I’m a Product Owner by day building government software and a DJ/electronic music producer by night under the alias DJ Ramen. Through milestones made in my recreational time, I’ve learned important lessons in using my passion for electronic dance music to give back to my community.
Electronic dance music, popularly known as EDM, has been a passion of mine since college. I love creating mixes that tell intricate storylines and invoke emotion. As a newcomer to the music industry, I was frustrated by my early plateau in musical growth and struggled to gain online traction. I sensed an aggressive landscape amongst new EDM artists on Soundcloud as they viewed each other as competition rather than a means for growth and inspiration. Knowing that there were surely others stifled by these hurdles, I created a platform with my good friend Bill Chen (NESZLO) to unite up-and-coming musicians in the pursuit of our common passion.
In October 2017, we recruited rising EDM artists and founded Better Than One (BTO) Collective on the pillars of musical growth and collaborative support. BTO has helped its 29 members polish their production skills through cross-training and sharing constructive feedback. Members experienced significant growth in popularity by combining audiences through the promotion of each other’s music. As a result of our symbiotic pursuit for musical growth, we went from producing music in our bedrooms to performing for thousands of people in sold out headlining shows across the country. This culminated in a mini-statewide tour across California (dubbed the “Better Than One Tour”) with shows in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Continuing our momentum, we are motivated to harness our platform and the EDM community to help those in need.
Cyberverse: Our Fight Against COVID-19
Fast forward to April 2020, we found ourselves in the midst of COVID-19. Healthcare workers fighting this pandemic were not being supplied the proper amounts of personal protective equipment (PPEs). Our fighters at the frontline were even asked to reuse disposable masks which puts their health at more risk. David Aningalan, co-founder of LPDT Movement, introduced me to the #DollarChallenge campaign hosted by a non-profit called Modern Enlightenment. The purpose of the campaign is to raise money to purchase PPEs for hospitals in Southern California that are lacking supplies.
BTO Collective partnered with Modern Enlightenment and Live Passionate, Die True (LPDT Movement), an apparel company, for our first live stream event called Cyberverse: Online Music Festival. All of the proceeds from the stream are donated to Modern Enlightenment’s #DollarChallenge GoFundMe campaign.
We hosted Cyberverse using our Twitch channel. This allowed us to interact with our audience in chat and raise money using its donations platform. Through the tireless efforts of BTO, LPDT, and Modern Enlightenment, we raised $9325 to purchase over 20,000 masks for our healthcare workers in Southern California! It was fulfilling to see how different worlds (music, apparel and healthcare) could come together and work towards a unified goal.
Fresh Off the Vote: Our Fight for Change
The 2020 Project’s mission is to register 100,000 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) by the 2020 Elections. We are doing this by raising awareness, providing education, and giving a space for civic engagement on the local, regional, and national scale. Voter participation for Asian Americans is especially low for age range 18–34. The 2020 Project hopes to close that gap and have more representation reflected in policy change and implementation!
We felt that their audience aligned seamlessly with ours. As a collective of predominantly Asian-American artists, BTO was proud to represent our community in an effort to raise awareness for civic engagement.
To honor AAPI Heritage Month, BTO Collective and 2020 Project collaborated on an online music festival called Fresh Off the Vote! The goal of Fresh Off the Vote was to advocate for Asian American representation beyond the scope of music and media, as well as to promote voter registration amongst AAPI youth. In two nights of jaw-dropping music, the online music festival showcased over 30 performers consisting of BTO members and other Asian American artists, such as AJ Rafael and Nix (uuuuuuuukewithme).
Live Engagement with our Hosts
Our hosts for Fresh Off The Vote, Chad Sahilan (echod) and Jenelle Lee (nelle) for Day 1 and Alvin Lee (Alvyn) and Mimi Lee (SENZA) for Day 2, provided live updates on the number of voter registrations and pledges we collected with the help of our 2020 Project team: Jenni Huynh, David Tran, and Thao Tran. The hosts also provided some fun facts about Asian American civic engagement between each performance.
This live engagement from our hosts allowed the audience to be a part of the stream. Although we did not ask for donations during Fresh Off the Vote, we had a few donors who felt inclined to support us. In the spirit of leveraging our platform to stand for the underrepresented, we re-directed all donations from the livestream event to the Minnesota Freedom Fund.
As a result of Fresh Off the Vote, we were able to sign up a total of 450 newly registered or pledged voters!
Fresh Off the Vote allowed BTO Collective and 2020 Project to bridge the gap between Asian Americans and their civic duty to vote in order to mobilize change for our country.
Key Takeaways & Final Thoughts
Here are my lessons learned since starting my musical endeavor and BTO Collective:
- Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.
If there is something you are passionate about, then share it with the world. There will always be someone out there that will resonate and find value in what you do.
2. Stay grounded by being proud that you put out your best work.
While engagement metrics (such as number of plays, likes, follows) allow you to measure growth, it also provides a means of comparison between your work and those of others in your space. It’s easy to get into a rut and feel insecure about your progress.
Ultimately, you are sharing your work with the world because it’s what you love to do — not because you want to reach 1000 likes on SoundCloud. Remind yourself why you started this passion in the first place. Focus on being the best version of yourself. Don’t trade authenticity for limelight.
3. Bring like-minded individuals together to create a collaborative space.
It is daunting to start new endeavors. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share the same goals and aspirations. With this platform, you are able to collaborate effectively and help each other grow.
4. Use your platform to make an impact in the world.
In a world where technology is in the palm of our hands, there is no reason to silo ourselves to our respective industries. We need to view the world from a broader perspective and apply ourselves within the layers that overlap.
Take a step back look at the overarching issues our country is facing. Ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. What is an issue that you are passionate about that inspires you to make a change/alleviate the situation?
2. How can you utilize your existing platform to make this impact?
3. Who can you collaborate with in your circle and/or other communities to push the envelope even further?
These lessons can be applied to any industry. Whether it be music, apparel, healthcare, or politics — just share what you love, bring people together, and make a difference in the world.
I’m proud to work with such talented and driven individuals who share the same values. Through the collaborative efforts between various organizations, I learned that we are stronger together. This sentiment extends beyond our group and into our external communities in light of the societal issues we are constantly facing. We simply cannot rely on others to make the change on our behalf. We have to be the change.
It is time to act now in solidarity with one another, because together:
We are Better Than One.