Sound Of The Xity Day 2 Part 1

Because why not...

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Marching on with coffee in hand, we braced for another slew of sales pitches and tech talk, but were pleasantly surprised at the quality of the programming. In this rundown we cover a lot of ground, including the latest from Modern Sky, Weibo updates that are making waves, and new business models for booking agencies.

The Next Steps for Modern Sky – Shen LiHui (General Manager)

The talk opened with a general discussion on the business landscape for indie labels. Copyright was the first point of call, with Shen LiHui stating it would be a major growth point for the year, though conflicts between video sites (which typically buy-out content) and audio sites would continue, perhaps leading to continued consolidation.

According to Shen, music doesn’t get the same treatment as other intellectual property ‘works’ – this media is defined differently in legal terms, meaning music misses out on certain rights. This leads to an assumption that music companies don’t need paying. One suggestion was presented – the industry could aim to better leverage high-profile talent competitions to actually present the industry, and in this way communicate subtle, yet compelling arguments to decision makers. Or we could all make fools of ourselves. Might be better off with a blimp.

The big news of the day was Modern Sky’s strategic investment in Sound Of The Xity Expo and Festival, which took the form of an equity investment and access to various other company resources. Modern Sky has been steadily diversifying its business with little resistance; Shen stated that the lack of major players in the various areas of the value chain has benefitted growth. SOTX is a great platform and Modern Sky hopes to keep developing the profile and capacity of the expo.  It will be interesting to see how this investment works alongside their JV with the EARS conference, which is essentially the same thing.  Does a market as nascent as China’s needs one company to present 2 conferences? Time will tell.

Modern Sky recently secured a second round of investment. One important point Shen raised in respect of this is that investors in China are often looking for quick gains. Short-termism and a lack of tolerance from investors toward volatile returns mean it takes a hell of a lot of guanxi to push anything through. Modern Sky have seemingly attracted the right people to back the business (or eloquently put forward their case) meaning they have an objective means of assessing progress and future success. The business looks to maintain its position as a key market holder in the indie spectrum of the music industry going forward.

Sina Weibo: Creating Reverberations for the Dissemination of Music

Jetty Tang, Senior Product Manager of Sina Weibo

Day 1 of SOTX was pretty tech heavy. Nevertheless, we’re not ready to jettison the subject just yet – at least not until we’ve given Weibo a once-over. Jetty Tang delivered a pseudo-talk/sales pitch on Weibo’s new functionality. Let’s take a nose:

The integration of online payment systems – notably Alipay – has helped the social network to vertically integrate into ticketing, digital music distribution, and vending for all manner of derivative artist assets/experiences including items such as lunch with the artist (as in the case of G.E.M. 鄧紫棋 – Hong Kong’s latest bastion of buzz; that one with the dubiously titled tour that took place on the 8th. Couldn’t attend, had to floss a cat’s teeth).

Because why not...
Because why not…

Jetty once again brought up disintermediation, and showed how idols and TV stars are drawing on the precedents set by music artists to establish ‘star’ pages which offer up exclusive content to subscribers (WeChat launched a similar subscription-based offering which Chen Kun embraced by releasing songs, ebooks and a ‘goodnight voice message’).

Weibo is doing a lot to provide a holistic solution for artists and fans alike. The only negative is that platforms like Weibo breed a certain dependence that can have damaging effects if/when it comes time to migrate elsewhere (well arguably this is what they’re trying to safeguard against). Also data is another point: do the artists / their record labels have control over and own the data? Do they own the audiences? We don’t know how transparent the service is but would be interested in hearing more.

On Successful Business Models for Chinese and International Booking Agencies

Lue ZhiQiang, Founder of Yugong Yishan Beijing, President of Yugong Yishan Cultural Promotions Ltd. Beijing
Jerome Williams, CEO of Earth Beat
Jef Vreys, Concert Promoter & Booking Manager of New Noise
Romuald Requena, Label Manager of SAKIFO RECORDS, Co-programmer of SAKIFO Festival
Leo de Boisgisson, Co-founder of Kaiguan Culture
Host: Yang Yu, International Artists Booking and Arrangements Manager of Midi Festival

Bearing in mind that this is the domain of our sister company Scorched ASIA, we looked to corroborate our experiences with those of the panelists. There’s no shortage of food for thought here…

The closest understanding we came to in regards to a ‘successful business model’ for booking agencies was shared by Romauld Requena, who acknowledged that bookers are now providing 360 services which include tour planning, logistics and promotion. This trend runs in tandem with the continued professionalisation of services in the live events industry. On the other hand, Jef Vreys gave a nod to Yugong Yishan founder Lue ZhiQiang, noting that some venues are becoming very proactive, booking and promoting their own shows. What this comes down to is decompartmentalisation: looking at a venue, a promoter, a booker and the artist as separate business units is unproductive. Every show is a team effort, and requires participation on all sides (albeit with major tasks being effectively allocated and managed by a single shareholder – too many cooks etc).

Next we looked at the live market. It seems there is a real abundance of foreign talent flowing into China. Actually Leo de Boisgisson and Lue ZhiQiang believe there is too much, with the number of shows on offer outstripping demand (at least in Beijing and Shanghai). On the flip side the number of shows by local artists is declining (reportedly out of about 200 annual events at YGYS 60-70% feature foreign acts). The profoundly obvious reality is that to ensure the continued growth of the live scene, we need to encourage more participation from locals.  This is well understood, but the how – finding the motives, the incentives, the trigger points – is what continues to elude many. Arguably we need to work more on promoting the experience, the feelings and cultural significance behind going to shows, rather than the content – big names and tunes. This links in with what Irfan Van Ewijk discussed regarding the electronic music market.

The final insight that came out of this varied panel was that foreign promoters are interested in Asian talent, however local acts often lack good management. This ultimately stunts the growth of their careers, as (with the exception of the most industrious and level-headed of artists) somebody needs to be driving the vision. Where do they see the act going? Which markets? What’s the end game? Communications are also key. An organised individual needs to take care of this stuff otherwise band members – who can often be somewhat flakey with emails –will miss out on those rare opportunities when an international player reaches out.

A trend to watch out for could be the continued consolidation of the live scene – think venues / promoters / bookers / labels.

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