A few years ago some guy from Denmark wrote to me out of the blue to say that he had blond hair and blue eyes and had some songs which he thought would make him perfect for the China music market.
I put him in touch with a label out there called Gold Typhoon and who signed him and then, Kim or Sven or Lindquist finally changed his name to something like “Ian Stone” and released a song called “Shanghai Girl.” Was it ever released? No idea. It was released by the gawdawful Gold Typhoon label which works like the amateurs they were and still are and a music company headed by a guy we hired when at EMI. Knowing he could do bugger all for us in Hong Kong, we saved his ass by sending him to China. I hear he’s now CEO of Gold Typhoon which speaks volumes for The Peter Principle and promoting incompetence. Yes, China was our dumping ground for staff while waiting for “the world’s next potentially biggest music market” to finally happen. We’re still waiting and, apart from flogging an absolutely crap act called The 12 Girls Band- and who found some success touring the US, Europe and Canada, nothing of any “International” worth has happened.
Thinking back, this “world’s next potentially biggest music market” mantra was trotted out to simply keep “regional Offices going and fed and for some to hype Head Office into paying for them to setup their own companies without any “financial funding” coming outta one’s own pocket. It was a good scam which worked well for over a decade. Taiwan was the real music market. China was always only good for manufacturing CDs cheaply and shipping them out into Europe, Canada, Australia and then back into Asia. Or getting caught for it.
As for music, when I got Michael Learns To Rock (MLTR) to record a Jacky Cheung song in English ‘cos their new album was crap and this became the mega hit which turned out to be “Take Me To Your Heart”, many thought that this was the magical A&R formula for scoring hits in China. So did I and got Lene Marlin from, I think, Norway, to cover a Faye Wong song and Christian artist and very good singer-songwriter and overall great guy, Steven Curtis Chapman, who covered another Jacky Cheung song which he called “The Blessing”. I still love Steven’s version, but the music company put their hands in their pocket and nickel and dimed the so-called music video which was shockingly bad. Jeez, I cannot even find it on YouTube anymore.
When music executives in China started to jump onto the A&R bandwagon and find Chinese songs which they said would work in the country, I heard Quasimodo ringing dem bells. Their choices were shockers and why they were ever recorded is beyond me. Everyone “knows” China, but no one does.
Go to Shanghai or Beijing and you’ll meet old Black guys who have found a new place to live off past glories and who’ll tell you things like how they discovered Michael Jackson, Another two or three will tell you they wrote “Ben” for him. “Ben” was written by Don Black- at least the lyrics were- and I have looked these old knobs in the eye and have wondered what rock they have climbed out from and how many they have fleeced with their bullshit.
That’s the problem with China: Anyone who is black is seen as being a great musician and the Back musicians who have moved there, milk this dry- with clubs, chicks, promoters, landlords.If it wasn’t so fucking pathetic, it would be funny. Remember how Wyclef Jean was going to make “the world’s next female Superstar” come from China? Well, his China Wine sure made a mess outta that idea.
Frankly. I don’t believe many in China- not about how well they’re doing with their music, their gigs, their jigs, their women, their clubs- nada. There is also NO music market unless you’re Chinese and have enough of a following to tour and tour and tour. Selling music there? You must be kidding. In a moment of great stupidity, I figured I’d manage a guy from the UK who was pushing 30 but had that “Beckham” type ‘looks’ and had him record a well-known Mandarin song for which I wrote the English lyrics. This was always easier than trying to get a career off the ground with some weak originals which no one would promote.
Anyway, the guy was named Stewart Mac, he recorded a great commercial track called “I Love You”, his Dad paid for the recording, the music video and the EPK and those knobs at Gold Typhoon took it all for free and something like 18% on “royalties.” With over 40 million streams on a site called Tencent and which should be called Nonsense, we finally got our “massive royalty cheque” and which came to HK$30,000 and which we had to be split three ways. Stewart Mac, quite rightfully, cracked a shit as he wanted to be “The new Robbie Williams” and that was the end of that as suddenly everyone started singing from the same book and “That’s how it works in China” was chanted by many. To add insult to injury, I was hit with a bill of hK$17,000 AFTER the recording and music video had been promoted for the “Rights” to using the melody of the original song which wasn’t and isn’t original at all. It’s identical to an old track called “Eres Tu.”
So, those of you who read all the hype filtering outta China about the Beijing Rock Festival and this and that festival, sure, they’re happening but what’s not happening is making a quid outta any of this. It’s all smoke and mirrors and where people have other agendas and music companies are there as, usually, their much bigger holding and parent companies need a “China presence” for their other and far more lucrative businesses. Music sales and Music in China? They don’t exist and there’s certainly no money in it as the perception of music is of something that is easily dispensable.
It’s very ugly out there and probably something my “Danish mate” now named “Ian Stone” with his blue eye and blond hair is discovering.