Electronic music has grown to be one of the most dynamic and influential genres, with an increasing number of singles hit the world, including the remix with John Legend, Hayley Williams and Sia. At present, four most influential electronic music markets are Ibiza (Spain), Los Angeles (the U.S.), Singapore and Shanghai (China).
According to the statistics by electronic music industry, the North America market was worth $1.9 billion, accounting for 30% of the global business ($6.2 billion). Revenues mainly come from events, offline and online sales, streaming media and DJ platforms, with the 12 biggest electronic music events in America in 2014 contributing to $505 million.
“In Asia, electronic music market has a value of $1 billion. With the number of Chinese white-collars growing at 15% to 20%, the market is booming. ” Eric Zho who is CEO of AtoAto Integrated Media/A2LiVE told CMBN and focuses on domestic electronic musicians’ entering the global market. Electronic music has become one of the mainstream music genres in the western, and China will be the next important market. This is also the reason why he chose to transfer and entered the electronic music market in 2010.
Establish A2LiVE, focus on electronic music shows
Zho was born and raised in the U.S, and he first had attachment with electronic music when he was 18. At that time, a group of young people would find a quite place and set sound equipment. Then they sent the code to their friends and attracted lots of people to join the party. This private way of having a party was quickly accepted by young people.
When Zho graduated from Brown University, he joined the headquarters of MTV. Starting from the bottom position, he was a writer, director, camera man, and program editor, which enriched his experience in entertainment industry.
In 2003, Zho came back to China with Xu Zhiwei, who was President of Universal Music Group in Asia-Pacific region. UMG founded a joint venture company called SUM Entertainment Limited with Shanghai Media Entertainment Group. Later, Zho and Xu (the father of talent show) produced the first talent show in China named My Show.
As Zho recalled the time when electronic music broke out in U.S.A, he believed that free media helped a lot. He said, “In 1990s, many labels didn’t allow users to download music for free, but electronic music was free, which helped fans to accept its culture.”
For no big record labels were willing to manage this kind of music, musicians and producers put electronic music on the Internet, and media platform helped to spread and forward it. Then more and more pop stars cooperated with electronic musicians. They were no longer at the back, but welcomed by fans as artists. In the U.S, electronic music has become a mainstream.
With western electronic music spreading in the world, many Chinese second- and third-tier cities have night clubs except Beijing and Shanghai. More and more young people know electronic music from night clubs. With electronic music culture spreading underground, more young people go to the events for electronic music rather than for getting “high”.
In 2003, Zho started TV production, which he was familiar with, and acquired a western concert company. When large companies crowded for western artists performing in China, his company transferred to an entertainment company that focused on electronic music.
Zho said, “China has a population of 200 million aged at 15 to 25, which equals to the population of America. If you can provide electronic music to those young people, China will become the largest market of electronic music with such a large fan-base.”
A2LiVE is a department of AtoAto Integrated Media, being responsible for music events. It is also the backbone of Chinese electronic music industry. A2LiVE brings many international DJs such as Axwell Ingrosso, Dash Berlin and Avicii to fans. With more than 100 bookings per year, and as the fastest growing brand, A2LiVE leads the development of Chinese electronic music market.
In 2013, Zho brought Strom Electronic Music Festivalto Shanghai for the first time, attracting more than 24,000 fans. In 2014, there were 35,000 fans in the two-day festival and set a new record, with Budweiser, Coca-Cola and General Motors as sponsors. In 2015, the festival invites world-class DJs such as Skrillex, DVBBS, AFROJACK, Above & Beyond, A-Trak, Kaskade, and Fedde Le Grand in both Shanghai and Shenzhen.
“Only be Chinese gets popular”
Electronic music comes from the western world. And many fans love western electronic music, not regarding Chinese electronic music as the fashion. In mainland China, even compared with folk music, it has a smaller market.
If you want electronic music to be the mainstream, the most important thing is propagation. Zho said, “The carriers of electronic music culture are platforms such as FaceBook and YouTube. But in China, we still lack opportunities.”
No matter on digital music platforms such as QQ Music, Xiami Music, and Netease icloud Music, or video platforms such as Youku or Tencent Video, many electronic music or videos are unavailable. In Zho’s perspective, if electronic music needs to be accepted by more people, we should solve this problem first. He hoped to choose some more suitable platforms to spread electronic music culture widely.
Beyond propagation, electronic music should be Chinese. “We must make Chinese electronic music and create a local electronic music market. No matter what the global DJs are doing, we should have our own contents.”
For example, in one of Zho’s electronic music festivals, there were 30 foreign DJs out of 35, costing 15 million Yuan. The fee for world-class DJ was $400,000 to $600,000 for 90 minutes.
Forbes revealed ten richest DJs in U.S.A in 2015. According to the statistics, Calvin Harris was the top one with $66 million. David Guetta earned $37 million, Tiest earned $36 million, and Afrojack earned $16 million ranking the tenth. In China, DJs only earn 3,000 to 5,000 Yuan per show.
“The music market in China is still developing. Only the first class DJs will drive small DJs and musicians to rethink about electronic music. And then the industry can develop.”
