International opera singer-turned-entrepreneur Dominique Moralez, who has graced some of the world's most famous stages over the last 30 years, is the brains behind a new business that offers a combination of traditional and digital platforms to make it easier for people to find and hire musical talents.
Launched earlier this year, M Artist Agency + M PR/OMI, a two-in-one talent management agency, serves as an aggregator for both artists and their consumers.
"Artist agencies have been extremely slow, particularly in classical music, to pick up on the use of social media platforms as a way to meet the customers where they are," Moralez says.
According to Moralez, Hong Kong's entertainment industry has retained a very traditional approach to managing artists. Booking them can be difficult since there are different layers to go through prior to having the artist perform at an event, such as musical rights and negotiation procedures. In addition, there is no guarantee that an artist booked on hearsay will deliver a high-quality performance at an appointed time and date.
On the flip side, while social media sites like MySpace have enabled artists to showcase their talents for everyone to hear, they do not often help when it comes to contacting the artist or booking them.
These issues were swirling around in Moralez's mind two years ago as he tried to think of a way to create a simpler, easier-to-use digital platform that added value to the musical community.
In September 2013, thoughts eventually turned into action. Embarking on his new business venture, however, brought a number of challenges. With no business background or technical knowledge of creating a digital platform, it was hard to know where to begin.
He realised that putting his best foot forward meant having to push away his fears and insecurities about creating a start-up company. Having lived a life as a performer, overcoming fears was nothing new to Moralez - both on stage and from a business perspective, such as when wondering when his next performance would be in a volatile industry with no safety net.
Moralez realised that going from a young boy who just enjoyed singing to becoming an international opera star had only been possible because of his dedication and discipline. He knew he had to put this work ethic to use in building his talent agency.
The next challenge was finding the right people who were masters in their domains to help him create his business. Perhaps an intimidating process for some, Moralez claims the opposite.
"People who have put in the hours and the dedication [to get to the top] can relate to each other. I can sit with the CEO of a major Fortune 500 company and appreciate them on how they got there.
"I would just walk in and say: here's what I think I know and don't know; tell me the things that I don't even know I don't know."
For three months, Moralez listened attentively to his sources. "Having open conversations was very useful in relating to and understanding how these specialists have succeeded, and removed the fear and embarrassment," Moralez says.
His hard work paid off when, in January 2014, his company went live. The agency is divided into two parts. M Artist Agency represents the more traditional methods of managing an artist. M PR/OMI, meanwhile, updates the way that artists gain exposure by using various types of digital solutions such as online campaigns and social media.
M PR/OMI also allows artists to meet paying customers in their regions. This, Moralez explains, is a community initiative to break down the mysticism between artists who might create a different persona onstage and their audience - resulting in becoming unapproachable because their audience has the wrong idea about the "real" them.
Under the agency's umbrella, Moralez has also created subsidiary digital platforms like Jeengle.me that allow clients to listen to the artist perform, book them and pay online. This helps avoid the payment complexity that often results when the middlemen found in many traditional talent agencies become part of the equation.
Similar to Jeengle.me is Spotlight, a platform where unknown artists in a community can establish themselves and grow their audience. Moralez expects to launch the platform before the end of 2014.
"We will serve a very large portion of the artist community throughout Southeast Asia because I believe consumers and artists now have a place where they can perform simple transactions that will make a difference for everyone," he says.
Moralez adds that his digital platforms are more than just cool apps. "We are currently looking to create opportunities for greater dialogue with accelerators and tech communities in Hong Kong that fund and develop apps which make a difference."