Brief: In recent years, Taiwan music market is on its wane. More and more senior practitioners decide to come to mainland China for their career development, since the market here is broader and more attractive. Some of them are taking specific roles in internet music companies, such as Kugou, LeTV, etc. We’ve talked with four senior practitioners about the reasons why they choose to leave Taiwan, and the difficulties they’ve ever encountered.
In March of this year, the lyrics master, Yao Qian announced to join LeTV as the SVP（Senior Vice-President）; in May, Yi Jiayang, another famous lyricist, joined Taihe Music as the General Manager of the Strategy Department; in July, Taiwan senior record supervisor/agent Ji Shengshan joined Kugou as the Chief Entertainment Officer.
Practitioners of music industry in Taiwan coming to mainland China for their further music career can not be accounted as fresh news at present. Before, many Taiwan practitioners came here to start their own studio or company, or worked for record labels or companies. Most of them know each other quite well before, and some of them were colleagues in Taiwan.
2016 is a specific year for the traditional music industry people, since they start to cooperate with internet to create more value for music. For instance, Yao integrated upstream resources for LeTV; Taihe has two traditional labels—Ocean Butterflies and Taihe Rye, and two internet products—He Yinliang and Baidu Music.
Ji (Sis Shan) was a famous agent in Taiwan traditional music industry for more than twenty years. Many A-lists had cooperated with her, e.g. Stefanie Sun, Li Jian, Guo Caijie, Che Jieyi, etc. Now she’s helping Kugou strengthen communication and service with other record companies and artists, offering promotional platform, and relevant schemes for them to attend appropriate online programs.
Ji’s former colleague in Warner Music, Wu Qingjun, also known as Doctor Nangong, was the exclusive agent of Yi Jiayang, a famous music producer in Taiwan as well. Two years ago, Wu came to YYQ music site (an online label of Xing Wai Xing) working as its CMO. He left there half a year ago. Currently, he’s planning his latest music project.
These people are all devoted themselves in music industry for more than twenty years. They’ve witnessed both the prosperous period and the declining period of Taiwan music industry. However, no one has left this area, since they love music, love this industry for sure. Just as Sis Shan said, “Music for us is true love. We are here not just for money or fame. Or others may thick we’re a bit foolish or crazy, but we have the same faith in music, and we will never give up. Even though we are in different companies now, we still fight for the same thing initially.”
The core competitiveness for music is quality and content, which means the music itself now. Online music has come over a period of copyright piracy, and now it becomes much more systematic and organized. LeTV, Taihe and Kugou hired these people in their company is also for this purpose, since they know content operation very well. These Taiwan senior practitioners have welcomed their second spring of their career in mainland China.
They left for better treatment
“Why come to mainland China, this is the question I’m always thinking about as well,” Sis Shan said. As one of the first group Taiwan agent coming to mainland China, she worked for Warner Music ten years ago, and she was taking two significant roles in Warner at the same time—artists agent and new media business manager.
Sis Shan stated she’s a very lucky person. She always knows how to catch great opportunities by fully devote herself in work. In 2000, when Stefanie Sun became extremely popular at once, as her agent at that time, she received many invitations from mainland China asking more cooperation or performance with Stefanie. But she didn’t know how to make connections, since she knew little about market here.
Sis Shan told our journalist that, “that was a great challenge for me. For one side, I couldn’t do any more promotions for the market here, another side I knew little about market here and I was quite afraid of losing superexcellent opportunities for my artist due to lack of information or judgement ambiguity of myself. ”
After that, she insisted to come to mainland China to know more about the market here. As the general manager of Artist Agent Department in Warner’s Beijing office, she established a grand networking in the mainstream level based on the huge artist resources and brand Warner owned in the ten years in Beijing. However, because of the incomplete copyright system at that time in the mainland market, she stated, “we were so worried at that time. We could only get some benefits from artist agent. However we were not losing hope of the copyright thing, since the market is too big, which needs time to get conformed.”
