Hav­ing faith in mu­sic New awards aim to re­store the dig­nity of China’s mu­sic in­dus­try, lost due to piracy. Chen Nan re­ports.

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE -

In 2014, Song Ke was ap­pointed chair­man of the China Mu­sic In­dus­try Com­mit­tee, a non­profit, which has more than 100 mem­bers be­long­ing to record la­bels and dis­trib­u­tors. That year, Song turned 50. “When you’re 50, you still dream and want to do some­thing that can be your legacy,” says Song, the for­mer head of Warner Mu­sic China and now the CEO of Ali Mu­sic Group, a di­vi­sion of e-com­merce gi­ant Alibaba.

Over the past three years, he has led the com­mit­tee’s dis­cus­sions on record­ing copy­right is­sues and pro­moted the gov­ern­ment’s reg­u­la­tions on them.

But it seems that has not sat­is­fied him.

Be­ing a cen­tral fig­ure in the de­vel­op­ment of China’s mu­sic in­dus­try for more than two decades, the dream he har­bored for years was es­tab­lish­ing au­thor­i­ta­tive awards for China’s mu­sic in­dus­try.

On July 20, he re­al­ized his dream when he hosted the first CMIC Mu­sic Awards, hon­or­ing the best achieve­ments of the pre­ced­ing year in 32 award cat­e­gories.

“We want to rec­og­nize tal­ented peo­ple in the mu­sic in­dus­try and en­cour­age young mu­si­cians. And most im­por­tantly, we can fi­nally re­gain our in­dus­try’s dig­nity, which we have lost,” Song said on­stage dur­ing the awards cer­e­mony in Bei­jing.

“We have many mu­sic awards in China now, which have celebri­ties, scream­ing fans and gen­er­ous spon­sors. But it’s more about en­ter­tain­ment. They have noth­ing to do with mu­sic,” Song said. “It’s time to have awards just for the sake of the mu­sic.”

That night, Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam Yik-lin was awarded the best fe­male vo­cal­ist and Hong Kong singer-song­writer Khalil Fong won the best male vo­cal­ist award. Pian­ist Lang Lang’s New York Rhap­sody won the award for the best clas­si­cal al­bum.

Other award win­ners in­cluded Tai­wan pop star Jay Chou, Bei­jing-based folk singer-song­writer Zhao Lei and Shang­hai Rain­bow In­door Cho­rus.

“It’s the first mu­sic award we’ve re­ceived. It’s great en­cour­age­ment for a new singer,” says Xia Wen­jing, the agent of folk singer-song­writer Chen Hongyu who won the best new artist award.

In the early 2000s, due to ram­pant on­line piracy, record com­pa­nies con­sid­ered it not worth­while to re­lease al­bums, and they turned in­stead to manag­ing artists’ per­for­mances and ad­ver­tis­ing as their main source of rev­enue.

Song even left the in­dus­try to open a restau­rant since “peo­ple are will­ing to pay for their food but not the mu­sic they lis­ten to”.

But now it’s the right time to launch the award, he says.

“The mu­sic mar­ket has im­proved thanks to tech­nol­ogy and new gov­ern­ment poli­cies,” Song says.

Ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of the Phono­graphic In­dus­try Global Mu­sic Re­port 2017, recorded mu­sic rev­enue grew 20.3 per­cent in China last year, driven by a 30.6 per­cent rise in stream­ing rev­enues.

In the last three years, Song at­tended the Grammy Awards and Tai­wan’s Golden Melody Awards, which en­abled him to learn how those awards were run.

Xu Yi, the for­mer CEO of Sony Mu­sic En­ter­tain­ment China, was unan­i­mously voted pres­i­dent of the CMIC Mu­sic Awards Com­mit­tee in March.

Although Xu and Song are long­time friends, they were also com­peti­tors in the mu­sic mar­ket. Now they are co­op­er­at­ing for the first time. Song is in charge of the award’s busi­ness man­age­ment while Xu takes care of the vot­ing pro­ce­dures.

“It was re­ally a tough job be­cause no one has ever done it be­fore in China,” says Xu, who in­vited Tai­wan veteran song­writer and pro­ducer Jonathan Lee to be the chief con­sul­tant.

“What we needed was a mu­sic award that was fair and had au­thor­ity.”

The jury panel of the CMIC Mu­sic Awards con­sisted of 10 key mem­bers — each in­vited 10 peo­ple from the mu­sic in­dus­try to as­sist them to vote.

“The awards are a new chap­ter for China’s mu­sic in­dus­try,” says Shen Li­hui, one of the jury mem­bers, who is the founder and CEO of Modern­sky, China’s big­gest in­die mu­sic la­bel.

Although he had con­fi­dence in the CMIC Mu­sic Awards, Song also fore­saw there would be doubts from the record com­pa­nies, singers and spon­sors as they were new.

In­deed at the cer­e­mony for the CMIC Mu­sic Awards, few singers showed up and their awards were ac­cepted by the record com­pa­nies and their agents.

There was also no tele­vi­sion broad­cast, although the awards were streamed on­line by stream­ing site iQiyi, which at­tracted an au­di­ence of about 150,000.

De­spite this, Song says the awards were a big suc­cess.

“It was be­yond my ex­pec­ta­tions be­cause the in­dus­try’s elite showed up, which is a great sign. We’ve done the most chal­leng­ing part, mak­ing the first CMIC Mu­sic Awards a re­al­ity,” says Song.

Con­tact the writer at chen­nan@chi­nadaily.com.cn


Tai­wan pop singer A Lin per­forms at the first CMIC Mu­sic Awards in Bei­jing on July 20.

Song Ke, chair­man of the China Mu­sic In­dus­try Com­mit­tee, says fi­nally his dream has come true with the launch of the CMIC awards.

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