Have You Heard?’s Ki Kiratra & Her Leap of Faith into Indie Music Scene
Ki talks about her passion, inspiration, and how ‘Have You Heard?’ became a promoter of indie & alternative acts.
About a decade ago, if you want to see shows by alternative bands like Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Strokes, Two Door Cinema Club, or Radiohead, you need to be super patient. Completely at the mercy of big-name promoters, you’d be lucky if they bring such bands to Bangkok once in a blue moon.
And if you’re a fan of lesser-known bands, the chance to see they perform live in Thailand is practically zero.
That’s the gap in the Thai music scene that Kiratra “Ki” Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn and her friends saw. From their visions and efforts came ‘Have You Heard?’ - a concert promotion company with a focus on international alternative & indie bands.
The team has brought incredible acts with fresh and experimental sounds to Thai music lovers. Previous selections include The Internet, Mac Ayres, HOONE, Anderson .Paak, RHYE, Cornelius, and more.
The success ‘Have You Heard?’ saw means we get to explore new scenes and spaces in club & underground music by various DJs and producers. In 2017, the promoter branched out with another brand named ‘HUH?’.
Still, all of this wouldn’t have happened at all were it not for Ki’s love for concert and her wish to introduce her (and her friends’) favorite bands to the public. By doing so, Thai fans can finally share the joy of seeing the bands they love perform live.
“The name ‘Have You Heard?’ means exactly what it said. Hey, have you heard of this band? Of their music? Have you heard about them?” - Ki.
What sparked your interest in music? How did it all start?
It started when I was born, I guess. My dad (Kirati “Khiao” Promsaka Na Sakolnakorn) used to be a member of Carabao. When I was a teenager, I joined the band ‘Niece’ at Dojo City record label. [Laughing] You could say [music] is something that has always stayed with me.
Does that mean you’ve started to listen to indie & alternative music since you were with Dojo City?
I was enrolled at an international school when I was younger. I just listened to whatever my friends did - Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, and so on.
After joining Dojo City, I was into more diverse genres of music, like those from Bakery Music, which is kind of indie Thai music at the time. I also got to know many other artists; I think that was how it started.
What made you decide to start ‘Have You Heard?’ - a promoter of indie concerts?
After graduating, I worked on a bunch of things - film shootings, advertisement, writing, translation - but I felt like my passion has always been music.
I feel very connected to these shows because I would often tag along when my dad went on tours. Concerts are simply mind-blowing; you never know what’s going to happen on each show day even if it’s someone you’ve already seen.
Growing up as an introvert, I prefer a behind-the-scenes role. At the same time, I’m an extremely dedicated person. When I do something, I go all-in; full-on obsessed. I’ll do the thing and only that.
Then, I brought the idea to my friends, and we agree that there’s a gap in the market. There had to be people out there that wanted to see these bands that we love, but no one was bringing them in. I felt pretty confident about it, so I went ahead and got started.
Please share with us the challenges and/or difficulties you faced during your first time organizing an event.
We started forming the ‘Have Your Heard?’ team in 2011, but we didn’t actually organize any concert until almost a year later. Back then, the concert scene in Asia and Thailand wasn’t very active. Smaller bands didn’t realize that they’ve got fans in Thailand.
Plus, we had no experience nor portfolio to speak of. When we started contacting the acts, most artists were like, “Who are you?” or “Can you really pull this off?”. We spent a long time convincing them; almost a year had gone by when we got to organize our first event.
After the band had agreed, we needed to find sponsors, which wasn’t an easy task. I would really like to thank our very first sponsors and everyone who helped us back then. [Laughing]
What was the first concert you organized?
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in 2012.
Why did you decide to bring indie/alternative bands to Thailand? Most would agree that the indie audience 7-8 years ago wasn’t nearly as big as it is now.
It was a leap of faith, I think. [Laughing] I tend to trust my intuition, so I just went at it. I’ve always believed that if I give it everything I’ve got, things will work itself out.
When did you start to feel like ‘Have You Heard?’ has made it as a promoter?
I’d say the year 2017. Before then, we organized maybe 2-3 shows per year. In 2017, we saw more sponsors and all the bands we contacted agreed to come.
Several of the show had even sold out. I felt like another chapter in the ‘Have You Heard?’ journey had begun.
How many shows did you do in 2017?
About 5-6 shows. It was HONNE’s debut in Thailand, and the tickets sold out in 15 minutes. Then, there was the show by Cigarettes After Sex, which also sold out fast.
It was also the year that we get to organize for Phoenix, our biggest act yet. At the time, we were used to handling an audience of around 200-900 people. Phoenix’s concert brought in 3,000 fans, so I think that was why it felt like we’ve truly made it.
