In the early 2000s, Asian entertainment culture began its spread to Western audiences. Anime, manga, dramas, film, and music migrated toward the computers of Westerners by way of illegal file sharing and YouTube, creating the boom of which many are familiar. Currently, Internet radio plays a large role in the spread of Asian music culture.
Big B Radio is one of the stations leading the charge in the spread of Asian music. Big B got their start in December 2004 through SHOUTcast Radio. The station caters to C-Pop, J-Pop, and K-Pop fans with their different station choices, so any Asian music lover can find something they love. With thousands of listeners, the commercial-free station was even named the most followed K-Pop and J-Pop station by TuneIn! After 10 years, the station shows no signs of stopping as fans continue to join in to listen to their favorite groups.
Recently, K-Crush got in touch with Big-B and had a chance to catch up with personable DJs Typo, Emergency, Rexie, Lizzie, And, Kagome, and Ben to find out their thoughts about the rise of Asian pop, the genre’s acceptance in the West, and any plans they have if the West loses interest in the music.
Thank you so much for your time! To get started, do you mind introducing yourselves, where you’re from, and how long you’ve been a part of Big-B Radio?
Kagome: My name is Kagome Dirksmeyer. I am from Alton, IL USA. I’ve been a part of Big B Radio for over 2 years now.
Lizzie: Hi! Lizzie from Singapore here! I have been tuning in to Big-B Radio (BBR) since 2012 using an online-streaming radio. I only happen to know that BBR has a main webpage for us to tune in and request songs at around February/March last year (2014). *Laughs*
In May, I was then chosen to be a Request DJ. And I am really grateful that DJ Rip, the Boss, decided to let me be a part of BBR Family to help him.
Emergency: Well, first I would like to say hello to all the readers of K-Crush, your #1 place for good news in the K-Pop scene! I’m DJ Emergency, upcoming producer out of the woodwork! Some of you may know me by my remix releases that’ve been going out on SoundCloud and a lot is yet to come! I’ve been DJing for Big B since October, so not really long and will stay as long as I can.
Ben: Hello, DJ Ben here. I am DJ for all of the Stations (Asian Pop, K-Pop, C-Pop, K-Pop) on Big B Radio and enjoy all types/genres of music (C-Pop, J-Pop/J-Rock and K-Pop/K-Rock). I am currently living in Canada, but used to live in the small city of Montego Bay, Jamaica. I am fully Chinese, but I was born and raised for about 13-14 years in Jamaica due to my parents’ occupation.
I started around March 2014 (I think), so almost a year soon since I have been with Big B Radio. Time sure flies by when you’re spreading the love of music. My hobbies entail listening to music, gaming with friends, reading manga/manhwa and fictional novels. Oh almost forgot to add that I do enjoy long walks on the beach and laying under the moonlight watching the stars, so if anyone’s interested, feel free to contact me. (Don’t take that last sentence too seriously, haha.)
Big-B plays J-Pop, C-Pop, and K-Pop, so you cover a lot of interest areas. What genre(s) attracted you to Big-B, and what inspired you to want to become a DJ for the station?
Emergency: Well, I got a love for Asian music for sure and it pretty much beats American music any day, but how I knew about Big B Radio was that I needed to hear some new music and, for one, I had no place to go. So I did a Google search to find a station to listen to and Big B was the first to show up. Later on I hit up DJ R.I.P. to see if he was interested to have a live DJ mixing on the decks and then everything hit off from there. At the current moment, I’m the only one that does live mixing and I hope soon more people get inspired to work for Big B. The people at the station are great, respectful, and show a lot of love to their audience. They do this for the love which you don’t get much of anywhere when it comes to the industry. Other places just want to make money and a profit which Big B radio is the opposite of that. They work off of donations which pay for the website and everything under the hood, but they cater to you, the listeners.
Lizzie: Exactly! BBR plays all 3 different genres, and this is why I’m attracted to it. When I feel like listening to K-Pop, I’ll open the K-pop page. If I feel like tuning in to J-Pop, I’ll open up the J-Pop’s [page], and vice versa for the C-Pop.
I’m a K-Pop fan since 2012. I’m not sure when I started to like K-Pop so much, but I’m positive it’s due to K-Dramas and friends influence. As for J-Pop, you can blame Inuyasha (an anime) for getting me addicted to it. *Laughs* I think I was into J-Pop first before K-Pop took over. Last but not least, C-Pop. I’m a Chinese nationality, so I tend to listen to Chinese songs since I was young.
