PARKA, one of the newest introductions to Singapore's music ecosystem, prides itself on being a hybrid music company set up "by youths for youths".
Founded in 2022 by Singapore Management University (SMU) student Dominic Yuan, it has assembled an eclectic lineup of young, budding homegrown artists with the goal of walking alongside and developing them in the crucial early phases of their careers.
A music artist himself, Yuan has served as a session keyboardist in his church and written "tons" of original tracks. The 25-year-old has also studied Music and Audio Technology at Singapore Polytechnic and has been a member of the Singapore Polytechnic Jazz Band and SMU SoundFoundry.
The seeds of the idea of setting up his own music company were first planted in Yuan's head when he saw a gap that needed to be filled in the local music industry.
Yuan recalled examining his musical journey four years prior to founding PARKA: "I realised that I had been caught up in so much of the ‘artist’ work, and the songs that I made never got the exposure that I wanted them to get, nor did they make much (any) money. From there I started to dig deeper into how the music industry worked and started to ask myself the difficult question of how I could help to make my own, and eventually others’, career in music sustainable."
A year later, the need for PARKA was underscored when Yuan noticed how short-form video platform TikTok was helping to boost the music of artists that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Feeling inspired to help his fellow young artists, he set about turning what was once just an idea into a reality.
"I wanted to create something that could partner [with] these emerging artists, of [whom] many have a unique voice, but may not have had the ability to create a good product from start to end, and to stand with them as they face the harsh realities of being a musician in the world today."
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Come 23 November this year, the fruits of PARKA's labour so far will be on display at its inaugural label showcase. Titled PARKA’s Treehouse, the event will be held at *SCAPE The Ground Theatre and will feature sets from all five acts from its current roster — Regina Song, Jeyes, ICEBOX, ANNÉ, and Elaine.
In an interview with Hear65, Yuan explains what differentiates PARKA from other music companies, talks about building a close-knit community of artists and staff members, and reveals PARKA's approach to developing local talent.
How did you come up with the name “PARKA”?
PARKA stands for PARK-Asia. PARKA exists for young people to find hope in being different, be it from typical career paths in society or in the way they create and process things. And we hope that the music we make draws individuals from all walks of life so we can create a non-exclusive music community. Big dreams, but that’s why [there's] the word ‘park’ — it’s like how trees and plants grow together in their own space and time.
My goal for PARKA has always been to be able to create an audience base in Asia; as different as we are across the continent, there are a lot of similar issues and struggles we face in modern youth culture. PARKA is, on the other hand, quite a cute and catchy name that I quite liked – it feels quirky yet friendly, kind of what the artists and the team are.
Pop singer Regina Song performs at B-4
"PARKA exists for young people to find hope in being different, be it from typical career paths in society or in the way they create and process things."
What were some obstacles that you found particularly challenging to overcome while setting up the label?
I think as it is for most creatives starting a new project, it was challenging to create a model and infrastructure for the team to function and create. The label started as more of a production house with additional functions like distribution and supporting the artist in playing live shows, but as we grew and brought in new artists, we learned more about what we needed to grow in, which was honestly quite an uphill battle. From there, we learnt basic PR and marketing skills, pitching, budgeting, and for me, what it means to own a company and to find the right team to run it with you. We’ve had quite a few changes in the internal team, which has been a huge obstacle, especially in the early days, but I’m glad to say that I’ve found a group of people that I hope I can continue running the company with in the long term.
PARKA founder Dominic Yuan (also known as d0my)
PARKA co-exists alongside a number of other independent and major labels in local music scene. What are some things that you do differently from others?
Ah yes, the lovely age-old question of differentiation and unique selling point! We’ve learnt so much from the other labels in town — they’ve all got great artists, great music, and robust systems. PARKA is different because firstly, we run not only as a label but as a music production house, which allows our A&R process to be very holistic.
While we ensure we get the basics right by helping each artist deliver their vision and personality for each track to the world, PARKA spends a lot of time cultivating a family spirit within the team and the artists. A big part of what we believe in is that the best music comes from having a good team of people with you, in the room making the track and also having your back when the journey gets rough, which is something that audiences all over the world can relate to. In fact, we’re putting out our first collaborative album called Treehouse, which features both intra-label collabs and others with artists who are close friends of PARKA (shazza, Adriel, Amari Teague, and SIREN, to name a few)!
