Interview with Cheung Fai

Cheung Fai has 30 global years experience in the performing arts, cultural industry and media/marketing. At the moment he is working as an Artistic Advisor and Curator of Helsinki Festival 2015 Focus China. EARS interviewed the EARS on Helsinki 2015 speaker about his ongoing production in Helsinki.

You’re attending EARS on Helsinki for the second time in August. What has happened since we saw you the last time?

I am now working with the Helsinki Festival China focus. Inside China focus I am curating a special event with young artists called 25 x 25, standing for 25 hours of various non-stop performances by Chinese artists under the age of 25. That is my main project at the moment but I have also been doing other festivals in China during this past year.

Could you tell us how this collaboration with Helsinki Festival started?

Actually, I met Erik, the artistic director of Helsinki Festival last year during EARS. We talked about the China focus program and both thought there was a need to have different younger Chinese artists presenting what they are doing and thinking. So I curated this project with more than 12 young artists from the fields of  theatre, music, dance, visual arts and media. Some of them are not professional artists but students or they do other things at the same time. They create art in different ways than others, even professional artists in their fields. As they are so young, they have a different perspective of seeing, understanding and presenting the world through their art. They are fresh artists with new ideas. The original creativity is there, you can see the sparkle.

Who are the young artists coming to Helsinki?

Youngest of them is a dancer and choreographer, only 17 years old girl from a small village, now studying in Hong Kong. You can see the raw energy of her body and of what she wants to express.  Even when she’s not sure what she is expressing you can see the urge to move. We also have an actress/director from Beijing doing a monolog about pain. She has interviewed other girls and women from different ages about their experiences

and built a monolog based on those statements. We also have a musician interested in interactive sound art. There is also going to be two artistic groups trying to find different ways to express art; they are part of a project that can be seen as an artwork or a social study but that doesn’t change the content, the love and the interest for powerful insight. These are some of the artists performing at 25 x 25 in August.

Does the new generation and their work differ somehow from what we have seen before?

They don’t have a historical or even professional burden on their shoulders. China is comparably new to the contemporary artistic culture. In many ways the Chinese traditions and western traditions are burden to more professional artists who might be trained to think according to certain traditions. They can feel chained. Young artists don’t care about the traditions from East or West. They are trying to find the creativity from themselves, from their imagination and from their own lives, not from the academy or their teachers. They are more fresh and willing to break free from some of the definitions of different forms of art. From many artists you can not really say she is a dancer or a theater person, they cross boundaries. They have more freedom in their works and in their lives. They are more themselves as individuals and braver to take risks without being afraid of failure. I think they are the future.

What is best about EARS?

Roundtables! Talking is important to everyone; for people in business, art and media. You have to have people talking to each other before anything good can really happen between them. For the relations between Europe and Asia, talking is essential; the world is evolving and changing every day. We need people to meet each other and talk to each other face to face, have them ask questions and that way find real understanding. This form of roundtables brings different people from different countries and industries together to talk, that is the beginning of every possibility.

Pasila Studios – Creative hub of Helsinki

EARS asked Anssi Komulainen, Head of Partnerships of Finnish Broadcasting Company Yle, to tell his views and expectations for EARS on Helsinki 2015, and the opportunities the event beholds.

Anssi Komulainen

Why is Pasila Studios the best place for EARS on Helsinki?

It’s the hottest platform for creative operations and encounters in the capital area of Finland, located in upcoming urban district, which is planned to be Helsinki’s second city center in 2020.

What are you looking forward to the most about EARS on Helsinki 2015?

I’m waiting to get to talk, meet and innovate with Asia’s creative professionals and that way, build concrete collaborations and business opportunities between East and West. The differences of the European and Asian media fields bring incredible opportunities to build new and interesting things.

Where do you see the greatest opportunities for collaborations between Finnish and Asian media fields?

In education and children. Asia is a continent where investing in youth and children is seen as a very important matter. Finland is a pioneer in equality and education. I think these values form a great foundation for future collaborations.

Interview with Taru Salminen

South Korea based TV-celebrity and entrepreneur, Finnish Taru Salminen visited Helsinki and talked to EARS about what it’s like to work in the field of media in a totally different culture.  

Taru, how did you end up in South Korea?

