In Zhuhai, southern China, an 800-year-old town has experimented the model of “ancient village + music festival” for up to six years.
Shawan, a characteristic town of Zhuhai, retained plenty of ancient architectures and vernacular dwellings of Ming and Qing Dynasties in Beishan, the core area. During the National Day Holiday of 2010, a music festival brand – Beishan Jazz Festival appeared and staged a small-scale performance, inviting ten worldwide top bands in Beishan Theatre. In April 2011, the first Beishan World Music Festival started, after that the two music festivals have been held annually.
XUE Wen, the founder of these two music festivals, whose father Mr. XUE Yihan is a well-known military print artist insisting on sketching for decades and keeping favors on the protection and exploration of ancient architecture. At the end of 2008, Mr. Xue Yihan entrusted his dying wishes of ancient architecture protection to two sons -XUE Wen and XUE Jun.
At first， the two brothers tried to do local art and photography exhibitions. Unfortunately, that got no good results. Then they found the model which interacts music festival with the ancient village, ancient architecture, arts, culture, food and the civic spiritual and cultural life, to make a “static” small hamlet “stir”. So far, Beishan has held in total 11 Jazz Festivals and World Music Festivals. This brand has even been listed as a base of Zhuhai cultural and creative industry.
During the period of implementing Economics-First policy, the vast majority of towns with precipitation of national culture have been submerged in a wave of urbanization. However, in the wake of more attention on culture by government, more and more towns without industrialized baptism embarked their exploration to upgrade.
Zhouwo in Hebei Province also works busy on the construction of music town. Different from Beishan, Zhouwo focuses on musical instruments.
With typical northern characteristics, Zhouwo has well-arranged vernacular dwellings and Jinyin Music Group nearby for western wind music instruments production. Over recent years, the town has presented a number of activities, such as music festivals, guitar festivals and rural art festivals. In 2012, the county of Wuqiang started the construction plan of Zhouwo, as a music town. It has invited the Architecture School of China Central Academy of Fine Arts and the Beijing 798 Art Center for its remaking plan and tourism reception plan. They also asked Architecture School of Tianjin University to prepare for “the Overall Regional Planning of Zhouwo Music Town “.
A culture company, responsible for the packaging reconstruction and operation of Zhouwo, said that the whole process has fully respected historic value of this old dwellings and inserted only musical elements without serious demolition or changes.
Similarly does Chengdu on constantly promoting music city-related construction. Known as the birthplace of Taoism, Heming in Chengdu is on the way to become a characteristic town. Public information shows Heming’s current businesses are mostly music related bars, workshops, cafes, and teaism, health SPAs, conference centers, the Thai pavilions, western restaurants, wine bars, film Squares and so on.
On December 10, 2016, the performance of XIE Chunhua, JIANG Liang Sound System and Trip Fuel unveiled Wangdaying Music Town in Sanshigang County, Hefei. 80% of first session has been finished and it is expected to be fully completed in October 2017. As the same, the project forces on the old village renovation and covers about 70 acres and total construction acreage of about 13,000 square meters after reconstruction.
Aiming to become a domestic first-class music town with the belief of “Retain the Courtyard, Show the local accent, Express the Charm”, it has current businesses over the public entrepreneurship space, music bars, restaurants, hostels, cafes, artist courtyards and so on.
In the tide of characteristics towns, differentiation is the core
Characteristic towns originated from Zhejiang Province. The China central government is highly promoting the construction of characteristic towns in order to boost real economy. In several places like Zhejiang, the real economy is really transforming to be small but beautiful through the characteristic town clusters.
During 2014 to 2015, the construction of characteristic towns in Zhejiang Province became an essential development strategy to accelerate the innovation. After the president XI Jinping’s visit in Zhejiang in May 2015, LIU He from the Central Leading Group on Financial and Economic Affairs also went to Zhejiang for the research about characteristic towns in that September. On the Central Economic Working Conference at the end of that year, President Xi spoke positively upon the work on characteristic towns, which left a great basis of the national policies in 2016.
