Island Records Sets Up Outpost In The Philippines, Deepening Asian Presence

Lala Vinzon
Courtesy of Island Philippines

Lala Vinzon

The UMG sub-label is the latest move by the major to expand into emerging markets, including Middle East and Africa.

Island Records is opening an outpost in the Philippines, the label’s first-ever division in Asia.

The newly christened Island Records Philippines launches in Manila with a roster that includes Filipino pop acts like multi-platinum band Juan Karlos, Over October and Lala Vinzon, along with three new signings: singer Zack Trabudlo, singer-songwriter Fern. and alternative pop act One Click Straight.

The Philippines is the latest spot in Southeast Asia where parent company Universal Music Group has established a greater presence over the past year amid a rapid adoption of digital streaming. After opening a new regional hub in Singapore, the label has been pushing further into the territory, which has some 700 million people.

UMG recently announced the arrival of Def Jam Philippines, a new regional label dedicated to developing and nurturing hip-hop talent and culture within the country; VVS Collective was its first signing. Def Jam set up Def Jam Southeast Asia last year, based in Singapore, and dance imprint Astralwerks also established an outpost there.

Even amid the coronavirus pandemic, the label has pushed forward with expansion plans in other emerging markets, including opening new offices the past two months in the Middle East and Africa.

While Island is new to the scene, Universal Music Philippines has been a strong player in the local music market for more than a decade, and Thursday’s announcement marks a re-alignment for artists Vinzon, Juan Karlos, and Over October, who were part of MCA Music, the Philippine branch of UMG. Other Filipino artists on the label include Darren Espanto and indie-alternative rock band Autotelic.

In May, UMG tapped artist manager Enzo Valdez to oversee its operations in Manila. With a population of 107 million spread across about 7,641 individual islands, the Philippines is the 44th-largest market in the world. Total recorded music revenues there have doubled since 2015 to $25.9 million, according to the IFPI. Some Filipino stars have large domestic audiences. Juan Karlos’ 2018 hit single “Buwan,” for example, has 141 million views on YouTube.

Island, a British-Jamaican label, made its official announcement Thursday at a digital press conference featuring performances from some of the label’s artists and video messages from Island executives, including founder Chris Blackwell and Darcus Beese, Island’s president. “A message to all the new artists in the Philippines: We are here, we are your family and we look forward to working with you,” Beese said.

The sub-label’s first release is “BLESS Ü,” the new single from Juan Karlos, which will be released on July 24, followed by “Nangangamba” by Zack Tabudlo, which comes out on July 31.

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