“We are Higher Brothers. We are from China,” four Chinese youngsters in streetwear announced to a cheering crowd. This was not in China, but the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, California ─ the 19th of the 27 stops of Higher Brothers’ first world tour in 2019. In merely a few years’ time, Higher Brothers had taken historical strides to be accepted in rap not only in China but all over the world.
Behind this magic was 88rising, an American-based company which regarded itself as a “hybrid management, record label, video production and marketing company”. By 2022, 88rising had carved a niche for itself in the music industry as the arbiter of “Asian cool” for an international audience. Gaining traction in America and beyond, its Asian-centric roster of artists including Higher Brothers, Rich Brian, and Joji had become a force to be reckoned with in the global music industry.
Following its ascent to popularity, 88rising faced the questions that all niche companies did: What was the next step for growth? Remaining a niche player with a unique and strong brand image, or diversifying its music genres and target audience, scaling up its business, but risking the dilution of its brand image?
- Niche Market and Segmentation, Targeting, and Positioning (STP): how does a company segment the market, find its niche market, and position its product/service to satisfy the target consumers? This case also highlights the STP strategy in the foreign market when a company is selling its product/service in the oversea market.
- Market expansion and product mix design: how does a company expand its business from a niche market to mass market? When a company targets consumers with diverse preferences, how should the company design its product mix?
- Sustainability of a business model: in the short term vs. long term, how does a company adjust its strategy, including resource allocation, synergy of products, and monetization, to sustain its business?
- Music industry: what are the roles of artists, labeling companies, and their relationship? How has technology (e.g., social media and online streaming) shaped the music industry?
- Promote cultural products in a foreign country: many products (e.g., coffee, American football, and fashion) are associated with culture and it is particularly true for music. How does a company promote a new culture in a foreign country despite the obstacles of languages, tradition, and identity?