Spotify‘s strategic partner in China, Tencent Music, has announced it will sell shares publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. The US IPO announcement was confirmed after a regulatory filing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Tencent’s music division is said to be valued around $30 billion, making it as valuable as Spotify which went public in New York in April, 2018. Each company owns stock in one another after a trade swap in December of 2017. Spotify owns 9% of Tencent Music, and Tencent owns 7.5% of Spotify.
Tencent is still keeping numbers close to the vest, telling Variety,
“the terms of the proposed spin-off, including offering size, price range and assured entitlement of Tencent Music securities for shareholders of the company, have not yet been finalized.”
The Chinese multinational investment holding conglomerate, Tencent, is valued at $480 billion on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, owning a variety of internet businesses, including WeChat, which has over 1 billion users. Tencent Music dominates the Chinese streaming market through QQ Music, KuGou and Kuwo platforms, with about 600 million users. 15 million of those users are paid subscribers.
The IPO will give Tencent Music new funds that it could use to purchase more content for its platforms. The Chinese streaming service has exclusive deals with all major labels, so they can decide which songs rivals can stream. Magnetic Magazine reported that the IPO would bring Western scrutiny to the massive Chinese tech company because the Chinese government has been known to be heavily regulatory on some media in the past. However, with a powerful tech space emerging in China, the Chinese government has proved slow or unwilling to impede progress.
Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff of Migos collectively brimmed with anticipation on January 26, 2017. Culture, the Atlanta hip hop trio’s second studio album, was scheduled to drop at midnight — a follow up to 2016’s EP, 3 Way.
Its two lead singles, “Bad and Boujee” and “T-Shirt,” hadcatalyzed just the heavy anticipation for its release that Migos had sought: “Bad and Boujee” ascended to viral status, going quadruple platinum, while “T-Shirt” went double platinum. Their collaborative labor in the studio was poised to pay off, and the music industry was not only watching—it was attentively listening.
Culture predictably earned Platinum certification after crossing the sale point of more than one-million units. Come the beginning of 2018, the outfit found themselves among the nominees for “Best Rap Album” at the Grammy’s 60th iteration.
Migos released Culture II around the same time as their Grammy nomination. Like its predecessor, this new sequel of an LP was swiftly and hungrily consumed by their fan base, who’d been impatiently awaiting it since its announcement. The play count on Culture II must rest somewhere in the millions by now, and that number will have grown by the time a reader of this editorial reaches its end.
Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff sit atop a musical empire of their own making, and yet, their broad repertoire would rank entirely as “tasteless, vulgar, and obscene” in today’s Chinese media landscape given its hip-hop classification.
The State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the People’s Republic of China (SAPPRFT) — the country’s main media regulator—released four new “Don’t” media restrictions on January 19. Television networks are expected to abide by the newly published rules: “1. Absolutely do not use actors whose heart and morality are not aligned with the party and whose morality is not noble, 2. Absolutely do not use actors who are tasteless, vulgar, and obscene, 3. Absolutely do not use actors whose ideological level is low and have no class, and 4. Absolutely do not use actors with stains, scandals, and problematic moral integrity.”
The SAPPRFT’s promulgation of these stringent media rules “specifically requires that programs should not feature actors with tattoos [or depict] hip-hop culture, sub-culture (non-mainstream culture) and dispirited culture (decadent culture),” according to Chinese news source, Sina.
Across the Pacific, hip-hop accounted for a quarter of all music consumption in the United States in 2017, surpassing rock music to become the largest musical genre in the country for the first time in history.
Hip-hop’s rise to become the most popular genre of music for the first time last year speaks not only to the genre’s longevity in the context of the US music industry, but additionally to its continuing cultural and economic prominence. An underground musical movement of the mid-1970s, the genre originated in the Bronx in New York City as a recreational outlet that married elements of MCing, DJing, spoken verse, and break dancing. It offered a vocal platform for the block party artists that identified and used it as a vehicle of expression.
While hip-hop rides a wave of unprecedented centrality to the commercial American music market, it is duly an important, and perhaps a lesser known fact that this music remains only in a nascent stage in China. This germinal state of Chinese hip-hop that renders it vulnerable to the SAPPRFT’s newly imposed media rules. In fact, it’s almost as though these rules err on the nationalist side, seeking shut out a subculture with international roots. Hip-hop has not yet received the opportunity to become a cornerstone of musical commerce in the Chinese market, and is thus more susceptible to heavy restrictions — if not total attempted eradication.
