Spotify's Soy Kim on Fresh Finds and Supporting AAPI Voices

Blending U.S. and Korean culture through music

Soy Kim has crafted her career around building bridges through storytelling between cultures, between creators and fans, and between music and tech. Bilingual and bicultural with a keen understanding of the U.S. and Korea's media landscapes, Soy has set the strategic groundwork for collaborations between the two cultures in her roles across music and film.

As a marketer, Soy has spearheaded digital marketing campaigns for Grammy-nominated albums and artists, including BTS (Map of the Soul: 7, "Dynamite"), John Legend (Bigger Love) and Chloe x Halle ("Ungodly Hour"), among others. Prior to music, she worked across blockbuster film co-productions between the U.S. and Korea, where her work blended global and local marketing strategies. Today, Soy works at the intersection of creators, music marketing and tech product strategy at Spotify. She also serves on leadership of SPACE, Spotify's Asian and Pacific Islander employee resource group of 450+ Spotifiers.

Soy is passionate about the globalization of content, fan connection and discovery. She has been invited to speak at numerous music industry conferences, including Music Ally and Music Business Association's NY:LON Connect, where she was invited as an expert on Korea's music market. A proponent of the diversification of voices represented in mainstream content, Soy has supported AAPI and API voices in media for over a decade.

We caught up with Soy for our Liner Notes series to learn more about her musical tastes and journey through the years, as well as recent work she's proud of and admired.

Soy, tell us...

Your earliest musical memory.

In fourth grade, I heard solo cello for the first time and it blew my mind. I immediately knew I wanted to play. A few months later, I began scratching away on a half-size cello. I started late by most standards, but I fell in love with playing the cello. At 16, I had the wild privilege of performing at Carnegie Hall. I'm a huge proponent of "practice makes perfect." It doesn't matter if you're "naturally gifted" or not. This is the experience that taught me the importance of mentorship early on.

Your first concert.

The Fray. I got goosebumps hearing all the different voices in a crowd singing along together for the first time. There is no better feeling than being enveloped by live music.

Your favorite bands/musicians.

BTS, 2Pac and Kehlani. BTS has propelled Korean culture to the world and champions a message of inclusivity. It was incredible to see them use their platform at the UN General Assembly to share a dual message of hope and public health. 2Pac was ahead of his time in the way he spoke his truths. Kehlani has consistently been in my Spotify Wrapped Top 3. Her music is a soul hug.

How you get your music these days.

Spotify. It's easy to get sucked into discovery rabbit holes as you move through artist profiles and playlists. Some of my closest friends live in different countries and we like to share tracks with one another to get a sense for what's bubbling up around the world.  

Your favorite place to see a concert.

The Seoul World Cup Stadium. You can hear the chants from inside the stadium reverberating through the city. Seeing BTS perform on their home turf at the end of their Love Yourself: Speak Yourself tour was unreal.

Your favorite music-focused TV show and/or podcast.

I enjoy documentaries that break down an artist's journey and their music creation process. I also enjoy the music TV shows King of Masked Singer and Super Band back home in Seoul. For podcasts, I enjoy Best Advice.

A recent project you're proud of.

One of my favorite projects at Spotify is Fresh Finds, a program that focuses on giving developing artists the tools and educational resources needed for longterm career success. It's incredibly inspiring to work towards supporting the future generation of artists. I'm also very proud of the educational and awareness work that I and the Steering Committee of SPACE, Spotify's Asian and Pacific Islander employee group, produced for AAPI Heritage Month this year.

Someone else's project that you admired recently.

I can't say this is a project, because it's more of an entire initiative. I admire Temi Adeniji's trailblazing work to connect and empower artists from the African continent—from South Africa to Nigeria and more—on the global stage. Music has never been more genre-bending or global in scope and it's necessary that more ex-U.S. voices are elevated. I am inspired by her work and mission.

How musicians should approach working with brands.

Musicians should vet brands that align with their mission, values and story, so that the partnership is mutually beneficial and ripe for genuine synergy.

How brands should approach working with musicians.

Sometimes brands approach musicians with the goal of propelling their own narrative, but it's important to understand the target musician's own message because now, more than ever, the musician's message is what resonates with fans. The best partnerships happen when there's genuine alignment across the brand and the musician's respective messages.

What music can do that nothing else can.

Music genuinely unites people of disparate backgrounds, regardless of language barriers. We're seeing this on a larger scale as more non-English tracks begin to penetrate the U.S. as well. I fully believe it is the one medium that uniquely and intimately binds people because it forges memory.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in the music world.

Cross-cultural work or international relations—specifically working to further South Korean culture and history worldwide. Back in middle school, I dreamed of being a diplomat!

Liner Notes is our weekly interview series, publishing every Monday, where we chat with folks in the music industry about their creative inspirations, their favorite bands and musicians, and generally what music means to them. For more about Liner Notes, and our Clio Music program, please get in touch.

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