(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.)
Tuesday, Sept. 11:
We met in the Shanghai hotel lobby at the unspeakable hour of 5:30 a.m. for the flight to Hong Kong. Surprisingly, there wasn't a grouch in sight. We were approaching the final leg of our journey and were already feeling a touch of nostalgia. Plus, many of us had been to Hong Kong before. The natural beauty of the city, combined with its soaring, elegant architecture, was something we couldn't wait to re-experience.
Once the plane started its descent you could hear first-time passengers whistling at the sight of the lush islands and exotic peaks that surround Hong Kong. Suddenly, the immaculate skyline and aristocratic sprawl of the city came into view.
We hit the ground running and went to the first session of the HK mission before we could access our hotel rooms. As soon as we arrived at the venue, the local Hard Rock Cafe, we felt like we were home. This initial event was sponsored by our convivial HK hosts, Branded Asia and Music Matters, along with Invest Hong Kong, the local government counterpart to our own Office of Economic Development.
Jasper Donat opened the event by welcoming our delegation to two days of historic conferences in Hong Kong. Donat is the CEO of Branded Asia, a company that provides sponsorship and branding opportunities for entertainment companies. He is also the president of Music Matters, an annual event in Singapore that is similar to SXSW in its scope of attendees, performances, conferences, and networking opportunities for the Asia Pacific region.
Andrew Davis, associate director-general of Invest Hong Kong, gave a detailed presentation on why Hong Kong is the strategic hub for businesses eager to make a mark in the Asia Pacific region. As successful as HK already is in attracting companies from all over the world, Invest Hong Kong foresees even more opportunities for in the years ahead.
After Rich Bengloff, Seymour Stein and I gave our remarks, each A2IM delegate made a short speech introducing their label and the independent artists they represent. We were then treated to a spirited presentation by a panel of premiere music experts: Kieven Yim, a marketing consultant for Sony/ATV Music Publishing; Tony Ward from Man On The Ground and Music Matters; Carl Parker, managing director of ToCo Asia (a company providing agent, booking and label services); Tommy Chan, founder & CEO of Love Da Group Company Ltd (a pre-eminent local label); David Loiterton, managing director, Asia Pacific, Omnifone (a leader in mobile entertainment); Chris B, founder of the Underground (a live music showcase), and director of HKGFM.net (an indie promoter); Scott McLean, managing director, International Sound & Light (an international promoter); and May-Seey Leong, regional director, Asia, of IFPI.
The panel was moderated by Donat, who asked incisive questions about the Hong Kong market and its relationship to China and other Asia Pacific countries. Unlike our visits to Seoul and Shanghai, in which the local participants were focused on Korea and on China, Hong Kong's value as a center of commerce for Asia Pacific meant that two separate threads ran parallel at all times; one uniquely for the affluent Hong Kong market, and the other for Hong Kong's pivotal ability to navigate business opportunities throughout the region.
The advice given to us by local experts could be distilled down to this: get to know the Asia Pacific markets one at a time. Look at the business models that are actually working in each market. Be prepared to adapt your thinking and your way of working. Learn what local consumers are expressing interest in and tailor your business approach accordingly. Above all, be patient, and find partners you can trust.
Here are some other key takeaways:
• Hong Kong is primarily a pop market. Although many people speak and understand English, 98 percent of the population speaks Chinese as their first language. It's important to include Chinese as an integral communications platform for any online/social media outreach, especially to promote touring.
• YouTube is the most powerful platform in HK. Radio plays an important role and streaming is gaining strength locally and regionally. While streaming is currently at 1.7 million users, it is anticipated to grow to 77 million users throughout Asia by 2016.
• HK collection societies are generating income and all major publishers are represented here. Synch licensing is a growing business that is helping to influence publishers to sign local artists.
• Digital piracy in Hong Kong continues to be a big issue due to problems with legislation. A strong law needs to be passed to take action against piracy. Once piracy is brought under control, the expectation is that HK will become a massive digital market.
• There are no English-language FM music channels in HK. Corporate sponsors are the key to promoting live music. The key to touring successfully is for an artist to commit to several visits and grow an audience over time, as an investment.
• Lastly, the panel agreed that Hong Kong is a more international market than China or Korea, but it's on a smaller scale. When it comes to introducing an artist to Asia Pacific, Hong Kong is a great place to start.