The SAPPRFT’s limitations on the Chinese media’s portrayal of hip-hop will only further thwart the genre’s ability to gain a substantial market presence, being that hip-hop and its accompanying subculture is being written out of the Chinese media by the media’s chief regulators. “Hip-hop’s prospects in China seem dim after Chinese rappers [known by the stage names “PG One” and “GAI”] removed from TV shows,” posited a headline from the state-facilitated tabloid, Global Times. Global Times would go on to identify hip-hop as a “tool for people to vent their anger, misery, [and] complaints.” Another national news agency, Xinhua, stated that PG One “does not deserve the stage,” further remarking that “we [China] should say ‘no’ to whoever provides a platform for low-taste content.” PG One’s music has since been removed from a number of online Chinese music websites.
The Chinese Republic’s crusade on hip-hop as duly a genre and kind of culture that is “low-taste” in nature arises out of the state’s desire to regulate pop culture, a primary source of influence for youth in China and elsewhere. The SAPPRFT’s media rules that target the development and potential success of Chinese hip-hop seek to control, contain, and homogenize the pop cultural experience in China, as the genre “threatens” to become as substantial an element of pop culture there as it has in the US. On a more basic level, “pop culture” classification briefly set aside, the SAPPRFT’s movement against hip-hop portrayal in the Chinese media represents a dangerous model of cultural construction, in which a culture is crafted and defined by its forced limitations.
Yet, as hip-hop flirts with Chinese media censorship its power becomes increasingly clear. The title “hip-hop” bespeaks a musical personality that has resonated in both the US and in China. Hip-hop’s subjection to such stringent regulation only evidences that the genre has traveled internationally, arrived, and exhibited its allure on Chinese ground in a sort of musical cross-pollination that evinces its pervasive quality.
During a recent performance in China, Zhu took the opportunity to officially confirm to fans that the collaboration does in fact exist and it is underway, and later confirmed in a statement by the “Waters of Monaco” producer’s management team.
Zhu’s exciting news didn’t stop there though. The aforementioned performance in China came as part of a launch event for a new Chinese electronic dance music label called Liquid State, which will host releases from Zhu, Alan Walker, and burgeoning Chinese artists, among others in 2018. Liquid State is backed by Sony and Chinese streaming and tech powerhouse Tencent Music Entertainment. The new imprint will develop dance content with the intent of leveraging Tencent’s streaming services QQ Music, Kugou Music, and Kuwo Music to distribute said content. The move was effectively sealed by a reported 10% equity swap between Tencent and Sony’s licensing partner, Spotify, in December. Tencent, by comparison, boasts nearly double the users as Spotify across their three platforms.
“Nosedive,” an episode of dystopian Netflix series, Black Mirror, depicted a world where a social ranking system determined everything from the quality of people’s homes to how long it would take to hail a cab. Citizens would incessantly rate one another on a star system after each and every cursory interaction, effectually determining the person’s overall ranking: the perceived worth of the individual.
Now, thanks to a social classification feature of Alipay, the central mobile payment app in China, called Zhima Credit, Chinese citizens are living in an uncannily similar, and altogether Orwellian, social order. According to Mara Hvistendahl in her story for Wired Magazine, Zhima users are rated on a scale of 350 (bad) to 950 (good), with higher scores yielding hordes of benefits, including faster transportation, access to luxury hotels and apartments, and even opportune bank loans.
However, those with unfavorable scores suffer in silence. Hvistendahl reports on her own experience as a first-time user, with a primordial score of 550, causing her to fork over a 30 dollar deposit on a bike rental for a trip across town. The negative repercussions of the app are often insidious; while scores are not public, Hvistendahl says users often speculate as to which individuals are “better left unfriended,” as friends’ scores are a significant determinant in the system’s calculations.
In addition to nearly all the individual’s spending history, Alipay can access data from a user’s third-party apps, like Uber and Airbnb, which is all then configured into Zhima’s algorithm. So, the app then knows, for instance, if the user is keen on paying bills late, over-indulges in video games, or has spread a nasty rumor online, all of which negatively impact Zhima Credit, according to Hvistendahl. Egregiously low scores comprise a 6 million person blacklist the Chinese government uses to publicly weed out “dishonest” people, who for example, defaulted on court payments.
While the US currently lacks an app with this much collective profiling and authoritarian influence (hats off to democracy), we willingly and tirelessly surrender data to tech-giants and corporations like Apple and Facebook, while rating systems like that of Uber’s can delay or even deny a user access from services.
As more than 2,000 delegates begin to arrive in Beijing for China’s Communist Party Congress, country officials have called for the temporary closure of the nightclubs located in the capital as part of an effort to heighten security for the event. The meeting takes place every five years — it officially began on Wednesday, October 18 —and will extend into next week.
All Beijing based nightclubs have consequently been instructed to remain closed until the congress concldes. The abrupt shutdown has forced many Beijing promoters and nightlife entities to cancel anticipated events.
Nightclubs however are not the sole spaces being targeted for closure by officials. Airbnb rentals and restaurants, gyms, and karaoke bars are also being required to temporarily halt activity, the effort part of a larger initiative to “reduce the flow of outsiders to the capital.” While Beijing residents might find their weekend somewhat uneventful as a result, the closure will remain brief.
Tiësto‘s CLUBLIFE compilation albums have attracted worldwide fame for over half a decade now, with each compilation serving to highlight the music trending in the region where the album was recorded. It’s been over two years since his previous Club Life album, but Tiësto has finally ended the long wait for another with the release of a brand new installation in this widely respected series, CLUBLIFE, VOL.5 – China.
The veteran DJ plays a crucial role in the 18 track EP, by producing or co-producing over half of the songs present, including a one-off remix of Chinese popstar Z.Tao.Tiësto does have an eclectic selection of talented musicians at his disposal including John Christian and SWQCQ, as well as international EDM superstar KSHMR.
This new addition to the CLUBLIFE legacy perfectly encapsulates the building excitement we find surrounding the burgeoning Chinese dance music scene.
Tiësto’s signature Club Life series is expanding its borders once again. The mix brand got its start in Las Vegas, moved to Miami, continued on to Stockholm, and eventually descended in New York City. In an indulgence of wanderlust, Club Life is pushing forward, marking China as its next destination.
The decision to advance Club Life to China is a commercially conscious one — Asia is currently the fastest-growing market for dance music, a reality duly evinced by Live Nation’s timely establishment of Live Nation Electronic Asia, a division devoted to the development of electronic-focused events on the continent.
The fifth installment in the Club Life legacy will debut on Musical Freedom in the fall, followed by a tour in China. While the full track list for CLUBLIFE, Vol. 5 appears below, Tiesto has already offered fans a preview of what remains to come, releasing the third song of the compilation, “Scream,” an electro-house wonder.
CLUBLIFE, Vol. 5 Track List:
1 Tiësto & KSHMR ft Talay Riley – Harder (Harder Mix) 2 Tiësto x Vassy – Faster Than A Bullet 3 Tiësto & John Christian – Scream 4 Tiësto – Carry You Home ft. StarGate & Aloë Blacc (Tiësto) 5 Tiësto – No Worries 6 Tiësto & Sevenn – Boom 7 Tiësto & Diplo – C’mon (John Christian Remix) 8 John Christian – Oldschool 9 Tiësto – Give Me A Fat Beat 10 John Christian – Funkastarz 11 Tiësto & Dzeko – Crazy 12 John Christian – Slurph 13 Tiësto & SWACQ – Sumos 14 SWACQ – Whatsapp 15 Tiësto – Don’t Stop 16 SWACQ – The Impact 17 Tiësto, John Christian, SWACQ – Brolab
Boiler Room returned to Shanghai for a second time this year in celebration of the IMS Asia-Pacific conference, and in tow brought along possibly it’s most popular artist to date: Skrillex. The OWSLA don played for just over an hour to a packed house, injecting a wide away of frenzied bass music into the crowd. Now, an extended version has now been released to the public, showcasing his set in its entirety.
Skrillex has been making even further leaps into the mainstream as of late, having been recruited to contribute original music to the new Suicide Squad movie which resulted in a Rick Ross collaboration called “Purple Lamborghini.” Famed fashion designer Alexander Wang also utilized his newest track “Crown Vic” for a Fall ad campaign.