What inspired me to be a DJ are the DJs that helped out in BBR. Before I became a DJ myself, I would always request for songs. And it feels great when my requested songs are played. Most of the DJs do not have the same time-zone as mine when I started tuning in to BBR. During my afternoon, there will be quite a number of requests weren’t answered. That’s when I decided to give it a try being a DJ as well. I wish to help out those listeners who wished to have their requested songs played on air. Moreover, some of the listeners will leave a “Thank You” whenever their songs are played. It seems like your help is appreciated by someone, and that’s what makes me feel warm in heart.
Rexie: The genre that attracted me was K-Pop. That’s what I listened to the majority of the time. I always thought it be cool to be a DJ, being able to play the music for those listening, and being part of such an awesome family. I didn’t think I would have the time to do it, but when I was personally asked by the Boss [DJ Rip], I thought to give it a try and it’s been an amazing experience.
Typo: Well, to start, I found K-Pop on our local electronics store. On TV, they had playing a 2NE1 video. After that, I YouTubed it and found SNSD, a little J-Pop and C-Pop later. Overall, I like Pop, Dance, upbeat songs, R&B.
It was a long way [for] me to become a Request DJ because every other [DJ] I knew in Big-B got to be a DJ faster because they knew way too much about K-Pop then I did at that time and I did not pass our Head DJ “Eyeball” test in chat. I was very lucky to be a DJ since other DJs were not so active.
Ben: I cannot say that one certain genre captured me on Big B Radio because I am always so open to listening to so many different types of music out there. Whether the genres are trot, ballad, pop, electric, rap or rock; I would explore these genres as well as the artists that catches my eye. Even within my time at Big B Radio, I am still not able to fully grasp all the great music that each of these countries have to offer. Every day I come across songs that get me hooked which are either requested by listeners (you guys are awesome) or being played on the stations during rotations. Nothing inspirational happened that lead me to become a DJ for Big B Radio, but I did want to give a helping hand to the station and introduce some artists from C-Pop, K-Pop, J-Pop/J-Rock to listeners.
Kagome: I was looking for a station that played J-Pop. I found Big B Radio. I hung around the website and the owner DJ RIP asked me if I wanted to be a DJ. I enjoy and love music and I enjoy sharing music and I have a great knowledge of music (J-Pop, C-Pop, and K-Pop). I used to DJ at parties for my friends and I was in radio for a short time in college.
DJ Rexie, your bio says you love both K-Pop and C-Pop. With K-Pop being a big thing now, C-Pop gets lost in terms of interest. What makes you like C-Pop, and what do you think music fans are missing by not giving it a chance?
Rexie: At first I had no interest in C-Pop because the Chinese songs I had listened to before were not of my interest; but one day while on chat, one of the C-Pop DJs was online and I decided to join her on the C-Pop station and tune in to the music she was playing. I was surprised and enjoyed it very much. I like C-Pop because I think it’s very relaxing. Even though I like upbeat songs, C-Pop can really help when you need to kick back and relax. Fans are missing out on some amazing artists and great music. I say they should give it a try. There is plenty of variety in C-Pop.
Emergency, you also remix J-Pop music on your SoundCloud, Josh. What made you want to do this, and how has the response been toward your remixes?
Emergency: I’ve been making remixes for so many years. At first I was remixing music by 50 Cent and other rap artists, but with that scene I got so many haters and people disrespected me for what I enjoyed doing. When I switched over to Asian music I got nothing but love and the haters vanished. The person that influenced me the most to get into it with J-Pop and K-Pop was DJ Amaya. This guy is a legend, a friend of mine, and one of the best electronic producers out there in the Asian scene. If you never heard of him you are missing out on some good stuff. I also got some influences from ApieceofOnion, K-BitCRUSH, Xulikken, i5cream, DJ SE7EN, Areia and of course Camelia. All these producers are great for what they do and if you haven’t heard them yet you need to check them out for sure.
Looking at your radio audience, which country do you estimate has the largest audience currently and why?
Ben: Our statistics shows that the USA has the largest amount of listeners. This is not surprising since the US hosts many events such as K-Con that exposes K-Pop to the unknown community, thus increasing in the numbers of K-Pop fans.
Lizzie: I would like to say Singapore, but we’re placed in #3 at this hour (took a peek at the Country Raking tuning in to BBR before answering this question). *Laughs* But according to the requesters from Chatwing and the people on Chatango, I will say that most audiences are from United States. Up to now, the majority of audience that I had conversation with are from US. Still, I [was] able to make 2 friends from Chatango who are Singaporean like me and a Malaysian who is from a neighboring country.
And: The country with the largest audience is most likely the United States due to the population size and Internet access. Most people have the internet and spends hours on it doing things. Streaming is one of those big things. Even local radio stations have internet streams; so naturally, people will stream Asian music when most places lack a radio station that actually plays such music.
Emergency: People from all over the world listen to Big B Radio and their listeners are growing daily. As for what country listens to it the most it’s hard to tell because it changes from day to day. The best person to ask that question to would be DJ R.I.P. He’s the man of the show, hehe.
