Berlin-based 88tc88 recently entered a publishing agreement with Shanghai Synergy Entertainment and Culture Group (SSCEG) for its web-based translation service for commercial use in China, including mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. The translation service gives Western musicians the chance to access and sell their material to the huge Chinese market, as well as receiving invaluable assistance to gain approval from the relevant government authorities. Chris Hainslin spoke with Thomas Reemer, Chairman of 88tc88, about the launch, the industry’s response and the hurdles they will face to bring Western music to China.
On a visit to China last year, I sat down with kids and watched them finding new music. They were typing Chinese letters. The question was, how did they translate the band name, phonetically or correspondingly? Turns out it was phonetically, which meant that millions of Western bands and artists were basically invisible and would not be found as the Chinese kids will have never heard their names being pronounced. I wanted to change that situation and give these bands and artists access to be found by the Chinese market. From that moment it took a year to launch, building the system, finding the right partners, enhancing the offer to enable releases as well. We finally launched in March at SXSW when we were invited to present the concept before SxSW Interactive on a panel about accessing the Chinese market.
What sort of response are you getting from artists and the industry as a whole?
Phenomenal! We have had to increase staff to manage the inbound interest from labels, publishers, and artists alike. Artists are embracing the chance to get their music onto potentially 700 million mobile phones. Releasing music in China is obviously not that easy, you have to go through approval and therefore need a Chinese publishing partner like us to get it done. They in turn can only do a limited amount of releases per year. With 88tc88.com there are no limits due to our exclusive relationship with SSCEG. This is the first time that a channel into the Chinese market opens for EVERYONE! The industry was sceptical in the beginning, but then quickly realised that having a one-stop solution to get approval for vast amounts of content, including the manual translation needed for the authorities and a simple digital interface to upload as efficiently as possible, makes business sense and adds to the bottom line.
Are there any artists signed up and approved yet?
Yes, more than 250 individual artists have signed up so far. They are all translated by our translation team in China, then the approval process begins in September with the beauty of it being cut down to a couple of days because of our exclusive partnership with SSCEG.
More about aggregators, etc., that have signed up are mentioned here: 88tc88 Inks New Deals
How hard is the approval process through GAPP? (General Administration of Press and Publication)
It is a big hurdle. Structurally, as an artist, you would have to find a Chinese publisher first. They can initiate the approval process, which usually takes 6-8 weeks to be completed and costs $280 per album. There are certain ground rules that an artist can follow to enhance their chances of approval. All in all it is a complex, costly and risky situation. For immediacy and record release planning it is not very helpful. But we have found a great way of dealing with this situation and still respect the rules of Chinese society.
Realistically, how much music will make it through the censors? Do you think it will be an accurate representation of Western music?
China is in a good place at the moment. We expect most of the music to go through. And with our partner SSCEG this will be approved much quicker than with anybody else. I can’t reveal the details, but in our partnership we are benefiting from a special arrangement between SSCEG and GAPP. Many have entered China and had struggles in the past, but they did not have the exclusive relationships with the government entities that we have. Plus, the market has changed, China is evolving rapidly. They want to protect IP and build up their economy that much more.
Are there any rumblings from those in the Chinese music industry, or fears that this endeavour could undermine their own industry?
Why would there be rumblings? More legally approved music in China means less piracy. Good returns and transparent accounting means more business. And in the end what works for Western artists going to China should work for Chinese artists going to the West as well. We are there to establish a music industry that is worth the name.
Is there room for any other businesses to tap into the market somehow?
I would say that the evolutionary process of creating a music industry is in its earliest days and, over time, more service-oriented businesses will be needed. But one has to enter this market very carefully and with the right relationships. 88tc88 exists to help foster this development and is happy to partner with others wanting to enter this market to further establish a flourishing music industry.
What lies ahead now for 88tc88? Are you looking to expand into any other markets?
We are in it for the long run. The Chinese music market is about to generate first returns for content owners in the West. More legally approved music will help to increase those returns massively, as the scale of sales in China is per se many, many times bigger than in the Western markets together. 88tc88 has trusted relationships in China. We are there to support our partners and help them build a great structure that will allow for a happy content industry in the near future. We should never forget that it is not that long since China has emerged from the dark ages. From that perspective, I personally am very proud of their development and this is why we are very confident we will be successful. Timing is everything!
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