Chen Hongyu was an enterpriser and also an employee. Coincidentally, he worked for CMBN for several months. When we first met him. He only had several thousand followers on Weibo. However, his fans has grown to 39,000 since the second half of 2015. Girl fans are calling him “Uncle Chen” or “darling” on his Weibo posts. (Li Zhi has more than 300,000 fans on Weibo, Ma Di 780,000, Song Dongye 760,000, Qin Hao and Zhang Xiaohou from Haomeimei 580,000 and 270,000 respectively.)
As an indie musician, he got popular quicker than he had expected. In February 2016, Chen Hongyu’s social community brand “Zhongyueji” acquired two million yuan in Angel investment from 13-Month.
Why sudden popularity?
In December 2015, Lu Zhongqiang, founder of 13-Month met Chen Hongyu on one of CMBN’s events. Lu thought Chen was very clever and he knew how to caught attention in certain situations.
“In fact, I think folk music lacks something, like package and promotion. Therefore, I listened to his songs when I had returned home. He had sent me message on Wechat to recommend his works before, but I didn’t listen.”
When Lu listened Chen’s music that night, he searched relative information online. He found “Chen really have fans”. At the end of last year, Chen performed in a Livehouse called DDC with his friends. Lu also went to the show.
The tickets were a bit expensive (150yuan/each), but all sold out. The organizer told Lu, “If there’s no limits, it’s no problem for us to sell four or five hundred tickets.”
Now, Chen is on the tour with his friend Ma Yuyang. Before the touring, his pre-sale box office has reached 500,000 yuan. Even some remote Livehouses can sell more than 400 tickets. A Livehouse owner even shocked when he saw Chen, an unknown musician, sold so many tickets.
Though there is still a long way for Chen to walk towards mainstream, and less than 40,000 fans is not a big thing, he already has certain influences on several music platforms and some circles. On Douban,The Tree in the Early Springhas more than 100,000 hits. AndLixiang Sanxunbroke two million hits on QQ Music by the end of last December. Also, the number of comments of all the eight songs in Chen’s debut album –Poet Radio in Dark Smoke– surpassed 999. It’s quite rare that the whole album was so popular.
Chen’s fans are willing to pay for him. According to the statistics on Musikid, Chen’s first album raised 280,000 yuan in the crowdfunding program, which was 1000% of the initial target. The number of supports was 3226, and the average spending per person was 86.1 yuan, including 3 people and 4 people paying 2777 yuan and 1777 respectively.
Chen started to plan his first albumPoet Radio in Dark Smokesince July 7th2015, and attracted faithful fans within several months. Judging from the perspective of the indie music circle in the past, Chen is absolutely lucky. Papi became popular over the night, and mobile internet service offers a lot of benefits to young musicians.
Lu Zhongqiang also said that he found “harmony” on Chen, which was both the ability of music creation and business mind for music communication on one musician. “He has a very mature idea. He knows what to do and how to operate. And he told me that he had a team at the very beginning, which delighted me.”
In terms of music contents, Lu said, “I’m very fond of Chen’s singing. It’s not like the feeling that someone at his age could sing. I think his singing pattern is a bit like folk chanting. In this way, he is excellent and he has good recognitions towards songs.
Though he and his partner Pengpeng designed the performance, there’s still distance between professional singers. However, their designs on prelude, interlude, and the entire fretboard are commendable.”
Li Zhi issued 8 original albums from 2005 to 2014, which makes him a respected “pioneer”. ButLi was like an underdog in the early period. Due to the lack of money, Li sold the copyrights of his first three albums to Pocket Music. It is said “He only sold ten year’s copyrights for several thousand yuan”.
However, Mayouye and Haomeimei, which were mocked by Li, also spent four to five years’ time and continued efforts on creation in order to become popular in the folk year of 2015.
However, Chen was worrying about his life and future in January 2015 when Zhongyueji album crowdfunding initiated and the names of songs were not decided. But in January 2016, Chen sold his touring for more than 500,000 yuan in pre-sale box office.
Zhongyueji: No idols, but co-creation and social group
Chen was born in 1989. He joined a band and played music in his high school, and also wrote lots of songs which were not published. He has rich job experience, including working for food industry and sending takeout, and planning for radio stations.
Like those who come to Beijing for a better life, Chen arrived in Beijing after graduated from Inner Mongolia University in media major. He hoped for a better future, but also felt confused.
In January 2015, Chen established Zhongyueji based on his interest. Chen revealed that he had started Zhongyueji before he became a musician. So, what was Zhongyueji about to do?