Boiler Room made its China debut in spring this year, beginning in Beijing then heading to Shanghai the next day. The series kicked off on a high note with an array of popular underground Chinese DJs, in addition to house superstars Disclosure and Paul Woolford.
Now, IMS Asia-Pacific, in conjunction with OWSLA, will be play host to the popular event on September 29 as part of their Shanghai conference, bringing none other than Skrillex himself. This will be Sonny Moore’s first-ever Boiler Room performance, demonstrating just how much the scene in China, and the event series as a whole, is growing. As per usual, he will be joined by a carefully-selected group of local DJs, including Zean, Conrank, Damacha, and Cavia.
Skrillex will also be participating in the conference this year, bringing along his OWSLA cohorts Blaise DeAngelo, Lee Anderson, and Tim Smith along to discuss the challenges and efforts of bringing their unique sound over to China.
The festivities can be viewed on Boiler Room for world viewers, and LeTV for Chinese viewers.
Though commercial dance music has saturated almost every market over the past decade, growth in China — the world’s most populous market — has been more gradual. While home to 20% of the planet’s population — with a large portion of Chinese millennials increasingly aware of and passionate about the genre — the country’s infrastructure to support dance music’s spread hasn’t developed at the same pace. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, through which most artists share their music, announce their tours and interact with their fans, are blocked. Foreign promoters with experience in event production have encountered difficulty with the government’s notoriously difficult-to-navigate bureaucracy, and large-scale events are logistical nightmares with such a tremendous population to account for.
We spoke to Eric Zho, event promoter and founder of China’s largest electronic music festival, Budweiser STORM, about the current challenges and nearly-limitless possibilities dance music faces in the largest country — and one of the last untapped markets — in the world.
On September 29-30, Zho will help host International Music Summit Asia-Pacific in Shanghai, China, which features panel guests such as Skrillex, Alesso, Pete Tong, Lee Anderson and more. Tickets are available here.
How would you describe the current state of electronic music in China? How has it grown over the last 5-10 years?
There has been significant change in dance music industry. In China, the electronic music scene has grown rapidly in the past years. Attendance of events is rising online with the rise of the Chinese middle class. The interest for people to go to night clubs, live music events, and festivals increased significantly.
From A2LiVE prospective, from 2014-2015, attendants rate for festival grew 243%. From 2015-2016, we are looking another 278% growth in attendants. Total project for A2LiVE between 2014 and 2015 is a 500% growth. And from 2015-2016, is 240% growth. Seeing triple digit growth year on year only tells us that not only is this music sector growing, it is growing at a very fast pace.
What are some of the greatest hurdles in bringing electronic music to China?
Because of the great firewall, generally people’s inability to access to social media in the west such as Soundcloud, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube. Accessing this type of EDM content from China has been extremely difficult. The dance music one can access within China is mainly the tracks that are on top Billboard charts or UK charts. But still, it is difficult to find a lot of music from even well-known EDM artists if their tracks are not being represented on the mainstream charts in the West.
What is the attitude of the government towards electronic music events?
The current administration has been quite supportive to the entertainment and cultural industry. However they would like to see more home grown culture rather than imported culture. Even with government support from the central level, this may not trickle down to the local provincial or city level. In general in China, it is very difficult to host large scale outdoor events, so festivals are under scrutiny. And because of safety concerns, many indoor arenas and event space don’t allow people to stand; instead, PSB (public security bureau) will force floor seating as default decision if the promoters don’t have other means to convince them otherwise. This leaves dance music with very limited venue choices. Even when a venue has agreed to allow standing, a promoter still needs to get PSB approval. As you can, the process is tedious and sometimes very costly as well.
What are some unique aspects about China’s scene?
We are seeing a fast growth in the EDM sector for several reasons. One, A2LiVE has been actively promoting EDM events in the country across multiple cities. Two, our key sponsor, Budweiser, and many others, has been heavily investing their marketing resources behind EDM genre. Three, many affluent Chinese, are now starting to venture outside of China to attend EDM events in Ibiza, US, Europe, and other parts of Asia. They post their experiences on WeChat moments, which influences others to be more interested in the music genre and the electronic music culture in general. The dance scene is still relatively weak, but China has had a long tradition of table service culture, and this is why to run an EDM event in China, the promoter almost always have a VIP table sector to accommodate the VIPs that wants that service. Of course the table service is still a smaller % of the total EDM fanbase, but the income generated from these high spends sometimes out strip the entire ticket sale volume of the GA audience.
