Voices of Change: How AAPI Creators Are Redefining Music and Media Entertainment

May 30, 2024
by Santiago Solutions Group

Despite representing just 8% of the U.S. population, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community continues to influence media, music, and entertainment. Asian Americans are the most digitally connected consumer group, with a 22% greater reach of internet-connected devices compared to the general population.[i] Through growing platforms on social media, their voices are reshaping how content is created, consumed, and celebrated. This article delves into the dynamic role of AAPI creators in molding trends that captivate and inspire both Gen Z and Millennials, spotlighting their pivotal role in driving forward the narratives of diversity and innovation in American media and entertainment landscapes.

K-Pop Continues to Pave Way for Broader Appreciation of Asian Musicians

Asian consumers and Asian culture continue to significantly shape trends and pop culture, especially among GenZ and Millennial audiences. The U.S. K-Pop market saw 25%+ growth in streaming in 2023 and continues to make strides in the industry. TOGETHER X TOGETHER became the first Asian act to headline Lollapalooza in 2022, and BLACKPINK was the first to headline Coachella in 2023. K-Pop listeners are often categorized as ‘superfans’, and according to the Luminate 2023 Annual Report, U.S. K-Pop fans spend an average of $24 per month on merchandise (2.4x more than the average American listener) and are 50% more likely to purchase merchandise even if they do not attend an artist’s event. This is key for marketers in understanding how loyalty and cultural pride can affect purchase intent, which brands like Levi’s, NBA, and Amex have capitalized on with recent collaborations. Of course, it is important to note that accomplishments in Asian representation within music stretch beyond just K-pop. 88Rising, a label focused on centering Asian artists in mainstream culture, became the first label to secure an annual billing on Coachella’s line-up with this year’s including Japanese acts like ATARASHI GAKKO!, Awich, and YAOSOBI. They also put on a whole music festival on their own, Head in the Clouds in New York City and Los Angeles, that highlights the true breadth of Asian talent. Spotify continues to partner with and highlight artists, putting out an article this month honoring AAPI emerging talent from backgrounds all across the Asian diaspora, from Filipino to Hawaiian to Indian.

Audiences Demand Authentic Portrayals Where AAPI Stars Shine

The importance of Asian representation in the media continues to be a pressing matter as the industry works towards better diversity. In fact, as of April 2024, according to the Cultural Inclusion Accelerator’s Tracker, 57% of Asians feel unseen or underrepresented in advertising, and only 25% feel that their culture is represented authentically by brands. In November 2023, USC Norman Lear Center and Gold House released a study that analyzed Asian major characters in the top 100 titles on streaming platforms in 2022. It delved into representation in leading or background roles, the prevalence of stereotypes, proximity to whiteness, and more. Some highlights of the study include:

  • Only 6% classified as leading roles (in 80% or more of the series/film)
  • 42% had light skin tones, and only 13% of characters had dark skin tones
  • 68% never interacted with another Asian character
  • 54% of characters were portrayed as model minorities with jobs in the STEM field
  • There was very limited visibility of queer characters, characters older than 50, or with non-thin body types

This comes at a time when Asian actors and audiences continue to demand more complex storylines that infuse cultural authenticity without making race the main focal point. So, when film and TV get it right, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Accomplishments across the AAPI community showcase success stories, such as when Most recently, the initial premiere of ‘Shōgun’ on Hulu and Disney+ set a new streaming record of 9 million views. In NPR’s article, the producer and lead actor, Hiroyuki Sanada, stated that ‘authenticity was our lifeline for this show.’ From start to finish, this production brought in Japanese actors, crew members, and expert consultants to truly honor the cultural authenticity of the series’ set time period.  While film and TV play a large role in representation, marketers have a responsibility to see the needs of their consumers and bring them into their own strategy and advertising.

With the AAPI community setting trends and leading consumption in significant ways, it is imperative that brands authentically engage with and represent these consumers. There is a need to leverage cultural insights and embrace inclusive strategies, so businesses can not only enhance their relevance but also build lasting trust within one of America’s fastest-growing demographic groups. The culture experts and Santiago Solutions Group can guide brands through strategic processes – from opportunity sizing, target market personas, quantitative and qualitative research, and creative briefs. With unique cultural insights, brands can grow their sales while building genuine trust with all multicultural and inclusive communities.

[i] https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2019/connectivity-drives-the-asian-american-consumer-journey/




About us

For 20 years, Santiago Solutions Group (SSG) has guided growth pathways for scalable returns by uncovering cultural and marketplace insights.
These insights forge the fact-based foundation for effective business and brand growth strategies aligned with cultural insights across Hispanic & Asian acculturation levels, Black, LGBTQ, Non-Hispanic White, Gen Z, Millennials, and other segments.

More Info

Insights and News

Share This