Global superstar or massive PR hoax?
Readers of this website will know that we love a good story. A few weeks back, we came across a massive double page spread in an English language publication (we think it was one of the expat rags here in Shanghai – if anyone can point out the article, we would be super grateful. UPDATE: it was Urbanatomy, article HERE).
The article featured a slightly slutty, pretty brazen set of photos and some accompanying text claiming that a girl of Yi origin (the Yi are an ethic minority group hailing from South Western China numbering around 8m) had been dubbed “the Chinese Madonna” by the British press. Ayi Jihu had had over 100 million downloads in China, and that she in danger of becoming the first Chinese musician to truly break the Western music market.
Wow, a big deal, we thought.
So, we asked around the office. Who was this sensation? Why hadn’t we heard of her? We are a music company based in China with over 20 Chinese staff in our offices. Were we not doing our jobs?
The result of our informal poll? Not a single person had ever heard of this R&B “star” who has broken all kinds of records here in China.
And so we did some digging. What came up? Well, mostly nothing at all.
She was signed to the “famous” Shlepp Records in 2007, but when a netizen went to the official website (before it was shut down), they found that the record label had only one artist: Ayi Jihu. Now of course, the website is shut down.
In September 2010 her PR company, Quite Great Communications, issued a press release stating that she was returning home to Cambridge to present her parents with a gold disc for the 100th million mobile phone download of her songs.
But in an interview with a reporter, she didn’t answer the question of where the gold disc came from. And when we tried to find some (illegal – sorry, but every famous song/ artist is available via this route) MP3 downloads of her songs using the infamous Baidu MP3 search engine, the result was ZERO songs found.
The BBC, Sky News, the Daily Mail, the Sun and other such luminaries have all written that Ayi Jihu has become one of China’s biggest new stars, routinely topping lists of sexiest Chinese women and her music has become phenomenally popular in the lucrative mobile phone download market with young people in China.
When we searched her info on the Baidu search engine (which has 70% of the search market in China) using key words ”Ayi Jihu” (2200 results) or “吉胡阿依” (3790 results), most reports/articles linked to look identical.
Compare this with Jin Sha 金莎, one of China’s biggest current emerging stars, for whom we get 18,300,000 results on Baidu.
Here is her live video at Macao Cubic which has yielded a “staggering” 1,400 video views
and an interview with BBC China
Our researchers conclusion: It seems that she is only famous for her sexy image on stage? and all of her videos on Chinese video websites are uploaded by her PR company.
Our conclusion: a cynical attempt by a PR company and record executives to try and fool the Western market into believing that this feel good story is actually a true one (and in the process make lots of money out of it). Watch the BBC video and it seems that she is pretty complicit in the scam.
It seems sort of pre-internet era thinking that this story could get serious legs without any kind of basis in reality.