By Jocelle Koh
Getting her start by moonlighting as a music events planner and tour manager in the Netherlands, Taiwanese industry creative Weining Hung has had an unconventional journey to say the least. Through her experiences interacting with other music scenes she found value in that of her hometown Taiwan’s, and in the past few years has dedicated her efforts towards promoting Taiwanese music both locally and overseas through her music festival project LUCfest. Also the artist manager of Thai-New Zealand artist Phum Viphurit, her collaborative spirit and zest for cross-cultural experiences have allowed her to see the value not only in the music scene that is most familiar to her, but also in the exchanges possible between regions.
As she settles back into Taiwan this year in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic, she shares a little about how the live music scene in Taiwan has shaped up this year, and the challenges that a festival such as LUCfest have faced and overcome in order to continue keeping the possibility for cultural exchanges open through live music and industry conference set ups.
I heard you were based in Netherlands last year, and working remotely with collaborators across Asia. Can you share a little about how you ended up there, and what it was that made you want to continue contributing to the scene here?
I first came to Netherlands for a completely irrelevant job in IT and I actually made a big career change about 10 years ago. I started throwing events and brought some Asian acts to Europe, and also did a music start up, which did not survive.
In the first few years in the Netherlands, I went to about 100 gigs every year plus some festivals. Europe is a very mature music market but there were almost no Asian acts at all. It comes natural to me to feel the scene should be more diverse. However, the speed of introduction is quite slow as the travelling costs are so high for the bands. A showcase back home will be the most logical and systematic way to introduce the acts. Also, it can link local industry folks to the regional/ global networks.
How is it being based back in Taiwan for you now?
It is a very interesting experience for me on (a) personal level. I haven’t been home for this long in the past 10 years. I feel I got a great chance to know the city/country again and after 8 months, I would say I am quite settled and reconnect with the place. Business level, I also got to go to the office every week and have business meetings in person. It is all very different than before. Before the pandemic, I primarily WFH; and now I mainly work with my colleagues.
You are also well known in the industry for managing Thai act Phum Viphurit and contributing to his success across the region and overseas! How did your collaboration come about?
We actually found Phum online, while we were searching for interesting Thai acts for the first edition of LUCfest. Phum had his first abroad show in LUCfest on 2017 and he was so brilliant on stage and even it was solo show, I felt I saw a star already:) A month later I flew to Bangkok and asked him if he’d like to work together. Then everything started rolling.
You are the co-founder of Tainan music festival LUCfest. How did you come up with the concept of this festival/conference in Tainan?
I went to Eurosonic in Gronining every year. Actually it was the last festival I attended this year. It was a showcase festival conference for 30/40 years and I met so many industry friends from there. I always thought it would be so great if we can host one like this in Taiwan, for Asian music industry. I had the idea for very long but not able to realise it until my co-founder, KK, joined.
Can you share a little about how holding LUCfest this year has differed from previous years? What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?
We are very fortunate to be able to still host LUCfest physically. It is just very very difficult for a showcase festival while you cannot bring international delegates in. Normally we have 1/3 of international artists. LUCfest is well known to our audiences to introduce the most exciting emerging artists, but not this year…well not physically. With all the conference parts, there would be hybrid models, with online/offline, and sometimes both ways for one session. For introducing Taiwanese acts to international delegates and audiences, we are doing a live recording and plan to have an online watch day together with international friends.
LUCfest is a great chance to show how well the virus is being controlled as things there are nearly back to normal. How do you see the virus affecting you as a live industry professional in Taiwan?
Shows and festivals are running normally in Taiwan since June. From my own observation, there are even more festivals for second half year compared with the same period of time 2019. The problem is that we are an island and with all the travel restrictions, we can only have Taiwanese acts. Almost all the festivals have at least 30-50% overlapped line-up. The scene is very different.
I heard the team is entirely made up of female collaborators. Did this happen organically? How does this influence the entire setup?
Oh..yeah. We are an all female team right now, but we didn’t plan it! It just happens as it is. We are open for all genders just like we are open for all genres of music:) I think the current set-up also reflects on our style of visual and communication with our audiences.
As a female in the male-dominated music industry, how do you hope LUCfest can influence industry trends and sexism?
We have lots of female in music industry in Taiwan, which often surprises our international friends while they visited LUCfest. Even so, there are not a lot of females in decision making position; and even we have good % of females artists in Taiwan, while it comes to top billings, you will still see more male artists. It is definitely something we are very aware of and we also pay attention when it comes to our line-up and our crews/ external partners.
Even until today your work continues to bridge cultures and forge cooperation between Taiwan and other countries. Why do you feel that these efforts are important?
Our company is called “Ho Wei Qui (合為貴).” In Chinese, it means Cooperation is precious. I truly believe it cause I experienced the power of cooperation/ collaboration. We all need to see or hear different or sometimes strange things, only that will let us think. And think(ing) makes us alive.
Clearly inspired by the energy of live performance, it seems that everything Weining does stems from these face-to-face interactions with music itself. From how she was inspired by going to live performances to create an experience that is more different and diverse, to connecting with great artists and forging collaborations with them through their live presence, it all comes back to those painstakingly curated events to make those moments and feelings possible for music lovers everywhere. It is no mean feat to continue funnelling her unique ideas into her live concepts in the face of a looming pandemic, but she is one of the most unique allies supporting Taiwanese music’s connection with the outside world today.
While Taiwan is certainly less affected by the pandemic than other regions around the world, the fact that there continue to be restrictions on overseas travel are a major roadblock. Yet nevertheless, through online and offline methods, projects like LUCfest continue to keep Taiwan’s door open to any industry professionals and viewers who see the value in what the local music scene has to offer.