PARKA artists Regina Song, ANNÉ, Elaine, Jeyes, and ICEBOX
"A big part of what we believe in is that the best music comes from having a good team of people with you, in the room making the track and also having your back when the journey gets rough"
Let’s talk about your artist roster. What kinds of acts do you work with at PARKA? What are some qualities that make a particular artist a good fit for the label?
We’ve got an amazing roster at PARKA. We work primarily with singer-songwriters with an indie pop edge, and they all have a special sound to their music and songwriting. Our roster currently includes our very own pop-princess Regina Song, who writes amazing tunes with high-quality sass. Her tracks 'high school boy' and 'venus' have propelled both her and PARKA into the spotlight.
Jeyes is our resident sadboi who came into the limelight in his lofi era with 'iirwya?' and just released his debut EP bittersweet. One of our resident producers ICEBOX, whose real name is Leo Matias, explores alternative pop with electronic and alternative influences [while] ANNÉ is our R&B/electronic diva who was also PARKA’s first-ever signing. Elaine, our latest signing, is one of Asia’s most underrated singer-songwriters, in my opinion, and we’re working on her upcoming indie-R&B EP for release next year.
We’re always looking out for good talent locally, and recently a bit more in the region. The two most important qualities are the artist’s drive and willpower to succeed, as well as their innate talent and ability to write good songs and deliver them well. We’ve also looked out for artists that complement the PARKA sound and [can] help us to develop that fresh indie-pop sound our catalogue has created in the last two years.
Multi-instrumentalist, producer, and artist ICEBOX
"The two most important qualities [we look for] are the artist’s drive and willpower to succeed, as well as their innate talent and ability to write good songs and deliver them well."
What’s important to you when it comes to managing and developing local artists under your care? What kind of relationship do you have with your artists over at PARKA?
For the artist to create music, [they] need the right conditions (that’s why ‘park’ right) — the right producers, co-writers, time and space, and people who can bring across their creative vision. When it comes to managing and developing artists for us, we tread the fine line of managing our timelines while creating good music that can sometimes take many iterations, but still making sure we have enough headroom to ensure we get the necessary tasks done.
We value honesty and transparency in the artist-label relationship [and put] consistency at the forefront of each release, which is something [we've been] growing better at recently. It’s key for me that each artist and team member gets enough rest and is in a good headspace for the art to come through and that we are constantly being inspired by people around us — whether it means going out to meet new people or to chill within the team.
The team and I have a peer type of relationship with the artists. PARKA positions itself as a partner to each artist, and a flatter structure has helped us navigate each artist’s creativity as well; there’s a lot of hanging out and talking about life and music over meals, a lot of fun and banter in the studio, and the occasional serious conversation about the future.
R&B and electronic act ANNÉ
"PARKA positions itself as a partner to each artist, and a flatter structure has helped us navigate each artist’s creativity as well."
What are some essential PARKA music releases that you think Singaporeans should check out?
The entire catalogue’s great! HAHA. My personal favourites are 'tired song' and 'only us' by Jeyes, 'Lessons' by ICEBOX (the acoustic version is amazing) and 'venus' by Regina Song. Special mention would be 'Someday' by ANNÉ. 'high school boy' by Regina is great, and '3:07' by Jeyes and myself is pretty decent too!
Lastly, what are some plans that you have to grow PARKA moving forward?
PARKA’s been very youth-run in the last two years, and with the team heading into the full-time working world, we’re focusing on helping our artists get more recognition from shows and media, while still growing our catalogue of songs and continuing to do music production work for artists outside of PARKA.
We’re looking at expanding into Malaysia as the first step of fulfilling the "Asia" in PARKA. We’ve been building a network and working with artists from Kuala Lumpur, with the possibility of playing some shows there soon too. We’re on the lookout for a studio space too, where we’ll continue to make music and, hopefully, have many great conversations and support Singapore’s generation of up-and-coming musicians.
Tickets to PARKA's Treehouse are available from $19 via Peatix.
Stream PARKA's weareparka playlist here: