Donna Burke

Donna Burke

Singer & entrepreneur


Originally published on on January 2010

Photo by Daniel Perez

Photo by Daniel Perez

What first brought you to Japan?
In 1996, I came here from Perth, Western Australia and started working as an English teacher in Omori.

How did you get into singing?
I had been a part-time singer at home and was confident I could get work in Japan. Armed with a demo tape, I answered ads in Metropolis from people looking for singers, and in a couple of months I was doing recordings. But it was hard at first—I was basically broke for six months. I used to eat dinner at Yoshinoya and just drink water at What the Dickens.

What have you done since then?
I’ve written songs for my CDs, for other recording artists, and for anime, movies, TV dramas, game software and TV commercials. I do the English voiceover for NHK bilingual news some Thursdays, and I’m a regular member of the Tokyo Comedy Store. Last October, I sang the Australian national anthem prior to the Australia-New Zealand Bledisloe Cup rugby game in Tokyo.

Why did you start your own talent agency, Dagmusic?
My husband and I started it as a record label for our first album in 1999. Then one of my contacts complained that whenever they needed a singer, the agencies used to always provide them with the same five names. I knew that through my network I could find many more, so I started out by helping him.

How many foreigners do you have on your books?
Maybe 300. There is a big demand now for speakers of Spanish, French, German and Italian, besides English, of course.

What advice would you give any aspiring singer wanting to work in Japan?
Always have the best kick-ass demo tape you can afford. Remember, a demo tape is not work you have actually done; it is a reel of what you can do.

Tell us about Hotteeze.
We started it in 2004 as a division of Dagmusic, exporting heat pads. I had no business plan, just a gut feeling. I called some distributors in Australia and it worked. Sales grew 20 percent last year. In 2008, we sold 300,000 pads in Australia and we have started selling them in the US, UK and Turkey. In Tokyo, you can buy them at the Tokyo Medical Center pharmacy opposite Tokyo Tower, and Tokyo Physio in Hiroo.

How do you like to relax?
We like to visit our house in Gunma on weekends. When I get some time here, I crave a bit of quiet and solitude. For that reason, I don’t watch TV. When I am driving, I like to listen to inspirational tapes about business and success.

Do you enjoy performing with the Tokyo Comedy Store?
Yes, it is a fun, fantastic artistic outlet, and it is an activity that I don’t have to be in charge of. I absolutely love it. After all, I think I have been an idiot all my life.

For more information, see or