If you enjoy listening to Korean indie, r&b and hip hop — there’s a chance that you’ve heard of danielions before. During my time as a university student, I listened to a lot of his playlists while studying or during a chill night in.
His playlist channel, danielions playlists, has over 160,000 subscribers and millions of views. His other channel, danielions music, has over 84,000 subscribers and focuses on uploading single tracks. A high number of his views come from South Korea, the United States, and several South East Asian countries.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that Daniel is not only Canadian, but also lives in my hometown, Edmonton.
We met up at Hanjan, a spot in Edmonton that highlights the best of Korean cuisine, cafes, and nightlife. Hanjan is also the reason I found out that Daniel is from Edmonton, as he created a playlist for Hanjan when they opened last year. As Hanjan’s new social media manager, I noticed tweets from people in South East Asia sharing the playlist as it kept showing up in the #hanjanyeg tag. That’s how I found out from Hanjan’s owner, and our mutual friend, that Daniel is an Edmontonian!
So how did a Chinese-Canadian person end up becoming a major curator and influencer in the Korean underground music scene?
While studying at the University of Alberta, Daniel met a few Korean exchange students who showed him Korean indie music like 10cm, Acoustic Collabo, and more. At first he made playlists on 8tracks, but a few years ago, switched to YouTube and created the danielions pages.
He used Soundcloud to listen to American indie music, and found out that Korean artists were on there too. Daniel decided to give them more exposure, and that was how he began showcasing Korean underground music on YouTube.
Daniel’s first foray into Korean culture was K-Pop, dramas, and variety shows, like so many of us.
We even reminisced about staying up late with friends to watch year-end Korean music award shows. Once he found Korean indie, hip hop and r&b music though — he decided that was more his style.
“I wanted to show other people there’s more to Korean music than K-Pop and try to really push the indie bands and get them more recognition.”
Daniel is also passionate about Korean culture. He has a lot of Korean friends and has visited Korea several times, and told me that rather than living like a tourist when he’s in Korea, he likes to live like a local — which is something that I related to a lot. Korea’s become a place so familiar to people like me and Daniel, despite being Canadian-born non-Koreans.
Of course, he gets to see his favourite artists while he’s in Korea as well. Some of the artists’ he’s seen live include 10cm, Nell, Urban Zapaka, and Verbal Jint.
“I’ve seen a lot of people actually, I’m quite proud of myself.”, though admitting he hasn’t seen Sam Kim and Punchnello and would like to see them live as soon as possible.
Another benefit to curating this music for his audience are the warm messages he gets from his loyal listeners.
“Most of them [say I’m] helping them through stress in their lives, a lot say they have anxiety or trouble sleeping and they’re thankful for the playlists [that] help them through their day, or even when they’re just going through a hard time… I think that when it makes me the most happy, when I receive messages like that.”
Some of my favourite comments that I saw on his videos include:
- “Calm and easy to the ears playlist. Lovely voices these artists have. <3. I’m quite pessimistic person but here I am sending out hearts to you awesome people. Have a wonderful day everyday guys! if not, make it into one! Cheers.”
- “some soothing music for my soul. thanks :)”
- “I never log in to leave a comment, but I am doing this because your music collection has blessed me ears. I really really really love everything you put out!!! Please keep uploading~”
- “This is my first time listening to K-Indie…I love it! Thanks for sharing”
Of course, with such a large reach , it’s no surprise that the artists themselves have reached out to him to ask him to listen to their music. Daniel confided that there have been instances in which exposure on his channels has led to songs and/or artists being picked up by record companies. Several artists have also messaged him to say thank you, and he’s even met a few like SLCHLD and Rheehab.
He’s played around with the idea of starting a record label or distribution company to help artists monetize their music and profit financially from providing exposure for their music.
Right now, Daniel wants to focus on having consistent, good quality releases on both his channels as he works a full-time job here in Edmonton. If an opportunity within the industry pops up, he would “definitely be willing to work on something bigger.”
As for now, he’s put together a few vlogs for those who want to see the behind the scenes of his life and get to know him better!
It was interesting to find that we are quite similar, especially in the way that although we are non-Korean Canadians — Korean culture is everywhere in our lives. From the music and nightlife to the affectionate way Koreans treat others, it’s had a huge impact on us. I was pleased to see that Daniel is doing his best to share Korean music with others in hopes that Korean culture may impact others the way it influenced him.
Here’s a little message from danielions himself!
Thanks for taking time to read my interview and special thanks to Alex for organizing!
Much love to everyone who already listens to my playlists and if you don’t already, you can check them out over at http://youtube.com/danielionsplaylists.You can also reach me on Instagram at @danielions or @danielionsplaylists.
Thank you Daniel for taking the time to chat with me, and thank you for all you do for the Korean music scene.
P.S. I’m really into danielions’ “stillwaitingforyou” playlist right now.