Rexie: We have listeners from all around the world, but usually Japan and United States hold first and second place in the listeners list. I’ve gotta be honest, I’ve always been curious as to what station those listening Japan are tuned in to. With those who listen from United States I would say they listen to more of K-Pop and J-Pop.
Typo: Japan has the biggest audience, and after that, Taiwan usually. Japan listeners may be looking for something “fresh” and “young” and since some K-Pop groups do Japanese versions of their songs it attracts more people to listen to K-Pop.
Many feel the Korean wave impacts young people the most. Where you live, do you find this to the case? From your perspective, what audience absorbs K, C, or J music most in your country and why?
Ben: The younger Asian community is definitely more open to K-Pop, C-Pop, and J-Pop because we tend to enjoy the cultures of each of these three nations. I also see that others from different racial backgrounds do enjoy these types of music as well.
I live in Markham, Ontario where it is a relatively quiet city, so I can’t see any here. Although I can definitely see why it appeals to the younger generation more than the older generation due to the music tastes. The older generations tend to not be so open to foreign music while the younger generation has a more open view of music. The only time I have ever heard K-Pop play in a store or restaurant is when I am eating in a Korean restaurant with my friends and they play the songs or at a karaoke.
Kagome: Not very many people around here listen to K-Pop and other Asian music. The Asian music is a very small market [in the] USA. A lot of the K-Pop artists don’t make it in the American music market, only a handful do but don`t because the labels here support their American artists than their Asian artist they have on their rosters.
Lizzie: Not only youngsters get hit by the Korean wave here. Some 30-40-year olds also listen to K-Pop. I remember that there is a mini-drama showing parents can be into K-Pop as well. And also, I happen to see a fancam filming a granny and her grandson attending a K-pop band concert, so I’m sure that Korean Wave does not only impact on young people the most but also the more aged ones.
Instead of audience, I would likely to say gender. From my perspective, girls are more into the K-Zone. According to my surroundings, I can only find girls to talk to about K-Pop. As for the guys, I would say “Off they go to the J-Zone.” I’m guessing mainly because of the anime(s) that they are watching, which makes them more on the J-Zone instead of the K. As for C-Zone, it’s neutral.
And: This is actually quite funny. Of the people I’ve met online, most are in their 20s, so I don’t see it as a youth-centered movement. Most kids are more interested in One Direction or Disney, in my perspective. Consuming Asian music takes a large time commitment and money. To watch all the MVs (and dramas, as an extension) means spending a lot of time in front of a computer or other devices, and most parents wouldn’t approve of their 14-year old child being up at 2am to wait for the newest video to be released. Also, if you’re going to support your favorite artist through physical albums, you need a lot of money for shipping. Therefore, it’s easier for adults to be active and truly absorb the music.
Additionally, all these groups are more aligned with Backstreet Boys than One Direction, so older people are more likely to find a connection with that type of music and format, than younger people. At least, that’s how I think – I could be entirely wrong.
Typo: I think it only impacts young K-pop lovers trying look like their Idols. But Estonians are not that “brave” since in here would get judged easily by looking like any of the K-Pop idols. I would be happy to look like any K-Pop male star if I had “looks” for it. J-Pop and C-Pop would go more to older people I think.
Rexie: Yes, the Korean Wave does impact young ones the majority of the time. But it depends on what is considered young. *Laughs* Here, yes many young ones from ages 12 and up show an interest in K-Pop, I’ve met older ones in their 50s who enjoy watching K-dramas. I do feel that K-Pop and J-Pop appeals a lot to teenagers and young adults because the majority of the music is upbeat and miss like-music that makes them happy and that makes them move. I feel C-Pop appeals more to older ones just because it’s more relaxing and calm.
As DJs, I assume you listen to a lot of music every day. Overall, do you think the music quality has gotten better or worse? Why?
And: It’s not so much better or worse, just different. Production quality is of course higher, but you still have ridiculous lyrics and compositions. Then you have amazingly composed music and deep lyrics. Yes, there are artists who will release a song I find worse than their previous works, but sometimes it’s infinitely better. It’s a mixed bag, and saying it is better or worse is shortsighted and narrow.
Typo: I’m very easy going with music unless it has noticeable “autotune,” but I have not noticed such songs yet. Overall, I think it has been a good year since I am easy to satisfy. Older music gives that old good vibe in me, nowadays it is more, like, young and how to be hip.
Ben: In all honesty, I believe that K-Pop and J-Pop/J-Rock are the top contenders in the Asian music industry because the quality music they produce is truly awesome. While I believe the quality of C-Pop has gone down quite far unlike during the golden age where artists such as Leslie Cheung, Andy Lau, Teresa Teng, I could be mistaken and be biased since I truly adored the 90s era for C-Pop.
