By Beth Main.
Beijing officials have announced plans to spend 10 years and about 14bn yuan building ‘China Music Valley’ in a rural area north of Beijing. As China’s film, music and drama industries lag behind the country’s economic growth, authorities have decided to make culture a top priority with generous subsidies for the arts.
Chinese Rock legend Cui Jian back in the late 80s
“Culture is the lifeblood of a nation,” outgoing General Secretary Hu Jintao said at the start of the country’s once-in-a-decade leadership transition in November.
‘China Music Valley’ will feature recording studios, instrument makers, music schools, five-star hotels and an arena in the shape of a peach.
While Chinese films have made their mark on the world, the music industry still struggles with a lack of writers, composers and producers. The music currently being made is undercut first by state censorship and then by piracy leaving a fledgling industry coughing in Gangnam Style’s dust. The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry has said that China has a piracy rate of “virtually 100%”.
The recent success of the Korean Wave, particularly in music and dramas has thrown China’s lack of such achievements into sharp relief. PSY’s Gangnam Style enjoyed massive success in China along with the rest of the world.
Many people in China can download music freely via platforms such as Baidu Music and Tencent Music, but these two online giants have agreed to begin charging for downloads at the beginning of 2013.
The Western world does show an interest in China’s potentially massive market: Warner, Sony and Universal all have offices in Beijing. Yet for foreign investors in China’s domestic media, Beijing bureaucracy often poses an insurmountable barrier.
Despite its much vaunted promise, not everyone is convinced by the idea of ‘China Music Valley’. The Guardian reports:
Yan Haisong, the lead singer of the veteran Beijing rock band P.K.14, said that no one in his professional circle had much interest in projects such as the China Music Valley.
“Combining music and politics is really strange, because the music you get out of it just won’t be any good,” he said. “If they really want to improve this culture, they need to open up a bit.”