New online music platforms and changes in China’s online music market are helping independent musicians gain exposure to wider audiences.
Qu Wanting, a 30-year-old Chinese musician whose last album went triple platinum in China and Hong Kong, told Christina Larson of BusinessWeek that she initially struggled making a name for herself in the mainland because her musical style didn’t reflect the Chinese industry standard of a pop star singing pre-written, formulaic songs. The jumpstart of her career came when she uploaded music on to the online streaming site Xiami.com, which started up in 2007 and was bought by Alibaba last year.
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China’s traditional music industry is controlled by a handful of labels that are not only responsible for censorship—practically speaking, that means denying ISBN numbers to songs or albums deemed vulgar or politically inappropriate—but also tend to favor acts similar to ones that have been successful in the past. Although it’s been hard for musicians with novel voices or viewpoints to break into the industry, new online music platforms have now widened the possibilities for musicians like Qu to find fans—and for listeners to be exposed to a much broader spectrum of songs.
“Indie and punk have been developing very quickly, but it’s still relatively new in China,” says Nevin Domer, who books acts with the upstart record label Maybe Mars, founded by the Beijing-based economist and polymath Michael Pettis.
Brand-sponsored indie music events like the Guinness-hosted Wood + Wires Music Festival in Shanghai last year have also helped musicians reach out to new ears.
Xiami’s chief executive officer Wan Hao said during a panel in Beijing on Friday that China’s online music market will likely undergo changes in the next year concerning copyright issues.
“Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba are signing a lot of exclusive copyright deals; they’re investing heavily, contrary to what we’ve seen in the past. These huge conglomerates can invest in acquiring copyrights and then enforce them.”
[Image Credit: marfis75]