#STIMY 14: Joe Sidek (Festival Director, George Town Festival), Red's Fiery TIMES Cover, Patreon, Substack Local & NFT Canon

publishedover 2 years ago
6 min read

So This Is My Why | Issue 14

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H​ey STIMYers,

Happy (wet) Friday!

To those who just signed up, welcome! You'll find a hopefully interesting mix of things I've been learning/reading/listening/watching over the course of the week. I've been on a bit of a creator economy/NFT bender, and there's been some pretty exciting (read: hot) things going on.

So let's get to it!

STIMY Episode 44: Joe Sidek (Festival Director, George Town Festival)

I first heard of Joe through a former STIMY guest (the brilliant actress, Tan Kheng Hua), and I couldn't be more excited to share his episode this week!

Joe Sidek is the brains behind large-scale festivals like the annual George Town Festival, Rainforest Fringe Festival (Kuching) & Butterworth Fringe Festival. He is also the 2020-2022 chairman of Federation of Asian Cultural Promotion, an industry expert on the industry panel of Malaysian federal agency for the arts and culture, Cultural Economy Development Agency (CENDANA), and chairman of Penang Arts Council.

But before all that?

He was a landscape gardener. Founded a modelling agency. Even ran a club called Babylon Boom Boom and dabbled in costume design! As well as run his family-owned textile chemical factory, which he is still involved in to this day.

In this STIMY episode, we covered a lot of ground, including his background, why he loves Penang/Penangites so much, how he puts together these massive month-long festivals, what drives him, and his advice for the art & culture community.


  • 1:52: Joe has noble blood!
  • 3:18: Moving to Penang
  • 3:42: Why Joe thinks Penangites are “arrogant, confident, and proud of who they are”
  • 4:36: Wanting to do art in London & John Galliano
  • 5:45: Not wanting to return home
  • 6:50: His relationship with his dad
  • 10:37: Taking over the family business
  • 11:35: Why Joe’s first festival in 2001 failed
  • 14:33: Becoming the festival director of the George Town Festival
  • 17:02: Getting help from the Penang Chief Minister
  • 19:15: Why Joe brings in not just local, but also international artists
  • 21:48: How Ernest Zacharevic got involved in the George Town Festival (resulting in the subsequent street art boom!)
  • 24:01: Gentrification & over-commercialisation
  • 24:54: GTF’s student and community tickets project
  • 31:49: Finding historical, old & meaningful places to stage GTF
  • 32:41: The biggest challenges of a festival director
  • 35:50: Artists that have adapted well to COVID/virtual world
  • 37:50: How artists can build their personal brand & stand out
  • 42:21: How to become a festival director
  • 49:45: Where artists can find their community

You can listen to Joe's episode in full on: STIMY Website, Spotify, Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Listen Notes

Looking for past STIMY guests in the creative field (including some mentioned in Joe's episode)? Check out:

  • Ep 22: Alena Murang: Sarawakian sape player, visual artist & heritage advocate
  • Ep 21: Saw Teong Hin – Director, Producer & Writer (most known for directing Puteri Gunung Ledang & Hai Ki Xin Lor)
  • Ep 20: Tan Kheng Hua – Singaporean actress & director most known for her roles as Margaret Phua in Phua Chu Kang & Kerry Chu in Crazy Rich Asians
  • Ep 11: Morgan Then – Sarawakian half of Australian electronic duo, Slumberjack, who received 2 ARIA Gold Records & had their 2nd EP debut at No. 1 on i Tune Australia’s electronic chart
  • Ep 10: Benjamin Von Wong – Photographer/social artivist who’s generated over 100 million organic views with his work in the social impact space
  • Ep 2: Red Hong Yi – Malaysian architect turned artist who paints without a paintbrush

Favourite Finds of the Week

1. Person: Red Hong Yi & her TIMES piece

​I want to give a special shoutout to one of my dearest friends (and past STIMY guest, Episode 2), Red Hong Yi, who just released a fabulous art piece she did for TIMES magazine on climate change!! A world map made out of 50,000 green-tipped matchsticks that were set on fire.

It's been quite a journey seeing her come up with the concept, source for 50,000 green-tipped matchsticks (have you ever noticed how hard it is to find the green-tipped ones?), hunt for the right location & meticulously plan out how to burn the entire piece... without anything else going up in flames! And capture every moment in all its fury.

