back to article Music in China: The Inside Story

Want to break into China? Ed Peto reports from the nation where goths adore boy bands, where the major labels created the black market, and where digital looks poised to leapfrog analogue. How To Do Business In China, China CEO, The New Chinese Consumer... my shelves here in Beijing are stacked full of such books, all trying to …

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Thanks

A really interesting and informative article. More from this guy please!

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Anonymous Coward

^_^ interesting

^_^ interesting article.

But I suppose piracy is one of the reason J-Pop acts focus so much on concert (normally two seasons of concerts a year) and image (Morning Musume/AKB48/Under17,Gackt, Halko Momoi etc) and their range of products (figures, photobooks, pv dvds, compilation pv dvds, singles (almost always with a special edition that includes the music video + making of, often) tv shows, radio shows, internet blogs, official fan clubs)

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Happy

Interesting

Yes, thanks, a superb article. It would be interesting to hear the Chinese indie bands' side of the tale - is new talent fostered in any way? Do unsigned garage bands have any enthusiasm for chasing a contract and rock star lifestyle, or is the outlook bleak?

I ask this because at initial glance it looks like the anachist heaven that many western consumers would like - no DRM, no cost, listen to what you like not what you can afford... but if the net result is to stifle creativity, everyone SHOULD be less keen!

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another thing

I don't really want to see other markets awash with American and occasionally British rubbish. I don't see why they should be able to infect the world.

It's one of the things I like about the area it has it's own rubbish, it sounds for a large part different but still famillier, whilst listening to Morning Musume (recently got two Chinese girls in there outfit - we wonder why) you can play "guess the cheesy 80s/90s western song it was based on" Sexy Boy and Mapower being good examples.

Another interesting thing is the way artists are treated, they're viewed as role models and therefore when a young idol (eg Ai Kago) is caught smoking. She is put in reserve, no longer allowed to perform or represent the agency until the agency decides that she's paid for her actions. This is under the pretence that these people are rolemodels and should be punished with that in mind. (If you catch your kid is smoking you should tell them off and maybe ground them) sort of thing. Funnily though Ai Kago was about to come back into the outfit and then not only got caught smoking again but going out with an older man who happend to make idol videos T_T suffice to say she got the sack. Anyway similar things with partners (god forbid sex) drinking (don't even think about drugs) etc.

Anyway rambling. Going now.

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An excellent article

Just a thought - maybe the labels ought to give up on making (much) money through the songs themselves, and concentrate on performance and/or pruduct-based revenue (t-shirts, posters, etc. etc. - all the things you can't just bluetooth to all your mates once you've somehow got your mitts on them).

In fact, it might do them good to bung out a few free copies of songs by bands they want to promote - but ensure that they've got the full range of meta-data intact so that any of the Chinese kids who gets hold of a copy and likes the band enough, will at least be able to find out who they are. That way next time they happen to be shopping for a band t-shirt, or a poster, or whatever, and see that band, they'll at least be mor elikely to recognise the name and think "ooh, I liked them - one of those, please, Shopkeeper!".

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Pirate

Copy

(t-shirts, posters, etc. etc. - all the things you can't just bluetooth to all your mates once you've somehow got your mitts on them).

Ha! That wouldn't work either. If it's one thing China's good at, it's copying! T-shirts would be reproduced faster than a CD here! It's hard to find original CDs/DVDs anywhere in China. Even Wal Mart sells some that don't look exactly kosher.

There are small shops everywhere in China, and when I say small, I mean you coudn't swing a cat in them. These have a turnover of nothing, and they get their produce from people who produce them for a bit less than that. As a result, copies of anything, from CDs to clothes to, well, anything are all over the place.

Still, I like it!

(I've lived here for about 6 years).

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Music industry becoming like pro sports?

It seems to me that we're going to wind up with a music "industry" that looks a lot like the sports industry. The money paid to professionals will come from two sources: Live performance, and advertising promotion. The idea of paying money for music will be as bizarre as the idea of paying money to watch a rerun of an old football game. Meanwhile, there won't be any sort of "independent" production industry; you're either part of the gigantic Pro apparatus, or you're entirely amateur. And that won't be a bad thing; amateur sports is still a huge draw, mostly because there's an extremely low barrier to entry and it's easy to find people to do it with. However, there's almost no audience for amateur sports; it's mostly done for the love of the sport itself.

Obviously it won't be an exact parallel--for example, I'm not going to hire people to play baseball in the background while I bash the CAD machine for nine hours--but I think it's pretty close.

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Re: Stifling Creativity

Ian Ferguson:

"...if the net result is to stifle creativity, everyone SHOULD be less keen!"

Well, yes, but it doesn't really stifle creativity; it just makes it so that small artists are less likely to get themselves in a position where they can be SUPER MEGA HUGE artists. Again, it's pro sports; even the most talented amateur has, basically, no chance of getting into a pro league, because they didn't start their career in that league and so nobody "knows" them. But this doesn't mean they can't play, or enjoy themselves, or even (in some cases) make a living just from playing music.

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Title

Your prices seem a little high and the 90% figure for piracy seems low.

A standard audio cd retails in Shenyang for 5 yuan, in fuzhou for 6 yuan and Beijing for as much as 7 yuan. Thats about 35 to 50 pence, mostly at the bottom end of the scale.

They're not popular though as you can get any band/group/singers entire discography in high-bitrate mp3 format with a few concert videos thrown in on a double DVD set for 10 to 12 yuan.

As for the 90% pirated, maybe in city centre Shanghai with police instructed to crack down it might drop that low... until the police left and the cupboards were re-opened.

Even the foreign chains here (Walmart, Carrefour etc) exclusively stock cheaply copied disks with photocopied paper sleeves n a plastic envelope. They charge four times the going rate for them and have significantly lower quality encoding (and production) than the 5 yuan disks on the streets.

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Details

@Mark Finn

I think Ed's written an excellent overview that is an eye-opener for the uninitiated with a good perspective as to what's happening in the music industry in China. As for the finer details, there is no substitute to real life experience that allows us to examine the nitty-gritty as you have proven - and until that damn "How To Make Money Out Of Music in China" handbook is written, we'll just have to pool our collective experiences and perspectives to highlight the nuances.

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Pirate

Where is the WTO?

The WTO should allow for sanctions against China using a formula that balances potential sales based on popularity of a track determined by a sampling algorithm.

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Re:Where is the WTO?

Never mind them, where is everybodies favourite pigopolist ?

Would be fun watching them try to clamp down on illegal copies in China :)

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