(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.)
Our first full day in Shanghai looked tantalizing on our schedule. We were visiting two music parks, referred to as "China Industry Music Parks, Site 1 and Site 2." Neither park was actually constructed, so what would be in store for us? Would this be a visit with hardhats and blueprints? All we knew was that it was an honor for us to be given this tour, and that it would help us understand China's vision for local artistic development and its relationship to the industry at large.
Our gracious hosts, Bill Zang, Jean Hsaio Wernheim and their team from Shanghai Synergy, accompanied us on this tour, as did Dawn Bruno's counterparts from the Department of Commerce at the U.S. Consulate General in Shanghai. We drove down the winding, scenic Huangpu River where we caught glimpses of the unique pavilions constructed on the other bank for Expo 2010. The riverfront area we traveled seemed like a giant, paved urban park, which eventually gave way to an abandoned industrial site. We were told that the whole area is about to be transformed into a vast entertainment complex, anchored by Dreamworks Animation SKG. It is scheduled to open in 2016.
We hopped into open-air vehicles, waved at the police officers who saluted us as if we were VIPs, and entered a building that housed the architectural mock-up for the enormous site. We sat down for a video presentation offered by Xiaohui Lv, the publicist for the entire development, who welcomed us warmly. Situated within Shanghai’s Xuhui District, the land is being developed to be China’s most prominent entertainment center, housing a music park, theaters, performance venues, broadcasting stations, film studios, and a huge variety of shops and residences. It will be connected by all forms of transportation to the rest of Shanghai, affording easy access. The tagline for the video was fascinating: it referred to China’s vision for the enterprise as "the miracle of ceaseless development." Lv explained that the Chinese government, working through Shanghai Synergy, is eager to attract partners from all facets of the music industry to open offices in the music park. The park will offer state-of-the-art recording facilities and will have accommodations and resources for artists and their teams to write, collaborate, and produce their own music. In addition to music, major media companies worldwide are being courted to invest in the park so that they are positioned to work in China from the most effective standpoint.
We left the park building awestruck at the scope of this enterprise. About 40 minutes away was Site 2. We had no idea what a second music industry park would be like. The bus dropped us in a neighborhood that was the exact opposite of Site 1 or the glitter along the Bund. This was Pudong District, the oldest neighborhood in Shanghai at 1,300 years old. Another riverfront town, it is a world apart, reminiscent of another era. Graceful low buildings flow seamlessly along the waterfront, surrounded by weeping willow trees and elegant curved bridges. It was quiet here and the pace of life was a fraction of that of the rest of Shanghai. We were greeted by the mayor of Pudong and several of his local counterparts and treated to hot tea and delicious local nuts. We learned that Pudong is famous in China for being the home of the top craftspeople in embroidery and in many other arts. Its artistic ambience is perhaps unparalleled in other parts of China, yet it is very close to Shanghai center. For these reasons, it has been designated as a new park for musical development. Plans have been drawn up to create a residential environment for artists to write and record, within a larger transformation of the area. Pudong inspires creativity and is home to one of the most successful annual festivals in China.
Our delegation experienced the magic of Pudong as we walked down cobblestone streets toward our restaurant for dinner. We had an amazing meal of food-that-shall-not-be-named. (We often never knew what we were eating, which was just as well, since I noticed at the airport that a typical dessert was called "double boiled frog's oviduct with lotus seeds and lily bulb cold/hot.") I had to laugh when I went to the restroom as it consisted of nothing more than a ceramic hole-in-the-ground. All through the trip, the male delegates (ha!) have been marveling at the state-of-the-art bathrooms in our hotels, with heated toilet seats, luxurious tubs, glass enclosures that allow you to raise and lower a shade to be seen or not. I couldn't wait to return to the table and invite my colleagues to use the facilities!
We topped off the evening with a visit to a cool jazz spot in the heart of Shanghai, JZ Club. It was an authentic jazz club, like anywhere in the world. The staff go out of their way to welcome international musicians so they can feel at home, so far from home. It was the perfect way to unwind and take stock of China's vision of its musical future.