Mapping China: Music
This is a guide for Dutch artists and music companies that consider entering the Chinese market.
The days that a band or DJ could attract a crowd in China for being foreign are long past. As in any market, success in China requires:
- A great product (amazing music, amazing live performances, amazing backstory)
- A coherent, long-term strategy
- Suitable partnerships
- Investments of time, money, sweat, blood, tears, and so on
Interested musicians and companies will find themselves engaged in the following activities:
- Sharing knowledge about you and your music with Chinese audiences.
- Develop a monetizing strategy with key partners.
- Planning concerts and tours.
- Dealing with various Chinese companies and official institutions.
I have organized this mapping roughly according to this rudimentary list of activities, starting with those that require least investment.
- The sections “New Media” and “Authoritative Media & Institutions” surveys music promotion and dissemination in China. The new media is typically where you start engaging Chinese audiences. Through crowdfunding and licensing, new media also offer opportunities for monetizing. Authoritative media & institutions such as radio, TV, and universities shape China’s mass media ecology, and may provide unexpected but powerful promotional opportunities.
- The sections “Music Companies” and “PRC Promotors & Tours” introduce the companies that can help develop these promotional and monetizing opportunities into a more coherent long-term strategy. Because it's the main source of revenue, live is already prominent.
- The sections “PRC Festivals” and “Cities & Scenes” discuss the live music scene in more detail, and provides a basic geography and history of Chinese popular music
- The sections “Contracts, Permits & Visa” and “State Policy” are aimed at improving your interaction with Chinese companies and official institutions, discussing topics such as visa application procedures, censorship, government subsidies, and copyright policy trends.
Strategy & Partners
You can start doing some of the activities mentioned above right now. For instance communication with your Chinese fans on Wechat and Weibo can be in English, especially when messages are short and accompanied by photos or videos of you in the recording studio, touring the world or at home with your cat.
But for some of these things, finding one or more suitable partners is key.
Collaborating with a well-informed and well-connected partner will boost your impact on social media and increase the coherence and feasibility of your long-term strategy. Without a local partner it will be almost impossible to organize a tour or generate income from licensing your music in China, among other things.
Who you will work with depends on the kind of music you are in, your plans in China, and a myriad other things (including no small portion of luck). This mapping provides a broad overview spanning historical developments, geographical locations, diverse industry participants and musical genres. This will help you identify your own potential, as well as your potential partners. However if you want to skip to the conclusion, go to the section “Trends & Partners”.
About the Author
Dr. Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau has been a researcher and active participant in the Chinese music scene for 15 years. After graduating cum laude from Leiden University with a PhD on Chinese popular music in 2011 he moved to Beijing, where he helped organizing the music industry conference Sound of the Xity (yearly since 2012) and played in the Chinese folk rock band Second Hand Rose (2012-2014), among other things.
Contact Jeroen Groenewegen-Lau
This version was last updated 30 November 2015.