We can use these data to help understand: The 2015 GDP of Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province was 1005.3 billion yuan, which made it as the 10th domestic trillion-city. Among the development engines of Hangzhou, dream towns, funding towns, Cloud towns, cross-trade towns and other characteristic towns have played an important role as the platform for innovation and entrepreneurship. According to statistics, in 2015 the number of enterprises settled down in Zhejiang’s first 37 characteristic towns was 3207.
Let’s take Could Town in Zhejiang as an example. This town has Dr. WANG Jian, the CTO of Alibaba and the founder of Ali Cloud, as the honorary mayor, and IT economy represented by cloud computing as the core. After one year’ construction, in 2015 its cloud related output value reached nearly 3 billion yuan. It realized total fiscal revenue of 210 million yuan, and introduced 328 enterprises cumulatively, 255 of which are cloud-related ones. This is the impact of the leading company.
Keyan Kuwan Town is featured by sport tourism and it expected to become the integration of high-end entertainment, landscape recreation and public sports within 3 years. In addition to public facilities, there are 11 projects related to sports and tourism with a total investment of 11 billion yuan. Among them the 8-billion-yuan “Oriental Landscape” complexity and the 1.2-billion-yuan Zhejiang International Circuit of are the two key projects.
“Construction of small towns could help improve the ‘short slab’ in rural development to build a well-off society in an all-round way. In many central and western regions, urban development is not able to take more consideration about the surrounding rural areas. However, the infrastructure construction and public services of small towns can be extended to the rural.” Said WANG Xudong, the Deputy Director of Rural Development Department of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of PRC (MOHURD).
In July 2016, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, the National Development and Reform Commission and the Ministry of Finance together issued “the Notice on the cultivation work for development of characteristic towns “, and in August the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development issued “the Notice on recommendation work for the characteristic towns in 2016”. On October 14, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development released “the Announcement of the list of the first batch of characteristic towns” to confirm 127 towns as the first characteristic towns in China.
Additionally “the Notice of Agricultural Development Bank of China to promote policy-oriented financial support for the construction of small towns” was also published at the same time.
Besides, characteristics towns have been written on “Planning for the development of the tourism industry in 13th Five-Year” issued by the State Council. Accordingly under the development framework of tourism + urbanization and vigorously development of the rural tourism, the construction of characteristic towns such as touristic towns and landscape towns will speed up rapidly.
At the recent provincial NPC & CPPCC, many representatives also gave their opinions on how to build characteristic towns. For example, the NPC members of the historical Shaanxi Province believed the construction of characteristic towns should be “differentiated” and the definition should be clarified at the very beginning. A characteristic town is an integrated and innovate entrepreneurship platform for industry, culture, tourism and community function. A “small” town is able to absorb tourists by its outstanding features and inspire the local economic development.
The so-called characteristic towns emphasize on the “characteristics”, which require particular core industries.
Aside of some towns with the core on emerging industries such as private equity, Internet finance, creative design, big data and cloud computing, health services, or other intellectual-intensive industries, there are also the ones focusing on local features, such as the local culture. Among the movie towns, sport towns, drama towns, music towns and all other concepts we have seen, it is the cultural content that makes differences.
Qidu in Wujiang is not yet a characteristic town but concentrating on cultural tourism development, including music. In 2016, Qidu accelerated its efforts of music and cultural tourism with successful activities such as the Snail COSPLAY Digital Music Festival, Camp MIDI Taihu, the VAG Family Lifestyle, Monkey Jump and Midi & Eslite Waterfront Concert. Though Qidu penetrates its cultural brand also by sinology heritage, towns with music alone as the heart exist as well.
In addition to provincial governments’ positive policy responses, enterprises work on well too, such as Sunac China and LeTV. Recently SUN Hongbin, the Chairman of Sunac China said on a CICC investor conference that they have already launched the cooperation about characteristic towns with LeTV.
There also is a movie town by Huayi Brothers. In May 2012, FENG Xiaogang, WANG Zhongjun, and the Chairman of Mission Hills Group, ZHU Dingjian, together started a joint venture in Beijing for commercial film tourism and contracted projects of 20 movie towns by the end of 2016.