 By accident! When I was in High School I had many penpals from South Korea as I wanted to improve my English skills. Through those connections I developed an interest towards the Korean language which I ended up studying for some years at the University of Helsinki. During my studies, I did an university exchange to South Korea and fell in love with the country immediately: incredibly nice people, beautiful mountains, ocean, sun, and delicious food! After returning to Finland I knew I had to find a way to move to South Korea for a longer period of time. And so I did! I ended up in a popular Korean conversational TV-show as one of the panelists and started to get more job offers from different fields of media.

How is your life in Seoul?

My life in Seoul is very hectic! I have many ongoing projects all the time, such as radio shows, TV programs, translation projects, my own restaurant and everything else you could imagine. In general people in Korea are very active: working long hours is normal and as in Finland, the working ethics are good.

What kind of cultural differences have you faced as a Finn in South Korea, especially working in media and the cultural field?

In Korea, working in media there are some topics that are absolute tabus. For example, the language that one uses in television is totally different from everyday life. As Korea used to be ruled by Japan many Korean words come from Japanese origin. Those words are banned in media and substituents are created to very commonly used everyday words. I have also understood that being a TV person in Korea is very different from Finland. In South Korea moral codes are really strict: as a reporter you cannot cause a scandal with your personal life and still appear regularly in media. After scandals such as gambling or divorce, people disappear from TV for 5 to 10 years.

What inspires you at the moment?

Different kinds of opportunities. Between Europe and Asia there are plenty of chances to build new collaborations. For example, at the moment I’m helping a new Finnish startup to establish their place in South Korean markets. In addition, I’m translating books and working on different cultural exchange projects. There are a lot of things to get inspiration from. I’d say I’m living a very interesting phase in my life right now.

Taru Salminen will give a keynote speech at EARS on Helsinki, register now to save your seat!

Interview with Meng Jinhui

VICE is a global youth media company that includes an online television network, print magazine, film, TV and book production divisions, record label, and digital advertising agency. In 2013, VICE opened a fully localized, Chinese-language branch in China. Since the launch has had 100 million page views. EARS got insight into Chinese youth culture and the success of VICE in the country from Meng Jinhui, Head of VICE China.

Please tell us about your background, what did do before VICE China?

Before VICE China, I worked for Modern Sky Entertainment. I was a label manager and worked with founding. We for example started the company’s music festivals. After working with Modern Sky for six years, which is quite a long time, I started looking for something more culturally large-scaled. I got to know VICE and it felt like a perfect time for me to start a new thing, a media platform to examine youth culture.

How has VICE been received in China?

Very well. The key factor is that the team we have in Beijing consists mostly of local young people. They know what kind of things Chinese young people like so they know what kind of content we should produce. Especially all the local content that we have produced so far has been very popular both locally and internationally. Internationally, it’s very hard to find another media platform that shows this kind of real and versatile content on youth culture in China.

So it’s been really good so far! I don’t think that there’s any other international media company like VICE that has come to China and has been able to build such a huge group of followers in such a short time.

[quote text=”Even China is one country, all different parts have their own local culture.”]

Have VICE faced any challenges in China?

The only challenge for VICE is that China is a huge, complex country. All different parts of China have their own local culture. Young people in all cities and in the countryside all behave differently. So even though China is one country, you’re need to learn about different parts of China. For a media company it means that if you want to tell a story about Chinese youth, you really have to go different places to meet and talk with the local people. You need to see what they look like, what they do and how they react to the rest of the world.

What can you tell about youth culture in China?

The whole of China is changing very fast and it’s same thing with youth culture. In China, we talk a lot about what Chinese young people do and what they are interested in. Right now young people’s consuming power is getting bigger and bigger, they have money to spend on music, fashion and travelling. Nowadays, young Chinese travel around the world.

Do you think that there’s a lot of differences between the VICE followers in China compared to the western world?

Basically for VICE as a digital company there’s only two different nations: one is online and the other is offline. When you get online, you get to talk to the whole world. Young people share the same information. They have a very similar way of thinking and they are into all kinds of interesting things.

Often when people talk about China, they see China as a totally different world. Of course culturally there’s a huge difference between the Western and Eastern culture but I don’t see that much difference in it as a country. The whole country has been open for a long time and especially the level of internationality has changed really fast. In VICE China we’re really excited to show to the rest of the world what Chinese young people are like. I believe that people know quite much about China but they don’t know that much about young Chinese.

Can you briefly tell us about the Creators Project by VICE?

The Creators Project is a media platform for arts and technology. It was founded by VICE and Intel. So far we have featured over 2000 artist all over the world like designers, filmmakers, musicians – all kinds of different people from creative industry. We for example have documentaries for audience to see the stories behind of creation. We also produce daily editorial content to show the most exciting creative scene of the world.