Kagome: Yes, I do listen to a lot of music every day on a regular job, and I listen to it at home. I work for one of the major music labels when I am not DJing. I have advance notice what is coming out and it will hit the airwaves. Music has gotten a lot better and you can do more with the music [because of] the technology we have today since the old days of 2-track analog channels from 50-years ago.
Rexie: I do listen to a lot music, did so before becoming a DJ, now I do it even more. I think it [music] has improved, but that’s my opinion. There’s always that song that is a huge “No,” but I think music quality is different to everyone. What I think is a great song, it may have all the great elements in it, but to others it may be not be so good. Not their taste.
Many see DJs as advocates for the music they play. Have you done anything to help generate interest in the Asian music scene? What have you done, and how did people perceive or accept these actions?
Rexie: I definitely share my love for K-Pop and C-Pop with all my friends and those who I meet that love music in general. Also, I play my music wherever I go so people are exposed to the music I listen to. Some accept it, some don’t. On the Big B Radio, I’ve been doing C-Pop marathons. It not only helps me expand my knowledge on C-Pop artists, but I think marathons make people curious and they might tune in and hear something they like.
Lizzie: I don’t remember whether I have or have not done anything to help generate interest. But I do know that whenever there are new listeners appearing in BBR Chatango, I will warmly welcome them and have some chit-chat as well. By doing so, I can see that some of the anons have become our permanent listeners.
Typo: I do very little to be honest. I have shared lot of Asian music-related videos; very little interest unless song titles hint about love, then it gets more attention. I have done a few remix marathons, one football themed marathon, few birthday marathons. That’s what I have done for Big B.
Kagome: I have a lot of people ask me who I would recommend to them to listen to or try. I tell who the best and that the little known artists or groups are really the best than the big well-known artists or groups and share songs and have them listen to. I have influenced a few to listen to K-Pop and J-Pop.
Ben: Many DJs at Big B Radio will schedule marathons for artists on specific stations (Asian Pop, K-Pop, C-Pop or J-Pop). Marathons will be carried out either by themes, special dates (birthdays or anniversary dates of either the artists or group), or just specific artists. We try to spread the marathons on each station evenly. I have taken it upon myself to hold marathons on the J-Pop Station by introducing different artists every week and even take requests from listeners who want to have a marathon for a specific artist. By doing so, I will be able to allow others to hear a variety of different genres and artists. Most listeners enjoy the marathons and give feedback when possible.
And: I admit my lack of social skills limits my ability to really spread the music – amusing since I’m a DJ and a writer, right? I have been in situations where someone would ask what I’m looking at or listening to, and I tell them “Korean music” or a “Korean drama.” They simply say “oh ok” and move on.
I honestly find more joy in exposing other K-Pop listeners to different artists. This is why I host Throwback Thursday. There are a lot of great older artists that Korean music consumers simply don’t know about. So, I like introducing them to the originators of the genre. I also tweet and blog about underrated or non-Big 3 artists, so others can learn about them, as well. Most appreciate it and enjoy the music.
Emergency: Sure! As a DJ, my job is to bring fresh music to the audience and I bring Asian music to the table that not many American DJs do. So to get people to hear it I feed it to them not caring if they like it or not, LOL, but at the end of the day they enjoy what I bring which brings more people to the scene. I basically shove it down their throats.
Finally, if Hallyu does burst and interest wanes, what are your plans? Will you continue DJing?
Lizzie: Of course I will still continue to DJ because I am sure that there will still be listeners getting immerse into K-Pop. Also, my main reason to become a DJ is to fulfill a listener’s song request.
Emergency: I doubt it will ever come to that point, but if it does I’ll continue what I do best for my audience.
And: As long as I have the time, and someone still cares, I’ll continue DJing. Good music is good music regardless of the market size.
Ben: Even if the Hallyu bubble does burst and interest wanes, I will probably still continue to listen to Asian music because I enjoy it and not because people stop having interest in it. I will most definitely continue DJing because interacting with those of similar interest is what makes it interesting and enjoyable.
Rexie: I will forever continue to listen to K-Pop and C-Pop and the occasional J-Pop. I will be a DJ at Big B Radio while my circumstances allow it or Big B Radio doesn’t want me, *Laughs*
Typo: I have not honestly [thought] that far yet. Since life is one unexpected thing and I might not DJ at that time anymore? If Big B still exists and accepts me, then for sure I will DJ. But I do continue it for now and always root for K-Pop no matter what.
Stay tuned for Part Two of our conversation with Big B Radio! In Part Two, the DJs discuss their thoughts on Asian music’s impact cultural and societal impact!