Was that the milestone that inspired you to start your new project, ‘HUH?’?
Definitely. I felt like so far we’ve been focusing only on full bands, and there’s also the fact that the club scene was being revived. There were a lot of interesting producers and acts, partly thanks to technology. Since it has become easier to produce music on your own, there are a lot of new, amazing talents.
‘HUH?’ mostly features electronic acts like club and underground music by DJs and producers, but the shows are a mix of DJ sets and live performances. There would be synthesizers and musical instruments most of the time, but the sounds won’t be as full-bandy as ‘Have You Heard?’.
How do you choose which artists to bring to Thai fans? What are the criteria?
When we started out, the selection was mostly what my friends and I like. But then, at the same time that [HYH?] was growing, Thai and Bangkok concert audiences were too, so we try to be more diverse.
Some bands might not be my all-time favorites, but I know that a lot of my friends and the audience want to see them. Some bands we’ve never heard of before, but the agents introduced us to them.
If we think they sound cool, we’ll bring them in. New bands people are hyping about or older bands that fans thought they’d never get to see live - we try to balance it out.
As for the criteria, I’d say it’s mostly a sense of curation. Our followers know what kind of bands we usually bring in, but we’re not super strict about the genres we include.
Some acts we’re interested in because they’re guaranteed success, others we love but know that we’ll end up with a loss. So, balance, you know.
So far, how many acts have ‘Have You Heard?’ and ‘HUH?’ organized?
There are 48 ‘Have You Heard?’ events and I think almost ten from ‘HUH?’ brand since we only started last year. There’s also Maho Rasop Festival, our current biggest project.
Have you ever been in a crisis while organizing an event? Something so severe that you feel like you couldn’t possibly manage?
I think this year’s Maho Rasop Festival is our biggest challenge yet. It’s a two-day event with a lineup of 30 bands. We had started booking since earlier in the year, but then the deal didn’t turn out as planned, so we had to start all over.
There were curation factors to consider, too. Things like ‘Do we have the genre represented in our lineup?’ or the band’s availability and rates. The day we had to announce the official lineup was total chaos; we were scrambling to get everyone to confirm. [Laughing]
As for issues at the event itself, I haven’t come across anything that I feel like we couldn’t handle. There will always be a way.
Who are your favorite artists at the moment?
Last year, I listened mostly to Puma Blue - jazz with influences from many genres. I’m loving Whitney at the moment. They’ve released a lot of tracks recently, so I get to listen to something new every week.
Some weeks I’m into folk, some jazz, and others I might be in a mood for rock - it’s always changing. For what it’s worth, my friends say that what I listen to is very sleepy and dreamy. [Laughing]
Any chance we’ll get to see them perform live at one of ‘Have You Heard?/HUH?’ events?
I’m waiting for them to come to Asia, whenever that is. There are also some big-name artists that I really like but never got the chance to see live like Thom Yorke. He’s on my bucket list for sure.
As a promoter, you would be perceptive to the changes in the Thai indie music world. How has the scene changed and/or evolved?
I think that, back then, people listen to whatever their friends are into. Nowadays, we’ve got Spotify and all these apps, so the audience’s taste got a lot more diverse. People know a bunch of different bands; it’s exciting. However, I think the trends also change really fast since something new is always coming out.
Will Have You Heard?/HUH? work on other projects than concerts and festivals in the future?
I actually want to try my hands on a community space, but that’ll be a huge project which requires a lot of proper planning. I feel like there isn’t enough space where people with similar interests can get together. People who come to ‘HYH?’ events only get to meet up at concerts, which are not the ideal setting to talk.
There isn’t any place where they can meet up and share ideas during the day, and not a lot of bars cater to our taste. Most of us just listen to music at home alone; we’re all scattered.
If there’s a community space where you can meet up, discuss ideas about music or other things, it’ll be good for the scene going forward. We’d be helping people connect and create more projects. That’s going to cost a lot of money, though, so I need to plan first. [Laughing]
For the rest of this year to early next year, are there projects from you or ‘Have You Heard?/HUH?’ we should watch out for?
For this year, be sure to see our Maho Rasop Festival, whose lineup we worked really hard to curate. We include a lot of bands that aren’t usually featured anywhere else, even at international festivals.
Bombay Bicycle Club hasn’t been on tour for years now, and The Horrors is only stopping in Bangkok in the entire Asia region. We want people to try listening to their music. I, for one, didn’t start out knowing every single band on the lineup.
I’m still working on next year’s project, so I can’t tell you anything yet. I promise there will be bands everyone has been asking for this year; we’re working on that. Stay tuned. [Smiling]