[quote text=” Before Chinese people got inspired by western culture, fashion and design but now they’re trying to find their own identity.”]

How do you see the development of creative industries in China?

China is a developing country and the creative industries are still in the very beginning. Nowadays you can see more and more local designers going to international markets and Chinese bands touring outside China. Before Chinese people got inspired by Western culture, fashion and design but now they’re trying to find their own identity. They are trying to establish their own stuff, which is a really good thing! The creative industries are in the very beginning but you can see that it will explode soon. Will be exciting to see what the future brings!

Interview with Ed Peto

Ed Peto runs a music industry consultancy called Outdustry Ltd. The Beijing based firm specializes in China music market entry, record label services, producer management and market intelligence. EARS had a chat with Ed about Outdustry work in China and the future of copyright dependent industries in China.

Who you are and what do you do?

My name is Ed Peto and I run a company called Outdustry Group based in Beijing. We represent Western rights owners, labels, services and producers for market-entry into China.

Please tell us about your background and how did you end up in China?

I’m originally from London. I was working in the music industry with labels, artist management and a few other areas. I developed a reasonably good understanding of how the industry worked as a whole and I wanted to take that understanding somewhere where the industry was still to be made, essentially. So, seven years ago I took a bit of a left turn in my life and decided to go and see how the market works in China. It’s been a very odd seven years because a lot of it is sort of been making it up as you go along. The industry in China is just fascinating! As tough as it is, everyday something bizarre or interesting happens – you’ll come across some amazing stories, amazing people and it’s kind of addictive. China just a very interesting place to be at a very interesting time.

Could you tell us a bit more about your company Outdustry?

The company is really a family of five small businesses. One is a producer and composer management business (Engine Music) representing Western producers, mixing and mastering engineers and composers for work on Chinese mainstream-pop, indie albums and more recently, major film soundtracks. The second business, which we actually just set up, is a sync agency (Core Sync) representing Western catalogues pitching for film, TV and web usage. We’re also starting to work as music supervisors for Chinese drama series.

Third business is a kind of a rights management business (OD Rights). We represent Western rights owners for bringing their catalogues into China and finding ways to monetize that through digital, physical and other markets. We’re increasingly looking into areas like performing rights, which is a very interesting area at the moment in China. We’re also acquiring Chinese catalogues for international distribution.

The fourth one is a market intelligence business called China Music Business. We publish articles about how the music industry works in China and are available for market visits, report writing and market introductions. Sort of trading in information and connections essentially. Last but not least, we have a music marketing agency (S/N Agency), primarily focused on building awareness around our clients and driving consumption of their physical and digital releases.

[quote text=” Companies in China have to be there for the long run.”]

What kind of strategic decisions have you made to succeed in the Chinese market?

I think in general, the Chinese industry as a whole has progressed a lot slower than people would have liked it to and it’s still a very long play. Actually, as a recorded music market, it’s still incredibly small. It’s actually smaller than Switzerland and Thailand. That means companies in China have to be there for the long run. In terms of focusing our business, we made a decision a couple of years ago that while live music in China is incredibly exciting, it’s over-crowded and a hard area to make money in, so we focused on the record side which is even harder but there’s no one else really doing what we do – so we’ve got a good niche for ourselves. It’s strategically a very interesting area to be in but we have to keep in mind that it’s a long strategy.

Besides China, do you do business in other regions in Asia as well?

Because the industry is so small at the moment in China, there is a temptation to start doing business outside of China. However, one of the decisions I’ve made over the last couple of years is that you just got to be the best at what you do within a particular region. I think it could be a mistake to try to spread yourself out too much. China is such a complex place that it requires your full attention. Each region in Asia has its own set of issues or complexities, which require full time attention as well. For us, the most important thing is to be the best at what we do within China.

[quote text=” The market is going to be very exciting and big in the future.”]

How do you see the development in the creative industries in China?

Any of the copyright dependent industries have traditionally had a very hard run in China. But there is a recognizable copyright law in China so it’s just a question of enforcing it properly so that the creative industries can start to flourish. It’s just starting to happen now. It’s looking increasingly interesting as the businesses develop and people actually start to see rewards from copyright based goods.

