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JUMPING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

According to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry's (IFPI) Global Music Report 2020, as measured by total revenues, China is currently the seventh largest market for Music in the world, and among the top 10 global markets, China also had the strongest year-to-year growth at 16%. With China already boasting a whopping 1.6 billion cell phone subscriptions, the untapped possibilities for Western artists in China are immense.

East Goes Global founder Andrew Spalter tells HITS there is a predominant misconception that because an artist is active on all the major Western-based social-media platforms and DSPs, that they will have successfully penetrated the world. China has its own apps and DSPs that mirror platforms U.S. audiences utilize. In terms of social media, China has Weibo (similar to Facebook and Twitter), Bilibili (think YouTube), Douyin (China’s version of TikTok) and WeChat, which combines social-media and communication functionality with a payment system.

While accompanying Jessie J on a short stint in China, Spalter recognized the potential and began searching for a social-media management company to partner with locally. Immediate obstacles such as a prohibitively high engagement costs and a lack of experience with U.S. companies and artists, convinced Spalter there was an opportunity for a solution to bridge the gap between the U.S. music biz and China. In 2018 Spalter launched East Goes Global. According to Spalter, Chinese DSPs such as QQ Music, Kugou Music, Kuwo Music and NetEase Music offer a unique marketing opportunity due to a Twitter-like feature that allows artists to communicate with fans including via direct messaging—a kind of direct-to-fan engagement not seen in DSPs in other markets.

Currently the strategy of social media management on Chinese native apps with an emphasis on DSPs has paid off. From 5/1-8/17, the total number of followers for Spalter’s roster of clients has surged from 30 million to 54m followers. This has helped amplify the importance of China for many western acts; Troye Sivan, for example, has experienced sufficient growth there to make China a Top 3 market.  

How will growing ties with the aforementioned Chinese companies affect the global trajectory of the western music biz? We shall see. One thing’s for sure: There is no Chinese version of HITS, probably for several very good reasons.

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