macao Government Tourism Office in executing the ‘More Than Meets Macau’ campaign? How did this campaign start, what would you say are its key elements?

It was a truly collaborative process involving multiple parties including Warner Music, Infinite Wanders, Tripadvisor, and the Macao Government Tourism Office. All slightly interconnected, given the MD of Infinite Wanders moved from Tripadvisor and previously worked together with Macao, as well as Warner, looking at opportunities to bring Warner Music artists and Tripadvisor together (which ultimately led to our SXSW Sydney partnership). Which goes to show the natural and powerful synergy between music and travel. 

The Macao Government Tourism Office has been making concerted efforts to diversify its attractions and show more of what the city has to offer, in particular to a wider international audience. Music was therefore a natural fit. Whilst they’ve been no stranger to live performances across Macau, this was a first in terms of the campaign, which led to a really authentic partnership with our rising star from Singapore J.M3. The partnership consisted of many elements including branded content to show the diversity of the city through J.M3’s eyes. Interviews, social posts, a joint press release, and of course a bespoke song ‘Make Me Feel’, which was also officially released on DSP platforms.

JM3 - You Make Me Feel

We’ve seen that Warner Music Asia has run two campaigns in Singapore: ‘Inside Out To Singapore’ with HONNE, and ‘Sounds of Singapore’ with Charlie Puth. Could you share your experience working with the Tourism Board of this country? Please tell us a bit about how similar or different each campaign is. 

Working with STB has been fantastic. They have been so collaborative and creative. Each project has been carefully curated together. They really take the time to understand the artists and take on board Warner’s insights and ‘inside knowledge’ of the artists and their music and touring plans to inform the campaigns. The two campaigns were really different in the process. For Charlie Puth it was firstly right at the start of borders opening and it felt like everyone was ‘re-learning’ how to travel. There were still a lot of COVID restrictions at the time, but it was a real testament to Charlie, his team, and everyone involved how committed everyone was to come together to make it happen. The creative was co-created based on content that Charlie regularly creates given his perfect pitch. So he really enjoyed the process. Whilst it wasn’t scripted in answers, the structure of the overall campaign was fixed before production began and as there were a lot of locations and content to cover, it was quite an intense shoot over 2 days. There was also a showcase with 300 invited guests, which felt quite emotional, especially after being deprived of live music for a while. HONNE on the other hand was a little later, making it feel a lot more ‘normal’ to travel again. It was a play on their ‘Inside Out’ series, which was very familiar to them as a content format. So the creative process was very easy and fun. They’re super down-to-earth and fun. They’re one of my reasons as to why I love what I do. 

Singapore Tourism Board x Charlie Puth 

It was also great to discover the campaign in which Benson Boone travels through Sai Kung. In this case, tell us a bit about the process of selecting the tour itinerary that the artist covers. Is it created by the destination? Does it have any input from Warner, the artist, or any other partner?

Love that you asked this question because the itinerary was hugely influenced by me and the artist’s interests! I actually live near Sai Kung and I just knew how much Benson loves the great outdoors, cliff jumping, etc. So after HKTB and Warner had agreed to work with Benson, his interests played a huge part in how we co-curated the itinerary. We had originally discussed a few itineraries together with HKTB, one of which was the more traditional Peak tram and city experience. It took a bit of convincing HKTB to embrace the outdoors/water/boat approach to show a different side to HK, as well as putting 3 itineraries together for Benson himself to select from, but we landed on the one we shot. Best decision ever! 

When Benson had planned an Asia promo trip he and his team did not have any expectations of what they were about to experience in Hong Kong, nor did they know what to expect when we said we were ‘working with a Tourism Board’. They, like many others, thought it would be a high-rise city and it would be a corporate-style collaboration. They couldn’t have been more blown away and just an hour into filming they were all video calling home to be like ‘Did you know HK looks like this - it’s like Hawaii!’ 

One thing that caught our attention is the SXSW Sydney - Tripadvisor collaboration. This is a project that feels a bit different, even less touristy than the other ones. Did any Australian tourism office get involved in it? Can you share any interesting insights from that campaign?

Not on this occasion, though SXSW Sydney worked closely with Destination NSW overall. This was another fantastic partnership that was a bit of a test and learn for everyone involved, given it was the first time SXSW was being hosted outside of Austin. It was such a wonderful way of bringing 2 entities that fit so naturally together and being able to go on the journey together and participate in the first-ever SXSW Sydney. We co-hosted a welcome drinks mixer and Warner hosted a 2-night showcase, where Tripadvisor was an official partner. There was co-created branding in all of the artwork, brand integration into the SXSW Sydney app, and a giveaway competition. As well as curating a SXSW Sydney playlist and a series of interviews with our artists asking them to share their favorite spots in Sydney. 

I’ve loved all the Tripadvisor collaborations we’ve done to date. Feels like there are many more to come and we recently created this fun piece in HK together, off the back of the Live at the Big Top live music series as part of the AIA Carnival.

What would you say it’s the biggest challenge for Warner Music while developing these types of music and tourism projects?

To be honest it is probably the reality vs. expectation on budgets. Often there is a desire to work with the ‘biggest’ artists with the most recognition globally. However, it does come with a level of investment and can make the creative process a little harder as there tend to be more restrictions or particulars when it comes to superstar artists - understandably, and the budgets don’t always line up. 

What I think is more exciting is the opportunity to work with a wide range of artists and use audience data to align with destination target audiences and the music label insights to know who are the ‘ones to watch’. This way it can bring different facets of a destination to life. It can be a lot more creative, and broad-ranging, and showcase different passion points and personalities. 

Are there any new exciting campaigns on their way that we should be looking forward to?

Absolutely! The teaser came out on 12th April announcing the launch of an official music video that we shot with one of our superstar artists - Lay Zhang in Dubai, together with Dubai Economy & Tourism

The music video itself, was launched on 19th April.

There is one more huge project in the pipeline but unfortunately, I can’t share until closer to the launch date so watch this space!

We hope you enjoyed the insights Becky shared about all of the tourism projects that Warner Music is doing in Asia in this entry for the Music Tourism Hub. If you're looking for ideas and tools to turn your city into a music destination, or have a music tourism project that you'd like to bring to new cities, then join us on May 29-31st, 2023, at the Cape Breton Island Music Tourism Convention.  

Do you want to keep up to date with everything related to Music Cities Events and Music Cities topics? Then we invite you to also subscribe to our monthly newsletter. 


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