At the same time, Taiwan music market was suffering a severe shock, and it radiated so fast due to the small market scale. Another problem was the promotion fee was extremely high.
Sis Shan also underlined, the promotion fee for an album before was 15 million TWD produced by a music company. Later on, fewer people would like to do music, and fewer good songs were written out. The market was largely waned. When the company noticed they couldn’t earn 20 million after 15 million’s investment, they started decrease capital. Next, the worse thing was since the input was largely suppressed, they almost could do nothing. The amount of new albums was decreasing and decreasing.
In this case, a big gap occurred from the composing line to the performing line. The songwriters had no passion and inspirations to write new songs, while no fresh singers jumped out. The A-lists had no choice, and they had to keep publishing albums and selling albums to maintain the market. “If Jay Zhou had stopped publishing new albums, the market would become much gloomier. For another instance, the sales volume of Jolin’s albums was usually quite high, also she’d won many prizes, but the market waned too much, even her album had fewer people to buy now,” Sis Shan signed, “to improve sales volume record company published three versions of an album in a period of time.”
In these years, Taiwan music market is facing a bigger gap. Before, they put more effort on promoting than producing, however now they have to pay more attention on producing to win the market. For now the original singers are well liked, also they are favored by Taiwan’s Golden Melody Awards, e.g. Li Ronghao, Qu Wanting, Su Yunying, etc. All of them attended talent TV shows and they jumped out from it.
Doctor Nangong told us, “The shrinking of Taiwan music market can be attributed to two reasons. One is many practitioners started to worry about their future career. The second is there were hardly new chances for the young practitioners. The seniors were seizing market share fiercely.”
The famous lyricist, Yi Jiayang, who has written lyrics for more than thousands of songs, said, “I started to cooperate with the A-lists, like Coco or Zhang Xinzhe since 2000. Their top hits <Faith> and <Moonlight Lover> was written around that time. However, I gradually noticed a very severe thing that the sale volume of entity record declined 30% every year during that time. It was a big shock for every practitioner in music industry. No matter how high the promotion fee was, it would be all in vain.”
Advice from Sis Shan: Taiwanese, please be selfless if you want to go on your career here!
Taiwanese has great and unique taste about designs both in work and daily life. To some extends, Taiwanese is quite fit for entertainment industry, where needs people have creative ideas and logical thoughts. Also, they like to mix up ideas from different areas. It would always bring fresh and unexpectedly excellent outcomes. In addition, their soft personality shows on their work, and make things much tender, also have a unique power to touch people’s hearts. For working attitude, they care the freedom the work can bring than money they would earn and the position they would be promoted.
The biggest difference from Taiwanese and mainland Chinese is the working attitude. In mainland China, working strategy is highly related to the outcome, which means working method is always adjusted by the outcome. Hence, they get used to finish everything in a very high speed and win quick money and get promoted very quickly. I think the environment has great influence both on people’s characteristics building and attitudes towards work or life.
In fact, it’s a bit hard for Taiwanese to integrate themselves with people here. Due to the cultural differences, traditional working methods in Taiwan can’t be easily accepted by people here. Thus, knowing how to communicate with people here and familiar with the working method would help them a lot to go on their music career in mainland China.
The great music market in mainland China
Yao Qian, the lyric master in Taiwan, hasn’t appeared in public view for about ten years. This year, he abruptly showed up and announced he would join LeTV as the SVP, which was breaking news in music circle. Yao told us, “Many people were quite shocked about this, especially artists from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Next, they heard LeTV purchased the whole share of Vizio, the biggest TV trademark in US. I also told them, this brand new cooperation would help them in their future music career.”
In the recent ten years, Yao transformed between Taiwan and mainland China, enjoyed his life a lot. But he’d never taken his eyes out of this circle for both sides. He concerns the development of music industry for both traditional record and digital music.
“Nowadays, if young musicians know how to use the platform to let their music widely heard, considering my advice will help them a lot. Choosing LeTV is also for this purpose. They offer me an opportunity to help with the youngers,” Yao stated.