A2LiVE’s strategy is electronic music localization, exploring how to push electronic music into the mainstream in China. For example, enter the lists and TV screen. In 2014,Strom Electronic Music Festivalinvited DJ Avicii to cooperate with Wang Lee Hom to sing Lose Myself, which was the first Chinese EDM. This year,Zhang Liangying and DJ Godfather Tiësto will work together for the song Change Your World.
Zho said, “AfterLose Myself, many DJs, management companies, brokers, agents, records and organizers reported me. Also, this year’s cooperation with Zhang is one of our strategies. The advantage of electronic music is that there is no language limitation. Now, I can sing in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese.”
Why there should be mainstream Chinese musicians to hit music charts? Won’t they be criticized by fans? Zho explained that he wanted to influence the industry slowly in this way. A2LiVE should be the leader through popular DJs and Chinese supper stars to make mainstream electronic music in the market. “At the end of the year, we’ll have a New Year party in Shanghai, investing 6 to 7 million Yuan.” Zho revealed. This year,Strom will be held in Shenzhen for the first time, and there will be 30 to 40 more club parties in China.
Zho also signed two potential DJs: one is an Italian hybrid, contacting with European and American music culture from an early age. The other is a Chinese, from Anhui Province. Zho was not contented with Chinese DJs, hoping to discover more talented musicians and helping them to explore commercial values in the international market.
At present, the shareholders of A2LiVE are Touchmedia and GP individuals of EP founds. A2LiVE hasn’t acquired a financing, but Zho has been considering it.
CMBN: Why choose Chinese electronic music market?
Zho: China has a population of 200 million aged at 15 to 25. I firmly believe that China will be the largest market of electronic music.
Now, the value of global electronic music market is $6 million, but the value of music market is only $3 million, which is just half of that of the electronic music. In Asia, electronic music market is worth $1 million. There are many clubs in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities.
Electronic music is very hot worldwide, which has influenced the American music market and become one of the mainstreams. In China, if you want to listen to western music, you’ll find electronic music. Though some people don’t know it, but elements of electronic music is very popular and becoming the mainstream. Under this circumstance, this music culture will come to China one day.
CMBN: How do foreign producers regard Chinese market?
Zho: I know many people want to enter Chinese market, especially western organizers. However, they cannot see the situation clearly. This is the same when Chinese try to figure out oversea markets, such as how to find DJs, which is the biggest problem.
For example, Live Nation is a listed company, but it will not organize shows in China by itself. Live Nation chooses to sell programs to Chinese organizers and earn money from it. Though the profits are not large but at least it earns. Why? Since if company invests directly, it may lose money. So the company won’t take the risk, it prefers to explore programs and then sale it to organizers.
AEG’s strategy is venue. Besides Beijing MasterCard Center, they have venues in Dalian and Guangzhou. They put all the events in their venues, taking the real estate business mode and do not hold festivals.
CMBN: Who are the rivals of A2LiVE in terms of electronic music?
Zho: I think we have many advantages since we have professional background and invest huge resources on it. Actually, we don’t have a real rival.
On the one hand, DJ “sale” is very common in China. There is a 10% post. Though many people want to enter the business, they lack experience of shows and festivals, and do not know the promotion on approval, electronic music and mass media. On the other hand, even there are people who know electronic music want to enter the market, they may raise 10 million from the rich but may quit soon for the workload is huge.
As for me, the electronic music market in China has not really begun. There were some small festivals. However, personally, they were not good enough because there were problems on managing, producing and artists inviting, mainly due to inexperienced organizers. We made shows, large TV programs and activities before, so it is not difficult for us to make a festival.
Festivals are at least ten times harder than concerts, which cost you more than 3 to 5 months. But it only takes you 4 to 6 weeks to make a concert. In making festival, you only have a lawn and there is even no electricity. It’s very hard and many organizers will quit.
Moreover, your company should hire many employees to make a festival, while three people can make 30 concerts in a year. There are 40 to 50 people in our company now, and each department must finish many tasks. For example, venues have toilets, but you have to build them in festivals.
We invest a lot. A regular festival only cost 8 million Yuan, but we invest nearly 30 million Yuan a year on Storm, which equals to four regular festivals. I was very confused at first because you had to prepare toilet, safety, security, backstage, room and even install circuit. You had to figure out how many times you should clean the toilet, and the number of toilets and audience.
CMBN: You’ve been stressed the importance of propagating electronic music culture. What’s your expectation of this year’s electronic music festival?
Zho: We have to create good music experience, which is how to create electronic music environment and how to bring happy to the audience. Fans in Strom festival will know more about this music genre. They will find that electronic music is not only EDM but House, Techno, Trance as well.
When we came into the electronic music market, we wanted to make it larger. In fact, everyone can be benefited from a larger market. If the upstream has done it well, the downstream will be easier. However, we don’t have foundations. We do upstream because we want a larger market.
CMBN: What’s the reason that you don’t receive a real financing?
Zho: Of course we can have one, if we want. But it will distract us. We are doing festivals and shows now, if we have to work on the Internet, box office, and products, it’s too tiring.
Actually, many people are asking me to acquire financing. We know that we need capital if our company grows to some extent. The festivals may be very huge after ten years. If we have money, our festivals can be held in ten cities in four years. We need help, and we cannot do everything on our own.
(Translator: Ellie; Editor: Chuqian Li )
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