(Recording Academy Trustee Ruby Marchand is among the delegates participating in A2IM's Trade Mission to Asia. The mission originated from an A2IM/Recording Academy Indie Day on Capitol Hill in 2010 that resulted in a government grant for the trade initiative. Her blog will document her experiences representing The Recording Academy as the mission travels from Seoul to Hong Kong in an effort to increase exports by small- and medium-sized independent music businesses based in New York and Tennessee.)
Wednesday, Sept. 12:
We awoke to the realization that this would be the final day of our Trade Mission. The previous night had been scheduled as an optional dinner with our Branded Asia/Music Matters hosts aboard a huge floating restaurant called Jumbo. It came as no surprise that the entire delegation decided to dine on the boat and enjoy each other's company. We intuitively knew how precious this remaining time was together.
We convened for an early breakfast briefing by experts from the U.S. Commercial Service Hong Kong. Similar to Seoul and Shanghai, a special presentation had been prepared by Dawn Bruno's local colleagues, Eric Crowley, commercial officer, and Fanny Chau, commercial specialist.
Here are some key takeaways:
• Hong Kong's value as a hub can be measured by its astonishing reach. More than half the world's population is easily accessible through it. Thanks to its efficiency and modern infrastructure, Hong Kong is the leading transportation hub in the world.
• Hong Kong is the world's leading financial center behind New York and London. It's been cited as the world's freest and most competitive economy. Its currency is stable and it has the third-lowest tax rate in the world, with zero tariffs.
• Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty in 1997 after 55 years of British colonial rule. Until 2047, it will be governed as one country under two systems. It follows British Common Law, a well-established legal system that is stronger than the system in any other Asian country. It has a free-trade agreement with China that locally based companies can take advantage of. A broad range of media companies use Hong Kong as their Asian base of operations. Altogether, 1,300 U.S. companies have a presence in Hong Kong, with more to come. It's the 10th largest export market and the fastest-growing of the U.S.' top export markets.
• Hong Kong's population density ranks fourth in the world (7 million) and it has the highest rents and real estate in the world. Its shopping and nightlife are the best in Asia. Hong Kong has a thriving economy.
• The U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service Hong Kong offers American companies such services as trade counseling, market intelligence, business matchmaking, advocacy and commercial diplomacy and trade & investment programs. While Bruno is our key liaison, the service can be reached via email or their Web address.
After breakfast, each delegate set up shop at individual tables in the hotel cafe. We began another breathless three-hour speed-dating marathon. We engaged in one-on-one dialogues with twelve separate Hong Kong-based companies, chosen in advance as the most musically and commercially compatible for each U.S. delegate. Participants ranged from local representatives of Channel V, YouTube and Warner Music to entrepreneurs, promoters, tastemakers and indie labels. The room was literally buzzing with activity. We felt we were crossing a threshold that would lead to collaborative projects and trusted relationships.
And so the Trade Mission came to a graceful, fulfilling end. We had traveled thousands of miles to create awareness and opportunity for hundreds of artists signed to some of the best independent labels in America. We found respect, curiosity, eagerness, and most of all, the perception that we were in the right place at the right time.
It remains to be seen how commercially successful our mission will be. The proof will come over the next two years as participating labels secure Asian distribution, artists start to tour smartly and frequently, and emerging consumer economies take note of and embrace our music. As Robert Singerman put it, we were the Class of 2012, the very first. A2IM has just secured a second Trade Mission grant. Our work will go on.
I'd like to thank the following:
• The music creators who are the heart and soul of The Recording Academy and the artists whose music was the reason for our journey
• Rich Bengloff, president of A2IM, who had an epiphany at MIDEM and would not rest until this Trade Mission was funded, conceived down to the minutest detail, and skillfully executed
• Our sponsors, including the New York State Office of Economic Development for the STEP grant (with special thanks to Lennox Ruiz), the State of Tennessee, and the United States Small Business Administration; Dawn Bruno, Andrea da Silva, and their Department of Commerce/ITA colleagues in Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong who immeasurably enriched our trip and empowered us with knowledge and context. They will continue to serve as an anchor for our Asian initiatives
• Daryl Friedman and Elizabeth Healy of The Recording Academy and Rep. Jerold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who helped advocate for our funding; Linda Lorence-Critelli, New York Chapter Board President, and the N.Y. Chapter Board of Governors, who helped make my participation possible (I love you guys!)
• My fellow delegates, whose wicked sense of humor and eagerness to make this trip a success resulted in a magical once-in-a-lifetime experience
• All the people who worked tirelessly with Rick to organize the trip, including Sheryl Cohen, Jen Masset, Robert Singerman, Catherine Spillman, Alex Choi, Bernie Cho, Jean Hsaio Wernheim, Bill Zang, Thomas Olscheske, Ed Yen, Jasper Donat, Tony Ward, Natalie Stenhouse, Andrew Davis, and many more
• The U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Korea, Mr. Sung Kim, for his gracious hospitality, and the cultural affairs attaches at the Korean Embassy
• To all of our potential partners in Seoul, Shanghai and Hong Kong who speed-courted us and were speed-courted in return (We'll be back!)
• Special thanks to Daryl Friedman, Tim McPhate, James Stevens and Chris Macowski for their generous assistance with the preparation of this blog
(Trade Mission group portrait photo: Standing, l-r: Randy Chin, VP Records; Dawn Bruno, U.S. Department of Commerce; Cathy Bauer, Daptone Records; Joachim Becker, Zoho Music; Robert Williams, 335 Records; Jurgen Korduletsch, Lollipop Records; Larry Carlton, GRAMMY-winning artist; Adriana Sein, Ultra Music; Rich Bengloff, A2IM; Alec Bemis, Brassland; Sam Alpert; Eleven Seven Music; Lennox Ruiz, Empire State Development; Jon Topper, Fatboy Records; Charles Book, Entertainment One; Seated, l-r: Ruby Marchand, The Recording Academy; Seymour Stein, Blue Horizon Records; Sung Kim, the U.S. Ambassador to South Korea; Stephanie Alexa, ATO Records; Robert Singerman, CMJ)