China’s expanding market for western music was among the main issues discussed at day one of In The City, the U.K.’s biggest music conference, which began in Manchester yesterday (Oct.13).
“China is experiencing the biggest growth in the entire world and if you’re managing a band and you’ve got the opportunity to get in there early, when it’s a fresh playing field then you should definitely pursue it,” Ian Hogarth, founder of London-based concert listings service Songkick told delegates during a lively panel entitled “The Future’s Bright, The Future’s China.”
In addition to being a regular visitor to China, where he hosts DJ nights, Hogarth also revealed that he is in preliminary plans to launch Songkick in China.
Hogarth’s enthusiasm for western bands to visit China was shared by fellow panelist Adam Lewis, founder and co-owner of Boston-based promotions firm the Planetary Group, which has a long history of taking western artists to play shows in China and recently took Icelandic experimental singer-songwriter Olafur Arnalds on a seven-date tour throughout the country.
“Musically [China] has evolved,” Lewis told delegates. “Ten years ago the crowd was all ex-pats. Now it’s not. It’s affluent Chinese who want to go out and go to shows. Crowds are definitely changing [in China]. We used to have be a lot more conservative with the types of bands that we would bring over, in terms of mainstream pop groups but lately we’ve been taking punk bands over.”
Lewis did, however, warn delegates that, while the costs for taking a band on a club-level tour of China were relatively inexpensive, the financial returns were, at present, minimal. The need to have partners based in China was also vital when arranging a tour, Lewis said, identifying Split Works as one the country’s best equipped local concert promoters.
“You have to have Chinese partners,” echoed Phil Catchpole, music advisor at the British Council. “If you go there just to take money out of China [the government] will basically shut you down,”
Lewis also used his platform to launch a thinly veiled attack on Icelandic singer Bjork, who famously caused an uproar by shouting “Tibet, Tibet” during a show in Shanghai in 2008. According to Lewis, the Chinese promoter who booked the show was banned from promoting a concert in the country for 18 months following Bjork’s outburst, while the event itself significantly set back touring opportunities for western acts in China.
“People have been working for close to 20 years to try and bring western culture over there and to have one act set them back several years is selfish on her part,” Lewis said.
Digital: Greater Connectivity Will Bring Growth
In the panel “The Battle For The Living Room,” technology execs put forward a strong case for greater synchronization between digital platforms and services, enabling continued growth of digital revenue.
“Bringing together broadcast, broadband and social media platforms enables a whole different way to find music and buy music,” said Pete Downton, director connected services at Imagination Technologies, which produces the U.K. market leading Pure range of DAB and wireless-enabled radios.
“The market is changing. Technology connectivity gives us the chance to have people either spending money or helping to generate ad revenue from countries where the music industry has never generated a bean,” Downton later added.
Ben Drury, CEO and founder of U.K.-based digital download store 7digital, also divulged some interesting data regarding streaming to download conversions. Although Drury was unable to reveal figures he said that a “significant amount” of Spotify subscribers that paid for the streaming service also regularly downloaded music (7digital is one of Spotify’s download partners) from the platform.
“We totally believe that subscription and ownership can co-exist and what we’re trying to do is make sure that when somebody purchases something that they should have access to it on all of their devices,” Drury stated, in the panel, which was moderated by Ted Cohen, managing partner TAG Strategic.
As previously reported, Roc Nation president Jay Brown was forced to cancel his planned keynote address alongside Epic Records U.K. managing director Nick Raphael, due to family reasons.
In The City continues today (Oct.14) with talks from REM’s longstanding attorney and manager Bertis Downs and former chairman of Warner Music U.K. Rob Dickins.