After Yao left Virgin Record in 2005, he founded his own company to support young musicians. He noticed in mainland China it begins with digital music instead of entity records. Thus, he wants to be a bridge between Taiwan and mainland China to help with the communication of two parts in music area. That’s also why he chose to live in both sides.
Another Taiwan famous lyricist, Yi Jiayang, also announced to join Taihe this year. He said he chose to come here because the music atmosphere here was quite similar with that of Taiwan in a few decades ago.
He recalled, “At the most prosperous time in Taiwan, different music style had its own audience and could be accepted by the market. Many original singers who won fame and respect at that time would help the young people learn guitar or write songs. I was learnt how to write songs at that time. It was a great time when every time I recall, we expressed the true thoughts and ideas freely in a song, also the songwriters got together to communicate with each other. Different thoughts came cross, giving us more inspirations.”
Since the copyright system has been completed and organized in whole range, music industry becomes more and more flourishing day by day. Various musician supporting projects and platforms were launched, and more and more Taiwan senior practitioners in music industry came to mainland China to help with the music development here.
Compared with the market in Taiwan, market in mainland China has more potential. Since a lot of Hong Kong artists came to Taiwan for career development before, resources were unified largely from both sides, which also offered great opportunities for the excellent artists to communicate and learn from each other.
“The market here is also sensitive to the changes, and it can contain more music forms now. That is also the reason we came here,” Yi explained forward.
Wu Qingjun came to mainland China quite early. Before he joined Xing Wai Xing, which is a music company located in Guang Zhou, he stayed in Beijing for four years. Wu told CMBN that, “In music circle, people prefer to communicate with the people they’re familiar with. They get used to make friends or get working opportunities via introducing by people they are familiar with. In recent years, they noticed more and more companies need people like them who have lots of experience in this area to help with the new projects. Hence, they choose to come here continue with what they used like to do.”
From Wu’s point of view, the companies prefer to cooperate with the senior practitioners who are highly matched with the company both in personality and working style. However, most of the seniors are having their own families now. They need to consider about this.
The continually well-developed music market in mainland China would inspire the music market in Taiwan. It will help to form a unified taste of music, have more communication opportunities for the musicians in both sides, and the most significant thing is it will accelerate reciprocity and mutual benefit for both sides.
Yi Jiayang: Conformity needs time. Creative thoughts and ideas need to be refined.
Songwriting is not an easy thing, which is not like that other people think of, just a few chords to make up a song, a few words to make up lyrics, finally arrange them properly. Actually, it really takes time. One simple sentence may take plenty of years to come out, or a melody is generated after a songwriter has listened thousands and thousands of songs. To write a great song needs long time accumulation and experiences.
If a song is written to cater a hot spot, it won’t last long. A song can be widely spread, reasons are various.
Both Hong Kong and Taiwan is facing creative draining. No fresh ideas, songs are almost the same as before, and no one wants to pay for it now. To look for new inspirations, song writers come to mainland China. But they still need time to adapt the environment here and get to know more about the market here.
Lots of opportunities in mainland China are being offered to songwriters. The music atmosphere are quite free, they can express anything they want, which also enormously help the music market grow.
What professionals can do to help with online music platforms?
By detailed investigation, we found out that many people from Taiwan were work in this area for more than twenty years. However, the promising digital music brought them great frustration. Also had destructive influence on the whole music industry.
“I think who now are still insisting to write songs for living are very brave. We should bring them a free environment to compose. In mainland China, it has many music platforms now for them to publish their music pieces, which is good thing,” Yi said.
Sis Shan works as artists’ agent in music industry for more than twenty years too. She and her friends are all true music lovers. They work in this area is not only for money and fame. She proclaimed, “True music lovers would stay, or they were left long time ago. Even Yao Qian has been back now. People like us all have the same expectation on music industry and we all want it better and better. Music is too necessary in our daily life. We can’t do anything without it. ”
No matter Yao Qian, Yi Jiayang, Sis Shan, or other senior Taiwan music practitioners, they are now separated in different music companies, but they still keep the same faith, and fight for the same thing that they all want the music industry is getting better and better.
