That was the title of last Tuesday’s CMJ conference featuring The Orchard’s VP of Strategy Prashant Bahadur, alongside other music experts Robert Singerman and Thomas Reemer from 88tc88, Eric de Fontenay, founder of Musicdish China and Jeffrey Liebenson, an Entertainment Lawyer at Liebenson Law.
In a packed medium-sized room at the NYU Kimmel Center, these men discussed the current situation regarding the flow of international music to China. As the title of the conference indicates, China has the potential to provide a large market of eager consumers to international musicians and labels – but in order to succeed, you need a plan.
According to Robert Singerman, 98% of all music consumed in China is local music. That leaves only 2% for international music, and most of that is K-Pop. There are many roadblocks and challenges to getting your music across those borders, not least of which is government censorship. Getting your music approved by the Chinese government is a long and tedious process involving translation of lyrics, approval of content and so on. Because of this strong government involvement and censorship, many Chinese have never even heard of The Beatles!
But this is slowly changing as China has begun to cooperate with international labels. The Baidu law suit against music piracy, which resulted in Baidu striking licensing deals with three major record labels, certainly encouraged this. (Baidu previously allowed users to directly search for MP3s on its search engine.) Companies like 88tc88 and MusicDish China are facilitating the process and have been successfully releasing music in China for about 12 months.
The Orchard has been aware of China’s potential for a few years now and has been trying to break into China’s music industry since 2004. According to Prashant Bahadur, we may have been a little too early then. That said, he is confident that the industry is now “moving in the right direction” and argued 3 key points to that effect:
- “There is [an obvious] opportunity for international music to be monetized.” Because of the abnormally low share of international music in China, the odds of raising that share are high. The issue is to figure out how to make music available legally.
- “We are finding that it is slowly becoming easier.” There is definite movement, as illustrated by companies like 88tc88 and MusicDish China’s success as well as the increase of local partnerships. It may be small, but anything better than zero is positive, and The Orchard is confident that profit will be made in 2012 in the Chinese market.
- “The fact that Baidu is now talking to the industry [...] shows that there is a movement towards creating a legal market.” Because 80% of all searches in China come from Baidu, their recent willingness to work with local and international labels is a great sign for international distributors.
The conclusion is that though it is too early to put a figure on potential profit for the coming years, we are confident that we will succeed in monetizing at least a portion of music for 2012, and more in years to come. Watch Prashant Bahadur’s segment below, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!