There are two roads for Zhongyuji; one is musician and the other is social community. The social community is a bit like logical thinking mode. Using Chen and Ma’s touring as an opportunity, Zhongyueji established 27 regional QQ groups and 2 national QQ groups. Before the touring, there were around 4,000 people in those 29 groups.
At present, they actively share their love towards music in QQ groups.
However, Zhongyueji is not like logical thinking mode, because from Chen’s expectation towards the future, he hopes to have members creating their own stuffs rather than acquiring something.
For example, the collection of Zhongyueji held an event to collect comments after listening, or recruited people for a stage show. It attracts members to join many interesting activities in this way, and promotes and expands its influence through the shares from its members after the events.
Though the present activities are all based on Zhongyueji’s programs, it’s not the final expectation of Chen.
“I hope to achieve such effects that when someone enters the community, he might not like our songs, but he has the ability. For example, he can write reports or take good pictures. He might form a team in the community to plan shows in second or third tire cities, or invite other people to perform in local places, or create a local collection.”
From Chen’s perspective, Zhongyueji is more like a platform that gathers people rather than a social community brand. It provides everyone in the community with possible resources to finish works (programs), and their works can be promoted and sold through this platform,
Compared to other platforms, Zhongyueji obviously has social advantages. Focused on social activities, it makes the relationships among people closer. As for user experience, platform before social networking differs from platform after social networking.
Though musician is not the core of Zhongyueji, it is the power that pushes it forward. Now, Zhongyueji has three musicians. They are Chen Hongyu, Ma Yuyang and Feng Jiajie. Before the community reaches to an ideal condition, musicians are the symbols to attract people.
For example, most users in those QQ groups like these three musicians. Therefore, only projects that focus on these three musicians can inspire people in the community.
The relationship between musician and Zhongyueji is not the signing mode in traditional labels. According to Chen, Zhongyueji will consider in-depth cooperation with musicians who have the same interests. Therefore, the number of musicians on Zhongyueji grows very slowly.
Also, Chen hopes to reduce the influence of idols on Zhongyueji, and emphasizes the power of the mass. Musician is a method to attract users and expand influence of the community in the early period. At the same time, they will provide musicians income through various activities on the platform.
Therefore, the combined characteristics of special community and musicians make Zhongyueji different from other fans communities.
First of all, it is not a fan club that centers around musicians on Zhonyueji, but a communicative group that inspires its members; secondly, if the community achieve the ideal state of Chen Hongyu, it will become the income source for Zhongyueji and release the pressures on musicians.
Business in the future: the mass is cool
Chen is willing to talk about business. He thinks that it’s natural for musicians to promote and spread their music after creation, as long as they are not commercial during music producing proces. Chen believes that if you do it good, you will never lack money when you have a business mind.
At present, Zhongyueji does not bring any revenue and its main income resource is “musician-related” production.
For example, Zhongyueji and musicians will get certain part of revenue from albums sold in the community or touring. Chen told us that Zhongyueji will receive 30% of the income on album sale and touring. There is no standard for musicians’ division. Now it differs with each project.
However, in terms of the revenue division for in-depth cooperated musicians, Chen laughed and told us that there is no dividend so he hasn’t considered it yet.
If Zhongyueji community starts to produce its own contents in the future, and when these products successfully being promoted and sold through its channels, they will bring profits to Zhongyueji.
“Works from these small groups will bring Zhongyueji new blood and a virtuous cycle. But if they can finish a project on their own, then the revenue belong to them. I hope that every community could be a small Zhongyueji and the mass must be cool at that time.”
Though Zhongyueji is able to bring profits, Chen does not want it to be a money-making machine. He thinks that providing service for the mass is enough.
“If the share of Zhongyueji might be divided in the future, or more people will join us, the company may not belong to me. But it’s enough for me, if it fulfills the ideal status.” Chen joked,“After all, I’m a handsome star, I can earn money by endorsements or performance.”
Challenges in the future
As a new manager, Chen also has some troubles.As for the team management, Chen has to change from a single fighter to a team leader. He has to learn and inform others of every detail and experience.
Additionally, as a musician, music is the fundamental criteria. In 2016, Chen will spend half a year on touring and will also work on projects on Zhongyueji. But many fans are looking forward to Chen’s second album, so Chen need to balance it, in order to produce good music.
Lu Zhongqing also agreed that Chen need to accumulate, “Li Zhi has today’s achievements, because he has finished eight albums. The process of accumulation is very important.”
At present, the part of community is at a hypothetical stage. When will it reach Chen’s ideal stage? There are more challenges waiting for them in the future.
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