China's Emerging Music Market
Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 15
With 1.4 billion potential customers, China is in the music industry's sights. Thursday's panel addressed the pros and cons of product distribution and live performance there, starting with astronomically high levels of piracy and little in the way of intellectual-property rights. Kaiser Kuo from Chinese metal pioneers Tang Dynasty recalled seeing bootlegs of his band's album's eight days after it was released. "Pirates have better distribution than legal distributors," lamented Beijing-based Tag Team Records owner Matthew Kagler. Setting up an online distribution system is equally challenging because most Chinese transactions are still cash-based. Kuo suspects the revenue stream from mobile-phone downloads may help remedy that in coming years. Performancewise, the panel indicated it was difficult for non-Stones caliber Western bands to make money in China without relying on sponsorships. Logistical considerations like moving a quintet and their gear across Shanghai in a taxi abound, but as YGTwo Productions' Jon Campbell put it, "The biggest draw of playing China is the story that you played China."