(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.)
Monday, Sept. 10 (continued):
After breakfast with the Department of Commerce experts in Shanghai, we were whisked off to a spanking-new music industry building a few blocks from our hotel. As soon as we arrived, we could feel the excitement in the air. We were handed laminated IDs with our names and pictures, which referred to the event as the China-U.S. Music Trade Mission Summit. We were also given special translation devices as the proceedings would be simultaneously translated in both languages.
The large room was absolutely packed with representatives of Chinese and Taiwanese companies. Many people flew in from Beijing and Taiwan to witness and take part in this historic day. We were joined by Rob Schwartz, Billboard magazine's Tokyo bureau chief, who covered the all-day event.
Despite the hubbub, the agenda was flawlessly organized by our hosts Bill Zang, Jean Hsaio Wernheim, Thomas Olscheske and their team from Shanghai Synergy Culture and Entertainment Group. The meeting was exceptional not only in the array of Chinese companies and organizations, but in the one-on-one opportunities it offered.
After brief speeches by Rich Bengloff, Seymour Stein and myself, every indie label had several minutes to go the podium and tell the Chinese delegation who their U.S. artists are, what their label represents and why they're ready to do business in China. Likewise, 28 delegates from China and Taiwan each came to the podium and told us what their companies do and how eager they are to build a bridge to U.S. artists. The array of Chinese speakers ranged from China Unicom (akin to Verizon) and Asian Arts Connection (which promotes cultural exchange and has worked with 300 artists in 3,000 venues across China) all the way to Modern Sky Records (the largest indie label in China) and Strawberries Music Festival (an international music festival currently operating in five cities). We heard from publishing houses, studio facilities, government agencies, digital distributors, small rock, world music and classical labels, animation studios, artist management associations, licensing firms, and the top cable/foreign TV channel in Shanghai serving 23 million people. CAVA, the only officially-recognized national audiovisual industrial society, gave a ringing endorsement of the proceedings, delivered by Mr. Wang Ju. Shanghai Synergy, our host, explained that they're a state-owned company pioneering new business and technological models for China through a joint venture with a-Peer Holding Group, which has offices in the U.S. and Europe too.
After the flurry of speeches, we began a four-hour intensive "speed-dating" marathon broken into 15-minute segments. The U.S. delegates had been matched up in advance with the most compatible Chinese delegates. Accompanied by young Chinese translators, we were exhilarated by the intensity of this unique 15-minutes-then-on-to-the-next-company opportunity. Nothing like this had ever been done before in China. Business cards and hastily scribbled notes were the order of the day.
Following our marathon, we made our way to an adjoining building with our new Chinese colleagues to see several prominent Chinese artists perform. The show was followed by a fabulous feast where many toasts were made. It's interesting to note that it is customary in China for everyone to stand while a toast is being given. Who knew!
After bowing our goodbyes, we slowly walked back to the hotel along busy Shanghai side streets, passing people playing card games in storefronts very late at night. Magic.