Edwin Tsang, announced a new, exclusive business partnership between Virtual Friends Management and HyperX. After successfully collaborating on the music-gaming hybrid festival ‘Ocean Meets Music‘, the two companies wanted to continue their working relationship, bringing together electronic artists and gaming. Tsang is also the founder of Virtual Friends. The artist management firm is most known for looking after several high profile North American electronic artists, including Vanic, Culture Code and Tokyo Machine.
We got the chance to sit down with Edwin and discuss his unique and impressive background in the music industry and gaming industry. He was able to tell us how Virtual Friends came about as well as some awesome accomplishments. If you’re someone interested in the music industry or considering a potential career, be sure to check out the Edwin’s experience below!
1. Hey Edwin, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Can you tell us about your background in the industry and how you got to where you are now?
At a young age I developed a drive to have a strong business acumen. It started when I was in high-school, a confused teen who thought his career path would be in computer science, programming video games and working at a studio in the near future due to my choices of spending my free-time in Japanese animation and video games after class. That thought quickly fell through when I failed Computer Science in high-school and was told that I had no future. I switched it up and created a business out of the video game League of Legends and started an elo-boosting company.
That was the start of a budding entrepreneur, over the next few years I donned roles in various faucets, from Growth Hacking, Business Op’s, Sales and much more in retail, corporate and start-up settings.
I took a gap-year and attended Business school shortly after. While I was lost in University, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue a path in business and work in tech due to my burn-out from a venture I started after high-school that lasted two years.
Around this time, I went to music festivals so I decided to give it a shot – I started as a promoter, worked my way up into the press and photography portion by shooting shows local and international as well as writing for a publication. After two years of getting my beak wet in the live space – I took the plunge to management and signed a few smaller artists. The big break came when Tokyo Machine and I started working together and the dominos started dropping after that.
2. You’ve Launched your own artist management agency, Virtual Friends Management. What has your vision been for the agency an what advice can you give those who are interested in the business?
Virtual Friends Management stemmed from my love for video games – I wanted to find a way to tie in video games and music together so that’s why three of my clients are in this space – they create soundtracks for popular anime or video games which is what I grew up on. Tokyo Machine is an 8-bit chiptune beast who is leading the pack of that sound.
I think anyone can start their own management agency / company. Find 2-3 acts that you truly believe in and can sell like no other and start from there. We all start somewhere. I started by learning small portions of the industry through experience at a publication, doing photo and video work for major festivals as well as working at a label. It taught me the fundamentals and gave me a network to leverage into my own acts moving forward.
Once you have one act that takes off and starts to get notoriety, you’ll be able to open many more doors for your other clients and your growth will take off. The first year is all about learning the in’s and outs and what is ok and what is not ok. Who the power player and power companies are and how do you bridge that connection authentically and organically?
Agencies usually have a range of small and large acts to balance it out. For my company I want to innovate and not only bridge the gap in anime, video games and music but I also look at all my acts to not just rely on music streaming and shows for revenue but other sources of revenue and finding cool relationships. E.G Travis Scott is a great example – he’s done Fortnite and Mcdonalds. That’s crazy stuff!
3. What do you look for in artists when you consider involving them in Virtual Friends Management? Can you give a few examples?
I want to find those that I jive with, it’s not the music that I care about, for me I enjoy working with people and that’s how I seek my acts when signing a new client. It has to just jive, we have to be able to just mesh well and communicate well. The music and the brand is another thing that I do consider as well as how their work ethic is, but the most important thing is if I can see them as a best-friend. I don’t sign a contract with any of my clients so I have a very open-door policy with who I work with.
The key points are for a more structured view though is:
- Their brand – is it different? Does it echo who they are themselves naturally?
- The music – is it disruptive or is it innovative?
- How big is their market cap size
- Why are they DJ’s / artists and what are their goals?
- Work ethic and business acumen is also important – many of the rockstar artists have an insane business acumen – look at Steve Aoki or Diplo for example.
4. You put together a stellar virtual festival this year called Ocean Meets Music and raised over $12,000 for the Vancover Aquarium. Can you tell us how it came about?
I live in Vancouver so it was something that was a personal sentiment for me. Vanic also lives in Vancouver and when I started managing him I pitched him the idea of working on presenting an event for something … COVID and BLM were common charities raised but I wanted to make something more specialized in my hometown. Also Vanic loves whales 🙂
I think for what it was and the fact that it was in the middle of the hype of virtual music festivals starting to fall off – we accomplished what we could in the time we had. It was my first time producing a show and it was very rewarding. I got the chance to bridge more connections, buy talent, find sponsors, work with different media partners and put together something special for my hometown.
5. 2020 was a long and tough year for the world, and we’re still living in quite a bit of uncertainty and restriction. Mental health has become an important on-going topic of conversation. What have you been focusing on to try and stay positive?
Great question – Video games, watch anime, go on a hike, turn off my phone and social media. Read, write, journal, and seek counseling. Being honest with yourself is very important to self growth. Take constructive criticism from your friends as a positive – they see what you don’t see as you may be blinded by your own aura.
I think that the mental health in this industry is so bad because creatives will always have self doubt – I’ve seen this destroy acts and I want to fix this by opening up an “EDMTherapy” type of site that would have counseling that specializes in artists and music professionals. This is a goal of mine for 2022 to start and advocate. I’m a big advocate of mental health in general – I think it’s something that you need to be honest to overcome and manage.
Just listen, and try to help how you can. Sometimes you can’t help but just by listening it means the world to the other person. Everyone wants to be heard and respected. I hope to help this problem in any way I can as I have struggled with mental health over the last few years as well.
6. What are your plans for Virtual Friends Management in 2021? Are there any other projects you have in the works?
I’m working on a lot of amazing opportunities, I got the chance to work with other talent last year such as Vanic and Gammer, and even worked on a flagship event called Ocean Meets Music. My plans this year and next year is to continue to grow the company by expanding the roster and staff as well as continue to grow the current client list. I’m excited to be able to navigate in different parts of media as I’ve always sought artists as a brand and not just a “DJ” – so putting them into things like commercials, streaming, gaming, syncs, merch and other sources of revenue has always been what I like to diversify on when it comes to building a successful act. I also enjoy putting together odd collaborations – taking two artists from different parts of the world and sticking them together is always fun.