This is the third in a series highlighting women and their accomplishments in the various facets of the Korean entertainment industry. ― Ed.
For producer and CEO of SouLime SounD Jung Mi Sung, also known as Melody, there has always been one dream in her life: music.
The 26-year-old started playing piano and attending music academies at age 5. However, her parents had other plans for the enthusiastic musician, saying they wanted her to live a normal life and pursue a normal path.
Still drawn to music, Jung ended up continuing it behind her parents’ backs in high school. While she was in the U.S. a teacher reminded her that her parents weren’t there to find out. So, she got involved with anything related to music, from choir to musicals to orchestra, and even a cappella.
But after winning high scores at a music competition, Jung knew she needed to convince her parents that music was what she wanted to do.
|Jung Mi Sung, CEO of SouLime SounD. (SouLime SounD)|
“They told me, ‘If you can get into a good music school, then maybe I will understand a bit.’ So, I auditioned for Berklee College of Music,” she said. “And then I thought I was not going to get in, because I heard a lot of crazy musicians, they come there and then they audition and they’re all freaking geniuses.”
Jung said if she didn’t get in, then it wasn’t where she was meant to be. Which is why she was shocked when she found out that not only was she accepted, but she was receiving a scholarship.
This did help with bringing her parents around a bit, though her father still wanted her to do business. So Jung settled on a double major in music business and songwriting in order to fully understand the music industry.
“People in the music business industry, they don’t usually understand the musician, because they need to make money for themselves, not them. And then the songwriting majors, they just want to make music. They don’t care about the business,” she said.
Jung has been back in Korea for only 2 1/2 years. She said she came back with no connections, but with the dream of having her own label. She and her label partner, Kris, spent time signed to another label as producers, with the help of Kris’ friend and fellow producer Pe2ny, but then decided it was time to strike out on their own and make their dream come true.
They started SouLime SounD, which Jung calls an independent music label not confined to one genre, and set up an official office and studio in September 2013 in Hongdae. So far, they have signed producers Pe2ny and Yena and female rapper Jolly V.
While still young and learning, she said that with each album released, things get easier. And her parents are more supportive now.
One of the points Jung is most passionate about is creating a company that not only treats its artists well, but gives back to society. She also wanted to bring what she learned in the U.S. here.
“I know there is a different system, but what I’ve learned, I wanted to bring it to Korea and try to wash away everything that’s really like, the dirty way or the bad way,” she said.
“I just wanted to get them away from my company and start to build a company that has good will ... good musicians, good things. They are doing good things for society.”
SouLime Sound puts on a concert twice a year to raise money for a foundation that helps ALS patients. Her desire to create a company that puts out good music and does good things pushed her to help spread awareness of the condition and donate the profits of the shows.
Despite going from nothing to a label owner in less than three years, she said it’s not always easy being a female CEO in the music industry, even though women do get more respect now than they did years ago. She said that at times people were shocked she was a CEO, while others have asked her what makes her think she is capable of being a CEO, simply because she is a woman.
She said what she does ― being a producer and a label CEO ― has nothing to do with gender. This is something she also passes on to young girls who study music with her.
“I always tell my students who are girls, I tell them, you have to be yourself, but you have to be really, really strong to survive. ... You’re not below men. We are at the same point. For you to prove to yourself that you are better, it doesn’t have to be based on gender. It just has to be: Are you a better musician? Or are you a better worker?” she said.
By Emma Kalka (email@example.com