Can You Beatbox Your Way To Online Stardom?

Just ask Poland-based homegrown beatboxer Dharni Ng. (A version of this story first appeared in Issue 1380, Mar 30, 2017.)

Dharni Ng, 30, is an international beatbox champ and the first to win the Grand Beatbox Battle Championship two years in a row. Born and raised here, he moved to Poland in 2011 to further his craft, armed with his life savings — all $20,000 of it.

“There are more opportunities in Europe and people there are more open and receptive when it comes to music,” he shares. “You also get to know what the trend is right away. In Asia, there’s a two-year lag when it comes to music trends and culture.” Dharni, who earned an average of $2,000 a month when he first moved to Poland, has seen his market value increase exponentially with his growing popularity online.

These days, the beatboxer can bag up to $10,000 per project, thanks to his huge social media reach (he has over 250,000 followers on Facebook), and works on campaigns and events with big brands such as Ballantine’s and Mercedes.

8 DAYS: You made three viral videos last year which attracted more than 30 million views each on Facebook. 

DHARNI NG:  My followers on my Facebook fan page gradually increased to over 250,000 after the beatboxing videos went viral. My content is usually witty, funny, and linked to trendy topics that people can relate to. And if you look good, it’s a bonus (guffaws). For example, when 'PPAP' was very popular, I made a beatboxing version. That video drew over 40 million views.

The higher your social media reach, the higher your market value is. I started to get messages from brands like Huawei, Ballantine’s, [online gaming marketplace] Kinguin, [music collaboration app] Kwaver, and more, asking me to work on one year campaigns with them. They’d pay me $10,000 to $20,000 each depending on the brand. I know that my market rate will only increase as my social media following increases, so that’s a good thing. The entrepreneur in me would also use the opportunity to speak to some of these brands and see if they could sponsor the beatboxing events I’m organising so that I can build a longer working relationship with them (smiles). 

You moved to Poland six years ago with your life savings of $20,000. How difficult was it having to make ends meet in a country where you didn’t have a job and barely knew anyone?

I got to know more about Poland when I dated a Polish beatboxer years ago. I fell in love with the country, the people and the culture, so I decided to move there in 2011. Plus, it was so cheap to travel within Europe from Poland, and I can go for all the different international beatboxing events. I fooled around for two years when I first got there, spending all my money on partying and drinking and depleting my savings quickly. I even had to borrow some money from my Polish friends to pull through.

At that point, I felt like I was back at square one and I wondered if I should move back to Singapore. But that was also the turning point for me, it was when I realised that I had to start working harder to turn my passion for beatboxing into something that’s more financially sustainable.

Beatboxing is a rather niche field, though.

I joined Polish TV talent show Must Be The Music with two other beatboxers in 2011, and we made it to the final four. I gained a little fame from there, and got a few gigs with nightclubs which allowed me to earn an average of $1,000 to $2,000 a month. However, after the competition, we split up and I had to start from scratch again.

That’s when I met my neighbour K-Leah, who’s a singer. We joined the same competition again in 2014. The show was a great way for us to get noticed and showcase our talent. We came in second and I gained 10,000 fans on Facebook. That year, I also won the Grand Beatbox Battle Championship, so I was invited to countries like Japan, China, the US, and Switzerland to judge beatbox battles and hold workshops. I got paid anything from $1,000 to $3,000 per event. 

You’ve come a long way, and now you’re doing your part to boost the local scene.

I just concluded a recent beatboxing event called Beatbox Battle Royale in Singapore, and I managed to get Kwaver and Oakley to sponsor it. In August, I’m organising a major beatboxing event World Beatbox Camp in Poland. It’s a 10-day event where I invite 30 of the best beatbox artistes in the world to teach at workshops daily. I organised the event with no budget (laughs). I went out and spoke to different brands about my vision for the event, and I managed to get Kinguin as the title sponsor, as well as Mercedes and Ballantine’s on board. We are still discussing with other brands currently. I’ve managed to raise over 10,000 euros so far on my own. I hope to increase the level of awareness and prestige of beatboxing in the world with these events.

How do you plan to further increase your reach?

I’m working on increasing my fanbase in China. I currently have 95k fans and 1mil views per video on my Meipei account. There’s a lot of money in China, and they pay about three times higher than other countries, so I’m going to tap into that market. I’m also finally working on my first album with K-Leah after having lazed around for so long. We’re going to approach record labels in Europe and see how that pans out. Wish me luck!

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