Stories, Taoke (Business)

Modern Tao Ke: Q & A with Universal Records’ Kathleen Dy-Go

Four business experts shared their insights on the sixth installment of ‘Create. Modern Tao Ke: The Transformational Journey of Family Businesses Through Innovation‘ webinar hosted by Globe myBusiness in cooperation with CHiNOY TV and Junior Chamber International (JCI) – Manila.  

Providing an inside look at the entertainment industry during this pandemic season, Ms. Kathleen Dy-Go, Managing Director of Universal Records, shares her experiences on what it means to innovate and adapt to a rapidly changing society. 


Q: You represent the second-generation tao kes. Why was it important for you to step up in your family business? Did you feel any pressure?

KDG: My father, Dr. James Dy, also known as the Godfather of the Music Recording Industry—he was one of the pioneers in the local music industry. So while I was growing up, I was very much exposed to all the different types of music and artists who occassionally visited our home. And after college, I decided to work outside of our business and decided to work as a trader at the Philippine Stock Exchange. So for a couple of years, I worked there; and eventually, I decided to help our company and decided to give back to what my father [had] started, which is Universal Records. 

At the time, we were going through the transition between WEA Records to Universal Records, so I felt that I needed to help the company grow more, with the mentorship of my late mentor-sister Bella Dy-Tan. After she passed away, I took over the reins of the business. And we are very active up to now, making sure that our presence is felt in the industry.


Q: What does it take to follow your father’s footsteps? What are the qualities that a second-generation tao ke should have?

KDG: One of the Chinese culture [sic] traits that I learned from my father is actually the value of hard work. I’ve seen him work almost 24/7. He [was] always going outside of the country to work. And I’m not saying that I would [have] the second generation [adopt this] now because growing up in a Catholic school, I learned that even God also rested on a Sunday. So I do believe that you still need to rest and re-energize for the whole week’s stretch [and] that you will need to prepare for the next week. So yeah, [the] value of hard work. Also being thrifty, you know? If you don’t need to spend, you have to save on money. And also be a risk-taker. That’s another Chinese trait that I actually learned from him. Be a risk-taker but with caution.


Q: What are the biggest threats of the pandemic to the local music industry?

KDG: One of the challenging things that we are experiencing right now is actually coming up with our content because content is the life of our business right now. So we have to go through a lot of testing to make sure that everyone is safe before we go into any video production. We recently also started re-activating our full-length film outfit, which goes by the name Belfilms, which is a subsidiary of Universal Records. Last year, we put out a movie. And just this year, during the pandemic, we started producing a lot of short films and series. We also started managing artists to add on to our business so that we are diversifying as well. And though our physical products are still there—the CDs and vinyl records, which made a big comeback a couple of years ago—we are already shifting all of our products and content to the digital platforms. 

We are also shifting [to] technological tools that we [are now] using to run our business, such as [tools] for online conferences, contract signings, [and] press launches, which we recently did [in] Indonesia. Another technical tool that we use a lot [is] social media, such as—right now, we’re using Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and etc. So yeah. We do most of our marketing and sales efforts right now online. And we also are venturing into online concerts soon, so hopefully, that will really sort of innovate things for the music or the entertainment industry for us.     


Q: How critical is it to go digital at this time?

KDG: Fortunately, during this pandemic, our digital [presence] actually made an upsurge. Everyone was watching Netflix. Everyone was using Spotify, so I think that it’s about time that people start adapting to this as well. 


Q: Any message to the older generation tao kes who are still fearful or doubtful about it?

KDG: I think the older generation is starting to appreciate it as well. It’s just a matter of wanting to learn. I do remember that my mom just recently started using Viber. For the longest time, she [didn’t] want to use it or [didn’t] want to learn. But just recently, she did. So you know, I think at her age—she’s already 80-plus, so for somebody to learn that—that’s really fascinating for me.      


Q: So what is your message to the younger Chinoys who want to try something new or want to contribute to the music, arts, or even entertainment industries?

KDG: You know, for the past years that I’ve been active in my daughter’s school, which is also my alma mater, I’ve been helping a lot of young, aspiring singers to make it in the business. And I’ve been [also] signing [on] some young artists [who] are really kind of big right now. 

My number one suggestion is to always innovate yourself and [to] think outside of the box. Think of what sets you apart from everyone [and] what makes you unique because you yourself—you are the product. 

Photo: Jose Mari Chan

I do remember my father telling me a story about Mr. Jose Mari Chan, who happens to be my ninong as well. Years back, my dad was hesitant [about] signing him up because of his Chinese surname—Jose Mari Chan, right? So there [was] no popular entertainment artist who made it big before, that you know—his surname is Chinese. But my dad took the risk and made him what he is right now; and you know, he is a household name already. Come September, everyone is talking about him. There are a lot of memes coming out. ‘Christmas in Our Hearts‘ is all over. It’s like a Christmas tradition song already for the whole Philippines. 

So that’s my suggestion: Try your [hardest]. Whether [or not] you’re young or you’re old, as long as you find yourself unique, try to record yourself. Upload yourself on YouTube, and one day we might discover you. 


Q: Any recommended books or podcasts to listen to on family successions that can help?

KDG: I recently joined a webinar, actually. I don’t know if you know Queena Lee-Chua, [who] talked about—I just remember a quote that she wrote or she said: “Do not stress what you cannot control.” So I guess that just stuck to me. But for any other book, I am not familiar [with any] right now. 


Q: What can you recommend to next-generation Chinoys? Should they start their own business or follow the family business?          

KDG: Actually, right now, during the pandemic, there [are] a lot of small [and] medium enterprise-businesses that sprouted—a lot of home-cooked meals that are selling on Facebook or on Viber, right? So yeah, you can either help out in the [family] business or just start your own business—whatever you think that could come out of your hobbies or your specialty or your skills, like cooking or baking.      


Q: Any final words that you would like to leave for our readers?

KDG: What I want to impart to everyone here right now is that given this situation—this pandemic situation that we are in—we always have to be innovative, [to] think outside of the box, to take certain risks but with caution, [and] to try new ways of distributing your product line, whatever it may be. 


Believing in the importance of innovation, Kathleen Dy-Go encourages aspiring tao kes and entertainment industry hopefuls to bravely but wisely take risks. In a time of change and uncertainty, it is important now, more than ever, to seize the opportunities that one can take.   

Watch the replay for the webinar on CHiNOY TV’s Facebook page, and stay tuned for more Q&A features with Dr. Cecilio Pedro, Kathleen Dy-Go, and Marvin Tiu Lim!  

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