How to make it in music, according to Emei

The LA-based artist has mastered the art of the viral pop tune with the help of artist services and music distribution platform Amuse. Ahead of the launch of its new Dream Factory project, Emei tells us how she broke into the industry.

Emei is all too aware that our attention spans are waning.​“They’ve shortened like crazy. We don’t have the patience to sit down and pay attention to something for a really long time,” the new-age popstar says over Zoom. She admits that even songs over two minutes long can leave her restless.​“I think most creatives around me actually [have] ADHD. You go into a studio and there are fidget spinners everywhere,” she adds, before explaining that her habit of bouncing around creatively can also be useful. One of her biggest tunes, Scatterbrain, focuses on this sense of distraction and disorder:​“I’m so scatterbrain /​But when you touch me, it all goes away,” she sings.

But there’s no deficit of attention when it comes to her music — people are tuning in to her poppy, relatable tunes by the millions. Her breakthrough 2021 single Late to The Party, that throws it back to the​’00s era of British Pop, was, ironically, timed to perfection, tapping into the power of the TikTok algorithm. By early last year, it had gained 5.5 million streams on music platforms – but, tellingly, nearly double that on social media. Her most recent release, breakbeat earworm Irresponsible, did it again. It’s thanks to her being a total natural at the social media game.​“I had no idea I was going to be a content creator,” she laughs. It’s now such a big part of being a musician which is wild.”

She’s also got a trick up her sleeve. Emei is signed to Amuse, a platform that helps new and rising independent artists release their own music, grow their audience and even get an advance on upcoming royalties.

Rather than try to navigate a maze of music industry obstacles, DIY artists can use Amuse to get their music out into the world without any delay. This year, Amuse is assembling a group of its artists for Dream Factory, a brand new project led by agency Culture Defined celebrating the platform’s range of talent. An initiative called Dream Fund is also set to follow, offering a variety of perks, equipment and studio time to help budding artists release their music and get the recognition they deserve.

The platform also has its own label, an ever-increasing imprint of cutting-edge, DIY talent (one of its artists, Yot Club, has amassed an eye-soaking one billion streams). Emei is signed to this roster.​“Amuse has been an extension of my team. I have been really lucky to have people I really trust there who have my back. They’ve taken a lot off me and my team’s plate,” she says, explaining that it gives her more time to write.


On the topic of writing – does Emei purposefully pen pop songs with short, snackable, clip-friendly hooks that are sure to get noticed?​“It obviously affects my writing and I like to keep it really short and sweet. But I’m not trying to focus on that or creating a 15-second snippet,” she says. Instead, Instagram and TikTok are ways of amping up hype and directing people to her music, rather than being the end product itself.​“The goal isn’t to have a video go viral but to have the video make people fall in love with what I’m doing,” she says.

After all, social media is a bit of a like and a dislike for Emei.​“I don’t know how I would have begun without it, my parents are Chinese immigrants and have no idea about music so I’m super grateful for the platform,” she says. The expected output, though, can be exhausting.​“As an artist, you’re really supposed to disappear off the face of the earth for two years between projects, but now it’s not something you can do,” she adds.

Emei has also made waves on the radio, with BBC Radio 1’s Future Pop show awarding both Scatterbrain and Irresponsible the title of Future Bop.​“It’s still very relevant and BBC Radio 1 has that important tastemaking factor. You can’t just live on the internet, you have to tackle it from all sides,” she says. She’s even entered the world of talent shows, coming third in Chinese Idol when she was just 15 years old.​“They focus on vocal performance which for me at least was a huge help. Performing is way less scary for me now because I went through a boot camp (on the show) when I was 15.”

For Emei, hitting the road and taking her tunes on tour keeps her driven:​“Oh my God, it’s my favourite part. It’s so cool to meet people in person singing back your lyrics and telling you how it affected them.” She’s currently getting ready for her Europe tour, featuring a mega gig at The Garage in London. Stop-offs in Berlin, Paris and Cologne are already selling out, testament to the power of her relatable lyrics and hooky pop.

With so many milestones in the making, it’s important to self-reflect on the journey.​“I feel like I didn’t know anything about the music industry when I first started out. I’m still dusting things off and seeing how things work. That’s just part of being an artist, learning as you go about marketing deals, distribution and so on,” she says. The admin, after all, is often enough to call for an aspirin.​“It’s a necessary evil and a headache. So if you find someone you can trust, stay there and don’t let it go! Shout out to Austin at Amuse, I’ve worked with him for a really long time. He’s my dude,” she laughs.

The key to Emei isn’t just using her scatterbrain to her advantage, but also adopting a scattergun approach, a surefire way to make an impression in a music industry that no longer has just one route in.​“I genuinely always say that the more shots on goal the better,” she says, whether it’s talent shows, radio hits, viral videos or releasing tunes through Amuse.​“And the goal is to connect with real people who will fall in love with your music. It’s not about making a lot of money, it’s about reaching people,” she says defiantly.​“And I feel like if you focus on that, and you try all sorts of directions, it’ll land.”

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