Nowadays, the whole music market noticed the most valuable thing is not the multifarious branding or promoting, it is music itself! Sis Shan said, “I did branding and advocating for many years. Gradually, I noticed branding is just a super-facial method, the quality and the music itself is the most important thing. In this area, people like us, who have devoted ourselves for more than twenty years, have accumulated great resources and experience, would like to devote more for this internet age.”
Yao has observed the development of music industry for years. He noticed many songs on internet haven’t been listened even once, and he said this is the disadvantage that digitalization brought to music industry. Also, it becomes the biggest problem that the internet should be solved at the first place. He kept explaining, “It is always said the copyright of songs should be paid to the owners, or the benefits are largely lower than the entity records age, for my point of view. Hence, musicians and music sites should have more communications with each other to reach an agreement, or try some new ways to solve this problem. ”
The three practitioners we mentioned above are all in online music companies now. Yi said, “if we won’t work here, I would go on writing songs as before or establish my own studio. But I hope I can help the youngers to adapt this area and make their songs heard and widely spread, which is also a positive cycle for music industry.”
Yi also expressed that Taihe offered him a position to show what he’s acquainted in the twenty years, and help the young composers who’s really got potential and talent to write more inspiring or excellent songs.
Wu Qingjun has the same feeling and said, before record companies played the significant role to accelerate industry development, it became the online medium now in this internet age. It showed marvelous force thousand times than the traditional record companies brought. However, little musicians or composers came out to offer more great songs for this enormous market, nor enough professional agents or teams.
“If internet and traditional record companies can abide with each other properly, it can bring extraordinary effects. The excellent singers or songwriters are offered by the record companies, and promoted by the online methods, the outcome would be splendid,” Wu stated.
Wu Qingjun: Market operation and music composing has little relationships.
In recent years, the changes happened in music market is relied on the investigations, which has hardly relationships with music itself. Take “Voice of China” as an example, it attracted many concerns, which seems brought great benefits to the music industry, however it is not like that.
Rationally, there are no more new A-lists. Excellent young songwriters, like Su Yunying, are quite few. Even an excellent one jumped out from a TV program, the longevity depends on its successive creativity and strategy of the agent team.
In mainland China, large amount of capitals are not spent on music. If this amount of money is used in Taiwan to do music, I believe they would use all the money on the content of the music. Duan Zhongtan, CEO of the Rolling Stone Record, is sticking on the quality and content of music till now, since he knows this is the most important in this area.
Spending loads of money on nonsense, no good agents, even you have the greatest singer in the world, you don’t know how to promote, which is nonsense.
When Jay Zhou just started his music career, his agent team was not the most powerful one, they know his music very well and they planned suitable developing strategy for him, he became famous very quickly. If at that time, they did any step wrong, Jay might be destroyed and we won’t see him now.
Hence, the power of a team is a key factor for a singer’s career.
Any other things can be generated by INTERNET+MUSIC?
Even Yao Qian and Sis Shan came to mainland China much earlier, what their working environment brought them was still out of their mind after they joined LeTV and Kugou respectively.
After Yao joined LeTV, he got familiar with a group of young music lovers. He liked to talk with them, and by knowing them more and more they noticed how they love music is out of his mind. He thought, LeTV is not a common digital music platform, the living music show is also featuring with high-quality music performance. This is also the reason why Yao chose to join LeTV.
This June, Yao and a team from LeTV took a living show of the Taiwan Golden Music Award. This award is not that popular as it was, but the live show has still attracted many concerns. From his point of view, this new way of listening music has quite high acceptance by the audience.
However, another problem has been raised by Yao. He found the live show attracted many people to watch, but people to watch the replays were quite few. The brand of a TV show is established by the amount of replaying. By replaying, people can taste the details when ignored at the beginning, which is also the most convenient feature of music.
