A recent article written by a Canadian publication profiles and chats to some bands that have toured China over the last few years. Some interesting take outs:
“If the band’s at a certain level and expects a certain degree of professionalism, production and predictability, then I think the Chinese market can introduce some variables that might not work,” says Henwood. “But if the band is looking for life experiences and willing to roll with the punches then I certainly would recommend they go.” (Piers Henwood manages Tegan and Sara as well as being the guitarist in Jets Overhead)
“I don’t think there’s a reliable market for the music that we play in China,” says Alex Cooper, singer and guitarist for Parlovr, who played last year’s Transmit tour. “At this point it’s kind of hard to tap into anything there financially.”
“The great thing about China is once something gets going it just rolls like a wave. All of a sudden there’s this explosive energy,” he says. “If you don’t have your relationships in place and you don’t have your network and you don’t understand how to operate on the ground there, you’re going to have to move really fast. If you’re not connected to it, you might miss it.”
Versteeg sees it a bit differently. “You can’t really be in this business to make money,” he says. “What’s the difference between making no money in China or no money here?”
It seems that everyone in this article is right to a degree. There is little in the way of established infrastructure, there isn’t a reliable market for Western music (or really music at all) in China, but there is a need to get yourself positioned, because if and when this place does “get it” growth will be exponential, like in every other industry here.
Changes in the last 5 years point inexorably towards this – the explosion of live venues, festivals and bands to play points towards an increasingly febrile and vibrant undercurrent flowing through China’s cities. Of course, the main impediment to real growth are reliable income streams outside of touring which is a conundrum not exclusive to China. Big companies are hard at work trying to solve this: witness the mainstream acceptance of paid streaming service Xiami, the recent establishment of an ad supported service from search behemoth Baidu and the impending arrival of Spotify. The future isn’t yet rosy, but dawn does appear to be breaking on the horizon…..