'Right song, production and image more important'

'Right song, production and image more important'
PHOTO: Xtron

Sun Ho had signed on with David Foster's record company, Tonos Entertainment, in 2003.

He said of the singer: "I am happy to report that I have given up being financially driven many years ago... When you do things for money, it will never work out. Ever."

But cracks emerged soon after.

By Sept 2003, Tonos was out of business and Ms Ho had moved on to work with Wyclef and Mr Justin Herz of JH Music.

Mr Gingio Muehlbauer, founder of several international artist management firms, believes it is unnecessary for newcomers to collaborate with established stars.

"The right song, production and image is way more important.

"Take (Korean singer) Psy for example, he used a dance move, a beat and a fun video to get there," says Mr Muehlbauer.

While Ms Ho did assemble established production teams which included Mr Foster and Wyclef, they took a big chunk of the budget, says Mr Muehlbauer.

Speaking in general, he says that it is common for Asian artists with large budgets to spend millions without any guarantee of success.

"It's all about people. I think it is very clear that Sun Ho got connected to the wrong people instead of starting with a humble beginning, with very talented and humble people."

Collaborating with high-profile artists can still be a good thing for newcomers as it would bring them exposure and establish their credibility, says Mr Case.

But there is a caveat. The music still has to be good.

"You can be working with the greatest producer in the world but a piece of crap will still be crap," he says.

Mis Ho's singing career ended in 2010 after the police began probing into misuse of funds at CHC.

Her swansong was an English single, Fancy Free, in 2009. It was meant for an album that never materialised.

June 26, 2012, changed everything.

Her husband, Kong Hee, and five other senior CHC members were arrested that day.

All six were found guilty of misusing $24 million to fund her singing career and another $26 million to cover it up.

She found out during her husband's trial that her earlier success may have been overstated too.


Her apparent success in the Mandarin-speaking market also turned out to be unfounded as church members had to fork out $500,000 to buy 32,500 of her unsold albums.

Two of her Mandarin albums made losses of almost $1 million, the court heard.

In his 270-page written judgment, Judge See Kee Oon criticised Kong Hee saying he had exaggerated the success of his wife's music career.

The trial ended her pop career. But to followers at her church, she remains a star.

On Oct 19, Kong posted on Facebook that Ms Ho had been ordained as a pastor.

She was back to where she started all those years ago.

She wouldn't succeed in the US

Ms Ho declined to be interviewed when asked.

Her provocative music video, China Wine, caused a stir in 2007. It showed a scantily clad Sun Ho gyrating to the music.

Mr Gingio Muehlbauer, who also has a management firm in Los Angeles where Ms Ho was once based, saw the video for the first time last week. He found it wanting.

"Sun aka Geisha, what a confusing name. She is a new artist and already she has two names," he says.

"The message is not clear. The title of the single is also poor."

There were other warning signs that Ms Ho would not be successful in the US, adds Mr Robert A. Case.

He explains: "(Foreign) artists have to be established in their regions first."

Alex Liang agrees, pointing out that even K-pop bands such as 2NE1 and Wonder Girls had limited success in the US.

He says: "The Wonder Girls had so much support from the Korean-American community and still failed. So what made Sun Ho think she could succeed where others have failed?"


This article was first published on October 25, 2015.
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