From 2017, Huayi will invest 10 billion yuan to build a movie world and 3 movie towns, and to maintain the construction of 3-4 small towns every year, which expectedly can introduce tens of millions of tourist traffic annually. As the same, in November 2016, Huace Media set up a joint venture with Joyu Culture to explore the content development, investment and integration in the vertical tourism industry and provide consumers with more abundant tourism video products.
Successful investment cases have occurred since long before. IDG left Wuzhen with an 800% return, which was highly spread by the media. Wuzhen has its strengths on the natural environment, geographical location and localized management, but culture can definitely influence much further. In 2013, Wuzhen began to build its own grand theater, and the Wuzhen Theater Festival and the World Internet Conference have drawn in more interests.
Thus, the music-focused towns will never bring worse return than Wuzhen as long as the operation goes on effectively.
Along with the wave, how to make music towns soaring?
The construction of characteristic towns contains many thoughts on commercial real estate and cultural tourism area. The biggest concern is not to create the “real estate towns”.
CHEN Yanbing, the vice chairman of the China Urban-townization Promotion Council, said in a speech, “the real economy oriented characteristic town clusters should step further to utilize the market and refine the industry choices.
LIU Shilin, the principal of the Urban Science Research Institute of Shanghai Jiaotong University, criticized as well that currently most characteristic towns are similar to the previous parks and tourist attractions, which are mainly aiming at developing real estates. “According to our study of new cities and new districts, the ability of small towns to absorb the population seems more limited. Unrealistic exploitation will transfer the housing problems in large & medium cities to small towns.”
What is the foundation to build a music town? First of all, music is a basic entertainment consumption need of human beings that nobody can survive without it. In line with consumption upgrading, the cultural demand has gradually increased and outdoor music festivals have expended into more places to cultivate the market in recent years. Moreover, the activities of the young people on the music social platforms reflect their music demands, i.e., the market has already been ready.
Secondly, demand market will naturally promote the production of the supplier. In 2016 the platforms to stimulate high-quality content are increasing. Coupled with the investment, high-quality content will welcome a booming, which will improve every aspect of the music industry. After the blow of piracy, streaming media and others, the climbing music industry is absolutely able to be the prime dynamic of the development of music towns.
How to create a music town? What people usually think of at the first is “Music Festival + Travel.” For a characteristic town, after the cultural industry forms ecology, the tourism industry will bring more traffic and economic benefits, which will successfully confirm that concept. For example, the 2014 Primavera Music Festival in Barcelona introduced 94 million euros to the local economy.
Apart from the activities, influential musicians and musical works can also take a long-lasting direct economic impact to the city or town. Liverpool, as the birthplace of the Beatles, draws many people to come every year to their Cave Club; the fans of the indie-musician LI Zhi would visit the his performing venues; CHEN Qizhen’s “the Coffee Shop of Jiufen” also carries artistic youth to travel and enjoy by themselves in Jiufen, Taiwan.
In fact, compared to movie and sport IPs, music with the capacity of frequent listening might have more subtle and sustainable influences on ordinary people. And this is probably the reason that only a few among the numerous existing music cities can be called as the capital or paradise of movie.
Previously CMBN had translated the Music City Practice Guide, which has mentioned the eight crucial elements that a music city needs: artists and musicians, a thriving music performance market, open music spaces or venues, audience tolerance and high participation, support from record companies and other music-related businesses, government support for the music industry, more related urban infrastructure and music education.
To activate all the above factors requires time and space to promote infrastructure construction, especially in the cultivation stage of SMEs which may be not able to embrace a success shortly. Good channels and environments should be established for financing and investment, such as the framework construction with the core of music, the supported city and tourism investment, and the synergism of various investment platforms.
The construction of small towns depends on the government support and this will help broaden the horizons of the town managers to provide more policies and services in accordance with market rules when cultivating the market.
For the old towns with a long history, the natives might be not economically rich, but they are the successors and advocates of the splendid legacy.
Sometimes, people from the cities come with their idealism but finally give up after all kinds of problems. There may be enormous contents and possibilities during the upgrading process of small towns, and the music town is one of them with all the polymerization.
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