TASTE OF MANILA: The 1MX Music Festival returned this year to the Dockyards in East London, featuring Ben&Ben, Yuna, Moira, Johnny Orlando, Maymay, Tinyumbrellas and DJ Clara Rosa. (Merwin Puri)


Manila-based media and entertainment conglomerate ABS-CBN has started to expand its 1MX Music Festival globally with a unique focus on contemporary Pan-Asian artists and DJs.

It originally launched in 2017 as a Filipino arts festival at the Dubai Media City Amphitheater, then moved in 2018 to Abu Dhabi at Mubadala Arena, 2019 to both Singapore at SCAPE Playspace Orchard Link and Manila at Centris Elements Diliman, then again in 2021 in Dubai , this time at the World Trade Center.

The booking policy changed from exclusively Filipino acts when the festival expanded to London in 2022, at Apps Court Farm and returned this July at Dockyards for what the 1MX press release calls a “showstopping lineup of international and local Asian talent, igniting the spirit of Asian youth culture like never before.”

1MX will make its North American debut in Toronto at the Live Nation-owned 16,000 capacity Budweiser Stage on Sept. 10.

Aldrin Cerrado, ABS-CBN Global COO, says they are aiming for about 5,000 attendees.

Juno-nominated Canadian producer Dabin is headlining. Rounding out the lineup are Americans UMI, Thuy, Grammy-nominated Guapdad 4000, and Justin Park; Filipino acts Ben&Ben and BGYO; and Canadian deejays Tilt, Hedspin and Jayemkayem.

The following 1MX will take place Oct. 8 in Sydney, Australia, at The Hordern Pavilion.

ABS-CBN, owned by the Lopez family, is the Philippines’ largest radio broadcaster, entertainment television production company and program syndicator. Included in its multiple holdings are record labels and a ticketing company.

Cerrado spoke to VenuesNow about the concept of IMX, expansion and partners Live Nation and UTA.

VenuesNow: Five-thousand attendance is quite ambitious, even though we do have a big Filipino — and Pan-Asian community in Toronto. There was just a Filipino food festival (Taste of Manila) last weekend at Bathurst and Wilson — but would you do smaller venues in places with smaller populations?

Aldrin Cerrado: That is something that we’re looking at because it’s the start for us. We’re testing this format. If this format proves to be the format that the market would not follow, we’re an agile company. We adjust to what we think or what the market would want the festival to be. I’s our first year there. Definitely, there will be a lot of adjustments that’s going to happen by next year.

What were the first 1MX events like in Manila?

These are all Filipino artist festivals. It’s really not a festival; it’s a concert type. So all these are indoor concerts. And then in 2021 we did our last all-Filipino concert and that happened in Dubai. There was still some pandemic going on so we had a virtual patch. We also had a 1MX in Manila at that time.

This year, July 8, 2023, we mounted our mixed Filipino and international. By international, three out of four are Asian. The other one is actually Canadian, but he has some connection with the Filipinos because he did a lot of collaboration with Filipino artists. His name is Johnny Orlando. I would say London was close to our vision of a Pan-Asian festival and, this [Toronto], I would say, a real festival because it’s outdoors. We start it at around 3 p.m. and then we finish at about 11 p.m.

How and when did you identify a need for a festival like this globally?

We’ve always wanted to cross over Filipino artists because Filipinos love to sing; they’re great singers, they’re great performers, but we’re not able to normally cross and penetrate international festival scenes. There are some, but most of the time we’re not able to. So we think, what if we actually combine Filipino and other Asians in such a way that both the Filipinos are discovered by the international audience and they are either Pan-Asian or even local of that country? And, at the same time, the international artists, the non Filipino artists, will be discovered by the Filipino audience as well.

The music at 1MX is more youthful than most cultural music festivals.

It’s contemporary and pop music. It’s for a younger crowd. It is definitely family friendly. ABS-CBN, as a media entertainment company, we are like a Disney in the Philippines. We produce series, movies, concerts. We own a free-to-air channel; we own cable [Skycable]; we own radio stations [operated free-to-air – DzMM 630 and MOR 101.9 and regional stations]. We have our own streaming platform [WantTFC]. So we have a footprint in the world. Our biggest is North America, including Canada, Toronto and Vancouver for that matter. And in Europe, our biggest is in UK, Italy, and Spain. And in the Middle East, our biggest would be in United Arab Emirates in Saudi Arabia. And, in Asia, there’s Hong Kong, Singapore, and in Oceania, it’s Australia. How did we come up with the idea? Because, again, our vision is to be able to help he Philippine artists, not just our own artists. Because ABS-CBN, as a company, also manage artists, but we want to be able to help artists from the Philippines to cross the international sea.

You mentioned earlier that initially the festival was indoors. Of course, Budweiser Stage is outdoors. What do you need from a venue to mount 1MX?

It’s not a very big festival, so we need at least a 5,000 capacity. There already a stage so that it won’t be too expensive to mount. And then the venue can also help us identify production companies that would help us. For Toronto, it’s Live Nation who helped us with that. And then, in London, we had a Broadwick Live who helped us with our mounting.

Will the format for 1MX remain or will it develop into a touring festival?

I think we’re going to keep it as one or two a year. We do a lot of events here in the U.S. We don’t do a lot of events in Toronto. So Toronto would be a good permanent location, where we would probably do 1MX on an annual basis. There’s also a lot of Filipinos in Toronto that would support the Filipino artists that would be part of the festival. And then this is our second year in London. London proved to be very interesting and very good.

Local acts in each city?

Yeah. We get the help from United Talent Agency, UTA [agent Janet Ki Wook Kim]; they’re our retained agency. So for our lineup, we asked their help. We identified the artists that we think we’d like and they also recommend to us. So we have a discussion with UTA and then, at the end of the day, it’s UTA who deals with the other agents of the other artist.