(Last updated: 29 Mar 2012)
Trends and opportunities
The music industry in China can be complex, frustrating and difficult to enter. The recorded music industry is not only dominated by Asian pop music, but struggles with a significant piracy problem. The live music scene is a less complex market, and probably presents the best opportunities for Australian musicians.
The recording industry in China, although vast, is subject to a number of factors which make it difficult to break into. Around 90 per cent of CDs bought in China are pirated, and less than 10 per cent of digital music downloads are paid for. This cheap industry is well-entrenched, and Chinese consumers are very reluctant to pay even a small amount for their music. Censorship is also an issue, as many radio stations are state-run and the music played is highly regulated.
The major record labels are present in China, but as with all foreign companies doing business in China, are 51 per cent owned by Chinese. These major labels tend to focus on regional pop music from countries such as Taiwan or Korea, and tend to release only the very big international names, preferring not to risk the little money there is to make from legitimate CDs on little known artists. However international releases are growing, in part due to increasing English proficiency among the population.
Live music in China is much easier to enter and presents quite a desirable market for Australian performers. As awareness of Western music by locals increases, demand for international acts to perform in China is also rising. In cities such as Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Shanghai, there are a multitude of live music venues. There is also a significant market for music performances at 5-star hotels as well as corporate (particularly foreign companies) and consulate events. However, due to the global financial crisis, budgets have been cut back.
(Source: 'Music in China: The Inside Story', Ed Peto, The Register)
Opportunities can be limited in the recorded music industry. The live music scene, presents more opportunities and demand for foreign musicians. However, be warned, due to the financial crisis, budgets have been reduced and resident contracts are more difficult to come by.
Opportunities for Australian performers include:
- Performances at clubs, lounges, bars and pubs where there is a strong demand for foreign singers, DJs and bands.
- Entertainment for events organised by foreign companies, embassies and hotels.
- Tours and exchange programs with Chinese performance companies.
Opportunities for promoters
There is potential for Australian music and entertainment promoters to enter into China. That said, it is a large and complex market with a huge amount of product. There is significant competition in terms of big acts, but there is perhaps scope for niche promoters in certain cities.
Opportunities can vary from city to city depending on the type of music on offer. For contemporary performers, and especially DJs, key cities are Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. Shenzhen in particular is a promising market, due to its close proximity to Hong Kong. Many of the expats living in Hong Kong spend their weekends in Shenzhen, which is beginning to be seen within China as a ‘party’ city.
Potential markets for classical and jazz performers include Beijing and Shanghai, which are thought to be the most sophisticated and international cities.
The music industry in China is dominated by Asian products. Although international acts are popular, only the very major bands and artists have managed to achieve significant success. There is also a lot of competition from other foreign markets such as the UK, France, Germany, Sweden and the United States, especially in the live music industry.