Fan-ma­nip­u­lated mu­sic

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWOCENTS - By Zhang Yu

Chi­nese-Cana­dian rap­per Kris Wu dom­i­nated the top of the charts on iTunes re­cently, beat­ing pop-singer Ari­ana Grande with seven songs in the Top 10. On Sina Weibo, Wu’s proud fans are cel­e­brat­ing how their idol broke yet an­other sales record.

It turns out that the ma­jor­ity of those who have down­loaded Wu’s songs are Chi­nese fans who made mul­ti­ple pur­chases per per­son just to sup­port their idol, thereby trick­ing iTunes al­go­rithms into bump­ing the songs into the top tier.

Wu’s con­tro­ver­sial iTunes dom­i­na­tion is, sadly, yet an­other ex­am­ple of China’s “fan econ­omy” dis­rupt­ing the mu­sic in­dus­try. This fan econ­omy has cre­ated a ver­i­ta­ble mi­rage in the past few years lead­ing oth­ers into be­liev­ing that the Chi­nese mu­sic in­dus­try is boom­ing.

Chi­nese idol singers are also dom­i­nat­ing China’s so­cial me­dia, where it is com­mon for a sin­gle so­cial me­dia post by an av­er­age idol to re­ceive hun­dreds of thou­sands of likes. It is in fact very easy to see just how in­flated and ma­nip­u­lated these num­bers are.

One ra­bid fan will buy dozens of their idols’ al­bums just to help them achieve a rank­ing on the mu­sic charts. They reg­is­ter mul­ti­ple ac­counts on so­cial me­dia sites and re­post tweets dozens of times per day, so that their idol can ap­pear on “trend­ing” lists.

Like a vir­tual army, they are mo­bi­lized and united. As they do this, they re­ceive a grat­i­fy­ing and sat­is­fy­ing sense of par­tic­i­pa­tion and con­trol in the suc­cess of their idol. Sadly, China’s fan econ­omy is no sub­sti­tute for the dearth of good mu­sic in to­day’s China, which has failed to im­press or­di­nary lis­ten­ers.

This is in stark con­trast to the late 1990s and early 2000s, con­sid­ered the golden age of Chi­nese pop mu­sic, when iconic singers like Jacky Che­ung, Ea­son Chan and Jay Chow were blast­ing from ev­ery­one’s ra­dios.

We all knew, ap­pre­ci­ated and loved each singer mainly by their songs, not by their tweets – which didn’t ex­ist back then – or fake sales rank­ings.

When fans be­come so pow­er­ful that they can sin­gle-hand­edly ma­nip­u­late sales statis­tics, the mu­sic in­dus­try as a whole be­come cor­rupted. Mean­while, true mu­si­cians with ac­tual tal­ent find it im­pos­si­ble to get their songs heard sim­ply be­cause they lack del­i­cate looks or large fol­low­ings on so­cial me­dia. And for that, we the au­di­ence are the big­gest losers.

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