20
Sep
09

Articles on piracy and China

Or course the piracy problem has been a big issue throughout Asia -anyone who’s traveled to China or Thailand or Hongkong has likely experienced the cheap pirated copies of music and movies. And after doing a brief search I’ve seen the Chinese government may be making efforts to clamp down on online piracy, especially that associated with the search engine Baidu.

Here’s a run down of some of the articles I’ve found:

China Prepares to Hunt Music Piracy Offenders
http://news.softpedia.com/news/China-Prepares-to-Hunt-Music-Piracy-Offenders-120985.shtml

China’s Music-Piracy Clampdown Will Likely Affect Baidu
http://seekingalpha.com/article/160050-china-s-music-piracy-clampdown-will-likely-affect-baidu

And a comment from this article begat more links to articles -I’ve put a link to one of them…

‘China’s nonstop music machine’ – Comprehensive 6-Month Forensic Study Slams Baidu, Implicates Management in Assisting in Massive Copyright Infringement
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/09/13/baidu_investigation/

And there are plenty more articles pointing the figure at Baidu…

I think the offline world is just as affected by piracy in China. When I was living in North East China I didn’t have to go far to find a warehouse with one whole floor devoted to pirated music and DVDs, half of which would have been Western. But they didn’t always welcome foreigners because some would complain to officials, which would close them down for a short period.

But the problem is endemic. The ability to imitate the packaging has improved and I’ve heard stories that copies are often printed in bulk on other continents and shipped around the world, so it’s more than just a backyard operation.

But as I understand, this ‘offline’ piracy has been going on for decades in Asia, and I believe it’s definitely affected the industry because of it. I not talking from stats or reports, but just my personal experience of having lived in Taiwan and China. My impression has been that there are vibrant indie scenes in Asia, but they simply can’t exploit their music to the point of making a decent living -there’s no income from sales, and therefore no money to promote their music.

Thus the indie scene and many of the bands are usually something foreigners, students and a few eccentric locals go searching for. The established media largely ignores them, and so do the masses. Only a few indie artists manage to cross over, such as Wubai and Chinablue, if they’ve managed to hit the jack-pot with a couple of karaoke hits.

I think things are slowly changing and improving as people have more disposable income and opportunity to search for indie artists. But I believe if piracy wasn’t so rampant many of these artists would have found more support because record labels would have seen more of an opportunity to promote them whether the indie bands of Taipei and Hongkong or the huge rock scene of Beijing.

When I stayed in China for a year I went to two concerts. One was an indie band in a university hall on campus (I was studying Mandarin) and the other was a medium sized arena showcasing some of the pop-singers that were big on the radio at the time.

The indie gig blew me away. A band called ‘Miserable Faith’ played -at the time my impression was they were ‘rap/nu-metal’ which I wasn’t particularly into, but they had a great sound and the singer had that energy and charisma that makes a great show. From what I could tell the bass player played through the P.A. -they didn’t have much money but they used the little they had to make it sound good.

The second ‘arena’ show was kind of lame. I could see straight away the band wasn’t real -no leads or wires or amps behind the guitars. But the crowd didn’t notice at first until the PA cut out under the top female performer half way through a song. Probably the worst thing to happen to a performer. It was obvious she was lip-synching.

You should’ve heard the crowd booing, shouting ‘fake, fake’ (‘jia de, jia de’). To regain face the singer sang a capella without a microphone -she was actually really good (and she’d just release a hit that was played constantly on radio, but I can’t remember her name -sorry). She was let down by tech-support…

Now, like in my previous post, opposite sides of the argument spring to my mind. To those in the crow who bood her -what right did they really have, since a great majority of them went and knowingly bought a fake copy for around a tenth of the retail price. How is she possibly supposed to record, tour and promote with a full professional band when she and her label get zip for the recordings. (I don’t know how much the show was, a friend took me).

On the other hand -since a great majority of them were students, how are they supposed to afford the album? Most Chinese students are too poor to afford the retail price of CDs sold in legitimate record stores.

But my impression of the whole entertainment industry throughout Asia (except Japan) is kind of like that (and I’ve also lived in Korea). The focus is on mass-marketing bland pop -whether it’s cutsy-putsy singers for all the teenages (like S.H.E), or the smooth pop idols for the older market (like Zhang Xueyou). And the Korean wave has it’s fair share of teen-idols impacting the Mandarin market.

And they churn them out like nobody’s Business. Catchy pop-songs galore with all the merchandising to boot -the posters, the fashion, sponsorship, and mixing with film and TV series. They have to produce so much more compared to the Western pop counterparts to make money.

And so my impression of music in Asia has been a very superficial, over promoted pop scene on one side, and an underpromoted, hard to find but interesting underground indie scene on the other.

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