Of the many mediums of entertainment, radio has been the most popular, prominent, and if not anything else, formidable. Even as social media platforms and streaming services continue to dominate the scene, there’s just nothing that comes quite close to the connectivity that radio brings.
Kenny Ong knows this for a fact because as the CEO of Astro Radio, he’s always believed in the power of radio and its ability to engage with listeners across all spectrums.
Bringing with him all that he’s learned at the Universal Music Group, Kenny is responsible for Astro Radio’s strategic direction, with a focus on brands and talents which he further expands on as the Director for Media Solutions, the advertising arm of Astro.
But this wasn’t a path he expected to find himself in.
Earlier on in his career, Kenny started out holding senior positions at companies of the likes of Unilever, Takaful Ikhlas and CNI Holdings. It was during his time at Unilever Aviance that he was headhunted to fill in Universal Music Group’s MD role in hopes of a fresh perspective that only someone outside the industry could bring and pivot the Group forward.
Coming into the industry, Kenny admits that from a business perspective, he had no problem adapting. But from a culture perspective, it took some getting used to. “The concept was the same; I had to manage revenue, cost, investments and other components crucial to the role, all things I was already familiar. As long as you know how the business model works, you won’t have a problem,” says Kenny.
“But the biggest difference specific to the entertainment industry was how much more informal things were as compared to traditional industries.”
He goes on to explain that unlike the entertainment industry, where their approach is more ‘informal’ and focused on content-orientated goals, traditional industries are driven by process-orientated modules. This results in a working environment that calls for one to be familiar with working in the creative stream.
As a leader, Kenny has always found his greatest influence as both a leader and to his own person in the written word as a self-proclaimed avid reader. But when it came to learning what it takes to be a leader in practice, he credits all his previous superiors who have acted as a mentor to him, showing him the ropes of what it means to be a better leader. “I think it really helped to be able to learn first-hand and shadow my bosses, whether it be having them tell me how to improve myself or watching how they carry themselves.”
“For me at least, my confidence stems from my drive in taking on small leadership roles upfront in the early parts of my career that has helped built my own capabilities to lead.”
One of those leadership roles also happens to be the CEO of Rocketfuel Entertainment, where he spearheads artist management and talent-driven digital content across the Group’s platforms. Once referred to as the Astro Talent Agency, it was formerly the in-house agency that managed and housed the talents under the broadcasting’s roster. But this wasn’t just a simple name change. The company underwent a restructuring of strategy, opting for a more aggressive approach when it came to signing new talents outside of the Astro circle.
“As of today, we have accumulated a number of talents who have been signed exclusively under Rocketfuel, who we assist to find roles in commercial work outside apart from the Astro platform.”
What makes Rocketfuel Entertainment a household player amongst its competitors is its focus on bringing recognition to the local talents from all walks of the entertainment industry. Even non-traditional ones.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen an influx of new age entertainers born from the digital spaces of social media apps such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram. Nowadays, anyone can be an entertainer and content creators are reigning supreme with younger audiences.
In terms of Astro Radio, their approach to adapting to this wave came in the form of ‘Syok’, where they invested heavily in online radio and podcasts. This was not only to cater to the shift in consumer entertainment, but also as a home for Rocketfuel’s talents.
“We had to start looking at expanding our platform and consider collaborating with the platforms that are directing the market today. As new platforms come out, we must ensure that our talents have a place to express their creativity.”
Rocketfuel started to look at onboarding more talents from a non-traditional stream than they were used to. The company has since signed on e-gamers, content creators, and influencers to their platform, all in effort to push the company to greater heights.
Despite how much the entertainment industry has changed, radio still manages to reign supreme. But Kenny believes that they can be so much more. “The main thing for us at Astro Radio is evolves ourselves not to become a radio company, but a full-fledged audio company—offering all things that involve listening in both traditional and modern formats.”
Over the years, Kenny has cultivated a unique perspective on what the local entertainment scene has to offer. Having held a multitude of leadership roles over the years, one must wonder about the secret to his success.
“Never be comfortable as a leader. If you find yourself comfortable in a leadership position, that’s a sign that something is wrong. It all comes down to wanting to achieve something bigger and wanting to be better at what you’re doing.”
“Don’t dismiss taking more leadership roles as your career progresses rather than taking a massive leap from one big role to another.”
Penny For Your Thoughts
How would you define a “good life” and/versus a “successful life”?
I think that depends on what one's end goal is; whether they want money, influence or just want a comfortable life. To me, success is not really an 'endgame' because you'll only be able to determine success when you've come to the end of your time here.
That isn't a good way to measure it. I see a good life as almost one in the same, whatever brings you happiness and makes you feel grateful for the life you have.
If you could choose to be anyone in the world—fictional or non-fictional—who would you want to be, and why?
I would like to be one of those people sharing words of inspiration on how to grow to be a better leader or have better work-balance. I would love to be able to reach out to people and inspire people through words or action.
Advice you would give your younger self.
Work harder than I did before because it will be worth it. Back then, I carried a lot of doubt and wondered if what I was doing would be worth it in the end. So, if I could go back, I'd tell myself, 'Yes, it's definitely worth it!'