“We’re thinking how to value the live shows of our platform, since there are various live show platforms on the internet now. How to help a musician let his song be heard widely, is my new subject now,” Yao said.
Sis Shan came to mainland China since 2004, she’s quite familiar with the music market here. Before she joined Kugou, she knew little about it. When Kugou’s CEO, Xie Zhenyu asked her to join Kugou, she’s quite shocked, “I didn’t know why they came to me. I worked for traditional record companies for years. Know little about internet. If I come, what can I do?” After she joined Kugou, she just started to know online music and this platform.
From her point of view, Kugou focuses on user experience and it has clear aim for sustainability. Sis Shan had fresh understanding about internet, “in this internet age, speed is the key. Keep adapting according to the outcome and keep improving, is the vital feature of internet. In this age, you should do everything very quickly; while, for the traditional industries, it would take a very long time to plan, to prepare, then do.”
“I hope I can find a balancing point to catch accurately and reach my purpose. Hence, there should be an appropriate way for internet and traditional companies to combine with each other,” Sis Shan proclaimed.
Thanks to the abundant experience in music industry, Sis Shan knows how hard a musician’s life would be, and she’d like to help them use the internet to spread their music pieces, and get lots of people to know them.
Two years ago, Wu Qingjun was attributing to cultivate young musicians by his own way in YYQ. He did many fundamental works, but the outcome was not like what he expected. He left YYQ half a year ago. At present, he has accumulated experience about internet music. From his point of view, music is better to combine with other artificial forms, such as movie or advertisements, to win more opportunities and market.
Compared with Yao, Wu or Sis Shan, seems Yi Jiayang’s work has no big change when he decided to join Taihe Group. From his point of view, Taihe is a comprehensive company, both a record company and an online music platform. Of course, creating value is always the important thing to do when you get to a new place.
Yi also said, “No matter what platform are you in, Baidu, Tencent or Ali, there are quite a lot of people chasing dreams. To build a better, more convenient and more delicate music environment of users to use, that is their faith and the brand can be regarded as a successful one.”
Yao Qian: great music will never fade away!
CMBN: Are you still transforming from both sides Taiwan and mainland China? What do you actually do in Taiwan?
Yao: When I’m in Taiwan, I would often offer some creative ideas in music. A new concept of album is listed up, which means music would be expressed in multi-element. I will introduce some excellent musicians from Taiwan to LeTV, and it will show more visual understanding in music later on.
CMBN: LeTV is based on internet, any problems you’ve encountered so far?
Yao: Certainly. But problems can be solved by more communications. Before I invited agents of Eason Chen, Eva, Harlem Yu to come over and get to know what LeTV does. Just few days ago, David Tao also came over to talk about the future plan of LeTV with me. I’ve talked with many people, including young musicians here, other artists and record companies, about the services can be offered by LeTV. We’d like to serve and cooperate the excellent musicians that we are really desired. The platform value would be raised then.
As one of the traditional music industry practitioners, talking with people with IT background or people in different age, is the most valuable thing for me. Also, LeTV allows me to focus on this.
Stepping in a fresh new area, communication is the best way to get to know each other quickly.
CBMN: What do you think of internet platforms now? How would you combine your experience in traditional music industry with this new promising platform?
Yao: Most of the music sites are opened to everyone, but the music pieces been selected and shown out are quite few. Some of them are supreme, but some have used some promoting methods, e.g. online celebrities. However, would these kinds of music touch people’s hearts? Are they meaningful and can spread through years?
Internet makes things more equally to some extends, but over-packing has mixed the true quality of music itself. To build a system to select good music from a lot of works is a wiser way for the online music platforms.
Hence, we’re not merely aiming at recommending singles for the users, or increase the amount of playing of a single. We’d like to make music more visual, help them to have deeper understanding of music.
What I’m doing now is not transforming my experience in traditional music industry to digital platforms, because it has been verified that the traditional age has passed by. Even though the old method is out of age, good music will never fade away. The only difference for now is the method of listening and sharing music.
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