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The sound of surrender: Clarence Chan on building music platform Bandwagon

by Justine Ocampo // September 11, 2019, 6:04 pm

THE SOUND OF SURRENDER-CLARENCE CHAN COVER

All photos courtesy of Clarence Chan.

Looking back at his eight-year journey of transforming an idea in his head to one of Southeast Asia’s leading music media companies, the founder of Bandwagon revealed that this wasn’t the original dream he had. 

“At the tail end of university, I actually wanted to further my studies in music technology. I wanted to build my own brand of keyboards, so I started preparing but there were a lot of roadblocks,” shares 33-year-old Clarence Chan in an interview.

“It seemed like maybe I wasn’t meant to be going there, maybe God was challenging me to recalibrate. So I prayed and God gave me this word ‘surrender’…

“I said, ‘God, if you don’t want me to do this or feel it’s not a good fit for me, sure, I will surrender it to You. But I just have one condition that You give me a new dream.’” 

Much to Clarence’s surprise, God did just that. The very next day, Clarence literally woke up with the idea of Bandwagon.

FLOW IN YOUR GRACE ZONE 

From then onwards, God seemed to have pressed the fast-forward button in all of Clarence’s plans. He describes it as stepping into his “grace zone”. 

“God gives us that grace zone where His empowerment and favour just flows,” Clarence says, “It’s like you stepped onto a highway when there’s no one in front of you and you can just accelerate.”

Today, Bandwagon is a one-stop platform that music lovers can turn to for concert and event listings as well as stories on artistes.

The independent company also organises its own events across Asia, aided by full-time staff in Singapore and the Philippines where it has offices, and freelance contributors in Malaysia, Indonesia and Taiwan. 

From left: A team photo at the Slash concert; the first full-time employees in 2012.

In our grace zones, the gifts God has given us begin to shine, observes Clarence.

“God has graced us for different roles in different spaces. So don’t feel limited to go in a certain path that you feel people are expecting you to take. Really feel free to try – don’t limit God because He is in the midst of us where we are in our walk.”

Naturally, there will be times even in the “grace zone” when you may feel lost.

Clarence recalls how the journey wasn’t always smooth sailing, but those were also the moments where he experienced God’s divine provision.

He recounted: “There was a time after graduating when I wasn’t sure what to do with my business plan. I literally was at my wits’ end. I felt like I hit a brick wall and didn’t know where to go. 

“So I went down on my knees and prayed to God. I said, ‘God, I need you to make a way somehow.’ Then again, I felt the same word, ‘surrender’. 

“Literally after I said ‘amen’ – the very second later – I got a phone call. It was my friend’s mum, who has never called me up since then.”

What she said next bewildered Clarence.

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She had gotten acquainted with a well-known technopreneur and had shared Clarence’s idea for Bandwagon with him. His interest was piqued and he now wanted to meet Clarence to discuss it. What’s more, this technopreneur was known to rarely entertain meeting others in person.

Knowing what a rare opportunity this was, Clarence realised that it could only have been given by God. Four months after that phone call, Bandwagon officially started in September 2011.

LEAVE ROOM FOR TRIAL AND ERROR

Learning how to discern God’s will is a process, a lesson that Clarence is keen to share with other young people.

In a separate Kingdom Calling event last month in front of a 50-plus crowd of mostly university students, Clarence addressed the topic of how we can look to God amid the doubts and insecurities we have over our future. Other speakers included FOPx’s Isaac Ong and Kingdom Calling founder Samuel Tan.

Why are we so caught up with the calling of God?

Clarence says: “Sometimes we get paralysed from analysing – the paralysis of analysis. While there are challenges, I believe it’s really just continuing to walk in faith and seeing the beauty in co-creating with God.”

Whether it’s in writing or business or research, he feels that “what brings the Father most happiness is seeing His children use the gift He gave them”.

He never lets us down once we put it into His hands.

“I believe a rudder is only useful when the boat is moving,” Clarence continues, “Sometimes you receive the Word but you need to test it. You need to continue going about doing what God has called you to do and then you will see whether the steering is leading you in the right direction.” 

“If you feel that this area is not meant for you, continue to seek the Lord and maybe He will lead you down another path. I think He’s really a great God who cares about your interests. For me, it’s just learning to trust the Father’s heart,” he shares.

“In His heart to reach places, God in his miraculous power will do something. And on our end, we just have to be positioned and expectant. That when God gives us an opportunity, we’re able to grasp it with arms wide open.”

TRUST GOD’S FAITHFUL PROVISION 

Referencing Matthew 4:18-22 when Jesus called Simon and Andrew while they were going about their daily routine as fishermen, Clarence shares: “When we’re at our work, we somehow connect with God. It gives us a chance to trust in Him, which is like us leaving our nets and following Him.

“It’s saying, ‘God, I’m just letting go of this into Your hands. And I genuinely believe that He never lets us down once we put it into His hands, because that’s just His divine nature.”

Clarence adds: “We’ll go through a lot of hardship, but while looking to the Lord with honesty, I believe that wherever He has put you, He will provide.”

From left: Clarence at The Peak Magazine’s 2019 gala with his sister Caroline; The Peak’s July 2019 issue; and Clarence  picking up an award from The Peak as one of 20 Future Shapers in Singapore.

He shares exuberantly how the last eight years have been story after story of God’s faithfulness in providing for the business through divine connections and timely financial blessings.

As Clarence looks ahead, his vision for Bandwagon is to continue to champion and spotlight music in Asia. 

Music is a means to tell a message or tell a story.

Beyond his strong passion for music, it’s obvious that Clarence also has a flair for building relationships and connecting with people. Which is no surprise that Bandwagon is so community-centred.

“Music is a means to tell a message or tell a story,” he says.

“We want to talk about people’s journeys and how they ended up in music, or what the message is behind their music. So we do that quite often, through artiste interviews or concerts.”

As he meets different people through his job, Clarence sees these as opportunities to impact others and receive from others at the same time.  

“People come from all walks of life and they have different sorts of experiences; some good, some bad. Music is a very powerful medium that connects people of different social strata, education levels, race and religion.”

So I finally heard John Mayer sing live

He recounted an exchange with a heavy metal concert promoter who thanked him for listening to his story, telling Clarence that he felt like they connected in a much deeper way. 

“As much as the door was open for him to share about how (heavy metal) music drives him, it also gave me a chance to share about what drives me. And what drives me is really God, and the gifts and the interests that He has given me.”

Clarence continues to seize opportunities to share about God to those around him, from openly sharing about how Jesus is his role model in a magazine interview, to anonymous acts of kindness such as writing handwritten notes to bands he is hosting, with specific words that God has put upon his heart through prayer.

“Wherever God has placed us, with the access we have, we try to bring God’s Word. And I believe that His words bring blessing and they bring life,” he says.

Kingdom Calling holds monthly events with Christian marketplace leaders to help young people discover their callings and be better equipped for the realities of work. Their next talk is on the Digital Disruption and The Future of Work on September 19, 2019.

For more details on Kingdom Calling, check out their Instagram page.

THINK + TALK

  1. Are you currently flowing in your grace zone?
  2. What are some gifts that come more naturally for you? 
  3. How have you seen God’s provision play out in your life?
About the author

Justine Ocampo

Justine doesn't wear a watch, but she's always just-ine time, just-ine case you were wondering.