If we look at the film industry in China for example, it’s going through a boom at the moment. Largely because the Chinese government sees it as kind of a soft power issue where they want to start exporting films and they’ve protected that as an industry. We’re hoping that the music industry is going to be the next area of creative goods that actually get that level of protection from the government. It looks very exciting if this will happen. But as with all things in China, these things take longer than you would imagine. We know that the market is going to be very exciting and big in the future. It’s just when that future actually comes, that’s what’s unclear.

Interview with Xavier Norindr

Crosslight Global Entertainment is a creative entertainment agency that works mainly with concepts, creative content management, business development and marketing strategies. Crosslight has offices in Paris, Berlin, Tokyo and New York and has a variety of contacts throughout Asia and Europe. EARS had a chat about Asian music export with Xavier Norindr, CEO of Crosslight Global Entertainment.

Could you tell us who you are and what do you do?

My name is Xavier Norindr. I have a strong background in working with Japanese artists for the European market. In the past, I have promoted and organized tours for a lot of artists across Europe. Currently, I am the CEO and co-founder of Crosslight Global Entertainment, a creative entertainment agency. We provide a full service catalogue from concepting and management of creative content and events to marketing strategies and business development. Our clients are mainly brands and companies from the entertainment industry.

Bringing Japanese artists to Europe and promoting them has been your passion for a very long time. How did you first get started in the business?

As a matter of fact, it was a passion more than a business to me. I was first introduced to Japanese music through video games and mangas. I also had a band with my brother in high school and we used to do covers of Japanese bands like X Japan or Luna Sea. That’s when I started to discover more and more artists. After that, I organized some parties in France in bars and clubs where people could gather and listen to Japanese music. I felt the need to turn my passion into a business just after I brought my first Japanese band to France for a concert in 2004. After this concert I started to work on a business plan to bring more Japanese artists abroad.

Could you tell us about your company Crosslight Entertainment?

We started the company in 2012. The firm was co-founded by Stéphane Hervé, the Creative Director and Artist, and myself. We wanted to gather our skills and networks in order to provide support for companies, artists and brands for their development in foreign markets. It’s important today to think globally. Our main areas of expertise are the concepting and production of content and events, business development and marketing. At CGE we also believe in the importance of content in a marketing strategy. A strong and right content can lead to success but to produce the right kind of content, you need the right talents. At CGE we have broad international networks of talents in various areas: music, photography, video, events and marketing. We’ll find the right team for the market you target.

What kind of projects are you now working with at Crosslight Entertainment?

Right now we are talking with a few management companies in Japan and Korea in order to develop their artists in Europe. There’s talk about showcases in Europe, PR, collaboration with local brands and/or local artists, photoshoots, recording etc. We also have requests from French artists to help them with exporting to Asia. Besides that, we are talking with companies from the gaming industry in order to do some exciting and innovative events.

With offices in France, Germany, Japan and recently, US, it seems that a lot is going on and the demand is high. What kind of aspirations do you have for the future?

I think it’s very important to be located all around the globe, to work with international profiles. There is demand because many companies, brands, artists want to reach global markets. My aspiration is to lead my clients and partners to success in their development in foreign markets.

[quote text=” Everyone is looking to bring their music abroad.”]

As a pioneer of exporting Asian artists to Europe, are you seeing changes when compared the current situation to where it was a few years ago?

I have noticed a lot of changes regarding exporting in the music industry. Export has become an important and strategic topic for many artists and records companies. I’ve seen that especially with Japanese artists. A few years ago not so many record companies and managements in Japan were interested or were thinking about exporting their music. Now, everyone is looking to bring their music abroad. Companies and artists need to have a local partner to succeed and that’s one of the reasons why CGE was founded.

What kind of audiences for Asian music are there in Europe?

There are different kinds of audiences in Europe for Asian artists. It really depends on what genre of music we are talking about. Many Japanese bands we have worked with told us that European and Japanese audience are different. They pointed out that the European audience are more “crazy” and sometimes “wild”.

Where is the biggest demand for Asian bands in Europe?

I think it really depends on the genre of music. What I am sure of is that there is demand everywhere in Europe. From my point of view, the oldest markets for Asian artists are France, UK and Germany.

What do you think is the outlook like for Asian music exporting altogether?

I think the future of Asian artists is very promising both in Europe and worldwide. Since I am working with Asian artists I see the audiences and fans growing and the number of concerts and appearances of Asian artists in music festivals increasing. It will go on for sure!

You are coming to speak to the EARS on Helsinki event this September. What are you most looking forward to from the event?

I am looking forward to connect with nice people.