Celebrating AANHPI Heritage Month with Feed.fm’s Jeff Yasuda
May 19, 2023
As part of our celebration of Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, DiMA interviewed Jeff Yasuda, the CEO of DiMA’s newest member Feed.fm, to discuss his music journey, what AANHPI heritage means to him, and what to look forward to from Feed Media Group. A skilled musician himself, Jeff also encouraged us to check out some of his favorite AANHPI artists. Read the full conversation below.
DiMA: Tell us a bit about your relationship with music and your journey to founding Feed.fm:
Jeff Yasuda: I’ve been playing in bands since I was 13 and still do today. I’m equally passionate about music and the artists that produce it. I started my career in finance but being a “rocker” and managing people’s money didn’t mix well. So, in my early career, I put music on the back burner. However, in 2005 I had an opportunity to get off the grid and travel the world with my wife. I learned two important lessons: life is too short to work with people you don’t like and too short not to pursue doing what you love.
For me, that love has always been music. Initially, I tried building two music businesses, and failed both times. But, I always aim to learn from my mistakes. The third time, we built a business to simplify the complexity and cost of licensing music. Our mission was to make the process easy and fair. Feed Media Group was born. Feed.fm powers music for apps, connected devices, and digital entertainment systems: from fitness to meditation, automotive to VR. Simultaneously, it’s important for us to promote and protect the interests of the artists–it’s their creativity and art. We work hard to balance the needs of businesses that want music and protect copyright holders.
DiMA: What does your AANHPI heritage mean to you?
Jeff Yasuda: My family came to the US generations ago. America’s beauty is in the idea of the Melting Pot: transcending race, ethnic origin, and religion. But diversity creates inherent challenges and my family faced it directly during WWII when they were placed in relocation camps. My father grew up behind barbed wire and rejoined society after the War with nothing. My dad and his family started working in a laundromat and worked their way up from humble beginnings.
After Colorado’s governor Ralph Carr opened his state borders to people of Japanese descent, my family moved to Denver. The American Dream is real for those who work hard. My dad went on to be an All-American basketball player and attend an Ivy League college. He enlisted in the US Navy and was one of the first military advisers in Vietnam. He took his LSATS in Saigon in the middle of the war and earned admission to Harvard Law School. He later became the first person of Japanese descent to become a partner in a law firm in San Francisco. Through him, I learned to be resourceful and never give up – good skills for startup founders. Ha!
DiMA: What advice do you have for members of the AANHPI community who have an interest in working in music?
Jeff Yasuda: Great entrepreneurs are those who have access to resources that they don’t own–that stuck with me seeing my dad create something out of nothing. But the music industry can be brutal. You have to have a thick skin. While many people started in music because of their passion, being passionate doesn’t mean it comes easy. For me, it’s about being prepared and proving yourself by not being afraid to make mistakes. Believe me, I feel I’ve made them all. Working hard, testing ideas, and moving fast are entrepreneurial skills that are important no matter your skin color.
This brings me to the topic of diversity. Diversity is important as it is powerful. It brings multiple viewpoints to solve challenges. As a company, we think purposefully about diversity, equity, and inclusion – from hiring to how we conduct daily business. We also work to promote underrepresented artists through our curation efforts particularly from the LGBTQ community to give them a broader audience. The results have been a strong culture with multiple viewpoints from varying backgrounds – all of which help to build a better business based on a strong and vibrant underlying foundation of inclusion.
DiMA: What are you currently excited about at Feed Media Group?
Jeff Yasuda: In a word: GROWTH. We’ve been fortunate to be the leader in digital fitness and wellness, especially during the pandemic–a very difficult time for the world. It makes us feel good that we helped people get healthier both physically and mentally. Moreover, we are making strategic investments to bolster our offering by adding some amazing people and products to accelerate revenue growth and significantly increase the total listening minutes powered by the Feed music streaming platform.
We’ve brought on a lot of exciting new customers across a wide range of industries. We’re now powering music in the prison system. We are streaming music in digital health apps and connected devices to help people relax and recuperate mentally. We are in virtual reality sport training helping athletes perform better. This is both personally and professionally rewarding.
Finally, we are excited to have launched our own music content, called Feed Originals. We have signed some amazing musicians and songwriters and have already streamed their music to millions of people across the globe via our distribution in fitness, meditation and relaxation, sleep, and automotive.
DiMA: Are there any up-and-coming AANHPI artists you’re listening to? Any favorite songs by AANHPI artists?
Jeff Yasuda: I love guitarist Cory Wong of Vulfpeck, a band that I’ve been following for years. They are technically astounding, lyrically hilarious, and dungeon masters of groove. Cory is downright nasty/filthy with his rubber-wristed funk rhythms and lead lines. He’s simply a joy to hear. He’s also incredibly inspiring as I don’t often see other Asian funk guitarists. I‘ve incorporated many of his ideas into my own band as well.
As for songs from AANHPI artists: Mike Shinoda from Linkin Park wrote an amazing track called “Kenji” in a side project called Fort Minor. The song is based on interviews with his father and aunt who were interned at Manzanar, a desolate incarceration center deep in the California desert near the Nevada border. The track has excerpts of actual interviews around a painful story that is quite similar to that of my father and grandparents. Honestly, I have difficulty listening to the track as tears of anger and sadness well up in the corner of my eyes. Hearing the actual voices of his relatives makes it particularly real. It’s a reminder that this should not ever happen again to any person because of the color of their skin.