The scene I believe, is definitely on the rise, I see more and more people who goes to clubs talking about DJs, who they are, and what these DJ have done. The more importantly, local DJs now also are starting to have a presence, with some of them touring across the country as well.
What part of China’s scene holds the most promise for development / growth over the next few years?
One, the music scene will grow as more EDM labels work with online music streaming companies in China. Last research had suggested that the number-two highest streamed music on Netease’s music platform is EDM. This is quite a surprise because just one year ago this would be impossible.
Second, the live events space is certainly the fastest growing. Besides large scale festivals, tier 1 and tier 2 cities are now seeing a vibrant underground scene sprouting. I also see large-scale promoters who previously focused their shows on musicians from Taiwan and Hong Kong now taking an interest in electronic music artists. I believe with more education and more access of the dance music genre in China, these promoters will start to also start to enter the EDM genre. When this happens, you will see an explosive growth that will be in the three-digit growth scale across all of China.
Where would you like to see China’s scene in 10 years?
I believe the electronic music culture will become one of the mainstream music cultures to take root in China in the years to come. There will be many localized EDM tracks with Chinese vocals. Millennials will no longer think that EDM is a foreign origin, rather, they will start to consider it as local. This is when the music genre has become a mainstream music genre. Remember, if EDM penetration in China within youth equals that that of the United States, China will need to host more than 350 festivals per year the size of Budweiser STORM to satisfy that demand.
What role has STORM Festival played in developing the scene in China?
Since 2013, when we made headlines with STORM Electronic Music Festival in Shanghai, STORM has become the largest festival of its kind in Asia with 20,000 people. The attendance rate for the festival has been growing from year to year. This year, our ambition with STORM has taken us to Chengdu, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Shanghai. We will be looking at taking STORM to even more cities next year.
As leading force behind the growth of the dance music industry in China, we will keep bringing music experiences and EDM culture to Chinese music lovers. Because of STORM’s success, we have seen many more promoters across the country trying to emulate us. However, not many are at the same level, albeit it’s great that more players are entering into the music sector to support and help grow the entire music genre.
What was the original inspiration behind the festival?
Because of my personal background as a TV creator and producer for many years, I wanted to create something that can cross over to other entertainment areas, such as filmed entertainment and gaming. This was why I decided to choose an alien theme for STORM festival. Using aliens and their culture as the backdrop of the festival, we are paving the way for the IP to grow in other entertainment areas in the near future.
How have you managed to grow the festival so significantly over the past few years?
1.) Unique marketing campaign – unlike most promoters, we need to be more creative to market a lesser-known music genre to attract newcomers. Most people in China will be confused at looking at a billing posters with all the names of the DJs. Most respond better with images that represent the festival.
2.) Innovative ticketing strategy – We are constantly using gamification help our ticketing efforts. From using digital platform that allows people to “line up” before they are allowed to purchase tickets, and gamify the queue by allow people to get ahead of other if they perform a certain task we ask them to do (i.e. to help us get the word out), to incentivizing key opinion leaders with a large social media account, we often count on ticketing gamification to gain awareness and to sell tickets fast.
3.) Long-term partners with similar goals – we like to choose long term partners that also have identified the EDM genre as part of their communication strategy. These partners are more likely to also help promote the genre in their own marketing initiatives.
How did the partnership with International Music Summit come about?
Our goal for IMS Asia Pacific is to clear any red tape and support those who have an interest in the region, to further grow and penetrate a territory more than 60% of the world’s population calls home. With Ben Turner’s (co-founder of the Summit) experience and foresight, combined with our own experience in the region, we believe IMS Asia Pacific will be the key to help open those doors for the dance music industry
What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming IMS Asia-Pacific?
I’m looking forward to meet global artists, thought-leaders and industry figureheads to explore the growing influence of electronic music and the issues, challenges and opportunities that face the industry globally and in Asia.