Many have come to “capture” the music market in China and many have, just as quickly, left with their tails between their legs. Who mentioned Wyclef Jean and all the bullshit he was spewing in China about finding the “next global superstar in China”. He found some woman, re-named her China Wine and released this piece of shit. China Wine is now corked and so is Wyclef Jean.
There have been and still are many “Wyclef Jeans” coming to China with something new to peddle or else peddling the same shuck and jive but in different wolves’ clothing. Many of these people have been too presumptuous, even more have come being geographically-challenged and which has meant not understanding China or the importance of music- or the unimportance of it- to those in China. They have totally underestimated the intelligence of the local consumers and the fact that English is not their mother tongue. Duh, indeed.
First of all, let’s stop the old bullshit about “China being potentially the largest music market in the world.” It never was and it will be as music is simply not a priority in China. Politics inter-mingled with Freedom Of Speech and Freedom Of Expression make for strange bedfellows and time will tell if this marriage ever works or it just falls apart acrimoniously.
China being “potentially the world’ largest music market” was and maybe still is just a line many of us spouted at internal Worldwide MDs and Music Marketing Conferences to keep our jobs as “sales” from the rest of the region was so piss poor, we had to keep using The China Card. Jeez, how those at the top of the pile loved hearing about how many people owned bicycles, laptops and mobile phones. What the fuck were they thinking? That all these millions would pay and consume our music? You betcha, by golly wow.
It was also to have the various Head Offices keep investing in us and “subsidiary” music companies in China and other dodgy deals where many back-handers were exchanged without global chairmen ever finding out. Oh, to one day reveal some of the scams those heading various EMI offices pulled during the Night Of The Long Knives and during the watch of Eric Nicoli, the infamous Biscuit Bungler, and his two fall guys- David Munns- top bloke- and Alain Levy. It would make Nigerian scammers blush.
In horse racing parlance, it was a rort and, at some music companies, this rort continues though many of “the rorters”, smelling the fact that they were gonna be caught for putting their hands in the cookie jar once too often, have now either retired or moved on to the move business. Right now, the movie business in China is booming; the music business, like everywhere else, is not. It’s almost non-existent as a bona fide business. Why? Again, music is not a priority and trying to sell music in China barely reaches a break-even point.
Frankly, when with EMI, if we lost “only” 5% in China, this was hailed as a minor accounting miracle as we had “surpassed our target” of a 12% loss for the fiscal year.” So what does one do?
Sure, one can tour and tour and tour and play all the festivals- Rock, Punk, Jazz etc- but the red tape to actually get into China and perform- and then the end financial results- do not justify the means or the efforts. For too many years, I have seen artists from around the world want to make it in China, think they’ve made it, fail and who never stopped to understand why. All they could do was to play the blame game.
One wannabe singer wrote to me about two years ago saying he thought he would be “huge” in China as he had blue eyes, blond hair and was Danish. He has actually made a record under a gawdawfully corny pseudonym, but is he making money in China out of this record- which he funded along with the accompanying music videos? Is he touring? Of course not- unless “touring” means “promotional trips” which lead nowhere and is all a now very boring act and ploy played out by many China-based music companies in return for not paying for any content. Sad but true and even sadder when one thinks back to so many who thought that playing once in China would mean immediate global dominance and being the next Robbie Williams- when Robbie Williams was relevant. And so we come to Faye Wong. Forget every other artist in China. If a Beyonce, a Gaga, or a Jay-Z wants to make it in China, they need to collaborate with Faye Wong.
At now, 41, this striking beautiful singer is China’s only bona fide diva. She can command whatever fee she bloody wants for one concert. But, these days, Faye can pick and choose when and where she performs and with whomever she might wish to collaborate. From being a Hong Kong-based singer who based her entire image and style of singing by copying Bjork and Dolores O’Riordan from Cranberries, she has cultivated an image that straddles both cult and Mainstream- extremely difficult to do- but Faye has done it through a very cultish image of being reclusive and recording and performing at her very mainstream concerts full of pretty tame songs, but which are only the backdrops to her very elaborate and very frequent costume changes- and image.
If any International fashion designer truly wished to be iconic in China, design the costumes for one of Faye’s tours. If any artist wishes to be truly noticed in China, tour with Faye Wong- but as the opening act. In China, who do you think will be the opening act for a concert featuring Beyonce and Faye Wong? If you guessed Beyonce, you guessed wrong. A Beyonce etc needs Faye Wong in China. Faye Wong needs no one else. She is her own show.
But what if you’re a musician who doesn’t compliment Faye Wong’s image or style or audience?
Well, it’s back to touring, promotional visits, playing a few festivals and returning home empty-handed except for the news that you have “played China.”
Frankly, China and its usual crop of dodgy promoters- there are exceptions- have just played you for a sucker and trumped you- even if you have blue eyes, blond hair and are Danish.