Well done, Hong Yi & team!!​ It was such a privilege to watch this piece go up in literal flames. And also a special shoutout to Kern Wei for capturing the entire process so beautifully!

You can see the behind-the-scenes video here.

P/S: If you're in KL from 21-25 April 2021, Hong Yi & her team are doing a little exhibition! Details here.

Links: The Star article (for the behind-the-scenes footage); TIMES piece

2. Podcast: Patreon (Jack Conte & Sam Yam) - How I Built This

​NPR's How I Built This has been one of my most favourite episodes for awhile, and I thought Guy Raz's interview with the founders of Patreon, to be a gem.

As with many founders, Patreon began because the founders wanted to solve a problem of their own. For Jack, he was a struggling musician who wanted to build a financially sustainable lifestyle for himself.

So he joined forces with coding whiz, Sam Yam, to create a platform where fans can gather to support their favourite artists for just a few dollars a month (creators get to create their own tiers & benefits).

Patreon is now valued at over $1 billion and supports over 200,000 artists, musicians and content creators around the world!

Links: HIBT Website to Patreon episode; Patreon

3. Substack Local

What is Substack?

An online platform that lets anyone start a newsletter free & monetise it. It's huge particularly among established journalists, some of whom have even left to run their Substack business full-time.

Last month, Substack hit the headlines when it raised $65 million (led by A16Z), placing its valuation at $650 million.

Why now?

Apart from its recent raise, Substack is hitting the headlines these days with their recent launch of Substack Local: A USD $1 million program that aims to accelerate the local news ecosystem based on the existing Substack model.

In other words, 20-30 creators are anticipated to gain cash advancements from the $1 million pot and in return, Substack will keep most of their subscription revenue for that year. Thereafter, the creators will revert back to the old Substack terms where creators keep 90% of their subscription revenue, and Substack keeps 10%.

Why Substack Local?

Because the founders of Substack have been concerned over the ailing state of the local journalism scene, which they view to be vital to a functioning society. One of the Substack co-founders, Hamish McKenzie, used to be a journalist himself!

They wanted to create an environment that would let their writers have a chance to dive into their writing business for a year without worrying about whether it would be financially sustainable to do so.

What would participants get?

  • cash (up to $100,000 to select local journalists)
  • 15% of subscription revenue generated
  • mentorship
  • editing & design services
  • business support (e.g. subsidized access to health insurance & the Substack Defender program - for US-based writers only); and
  • "a cash advance designed to reduce the financial risk of starting a new business".

Who can apply?

Anyone around the world! Ideally with:

  • a strong track record in news reporting;
  • serious about building a full-time, enduring media business that is wholly subscriptions-based; and
  • care deeply about their local community.

Deadline: 5pm PDT, 29 April 2021 / 8 am Malaysia time, 30 April 2021

Details of Substack Local can be found here.

Link: Nieman Lab article; Substack Local

4. A16Z: NFT Canon

​You're either really sick of hearing about NFTs, completely confused or both.

But don't worry. A16Z recently came up with an extremely comprehensive list of all things NFT-related, covering things like:

  • beginner guides/FAQs
  • building blocks
  • arts, music, gaming & creator stories
  • social tokens, community tokens, personal tokens
  • NFT Ecosystem
  • history

Link: A16Z's NFT Canon

Upcoming STIMY Guests

  • Lincoln Lee: Co-Founder of RICE Inc, a social entreprise that began while Lincoln was a university student at UCL, which subsequently won the prestigious USD $ 1 million HULT Prize - the world's largest startup challenge for student entrepreneurs, with topics selected by former President Bill Clinton. RICE was founded on a simple idea: Hundreds of millions of tons of rice are wasted each year. What happens if this wastage is reduced?
  • Kendrick Nguyen: Co-Founder & CEO of Republic - an equity crowdfunding platform he started with Angellist founder, Naval, that allows for instance, anyone to invest in a company listed on Republic! Sahil Lavingia, founder of Gumroad, recently raised $5 million on Republic from around 7k people in 12 hours, which is how I first heard about Republic.

And that's it for today. As always, all thoughts are welcome; just hit the REPLY button below.

See you all next week! 😊

Ling Yah

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