If you don't yet recognize the acronym G.E.M., just wait. If Lupo Groinig has his way, the name may become a household word in the Western market.
Tang Tsz-kei—better known worldwide as G.E.M. (Get Everybody Moving)—is one of the top-grossing Asian artists on tour right now. She is also trying to be the first from the region to crack the fickle Western market, with the help of her backers at Hummingbird Music, led by Groinig.
"There's a stigma about Asian artists not being able to break into the West and that's what I want to do," said Groinig, who is also G.E.M.'s creative director and Hummingbird co-founder. "Basically, I'm trying to put different influences into the music that cater to both sides of the world."
For now, G.E.M.'s following is primarily from Asia, with 9.8 billion plays on China's QQ music platform last year, according to Hummingbird, and she has 16.6 million followers on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.
Asia's population of 4.4 billion is huge, but artists find it notoriously difficult to escape its gravity. Last year, the Taiwanese band Mayday became the first Chinese band to perform at Madison Square Garden, but as with G.E.M.'s smaller-scale concerts in the U.S., the audience was primarily Asian.
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The stakes are high, given that Asian artists may have a receptive and organic domestic audience. There are more than 250,000 Chinese students studying in the U.S., the Institute of International Education said, with buying power that exceeded $8 billion in 2014. That's enough capital to guarantee big concert attendance for their favorite stars from the homeland, experts said.
For example, student Shi Han Zhong, 18, of Hong Kong, paid about $280 for a front-row seat at G.E.M.'s March 1 concert at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun casino. That was his third time seeing her live, he said.