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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 15:03 GMT 16:03 UK
The changing musical tastes of China
Faye Wong
Faye Wong is a superstar of Chinese music
Groups and musicians within China are changing and diversifying their sound as the record labels scramble to take advantage of the massive growth within the country.

China is now tipped by the music industry as the market they most want to develop. About 75 million people have real disposable income - equal to the entire population of a large European country, and enough to create a consumer boom in entertainment.

Indeed, while the economy has been growing at about nine per cent a year, record sales are increasing at a rate of over 20 per cent a year since 2000. And that is leading to huge changes in Chinese music.

"I think the Chinese music scene is really vibrant," said the president of Universal Music in South-East Asia, Harry Hui.

"There's so much more that's going to come out of this country.

"We're just starting to see it percolating."

Different tastes

Music fans in Beijing have a wide range of tastes, often referencing big names from the West - such as Coldplay, Nirvana, Queen and Alanis Morrissette.

But older Chinese artists are still holding their own amongst the new names, while others are adapting themselves to achieve success.

WHAT'S HOT WHERE
Beijing - rock and roll, metal
Shanghai - boy and girl bands
Northern China - Indie-rock
Mountain areas, Guangdong - Chinese operas
Sober, for example, make an effort to appeal to Blur's fans in China by adopting strong Britpop influences into their sound.

And China's latest sensation, Dao Lang, has risen to massive popularity through fusing ethnic Chinese music with soft rock.

While critics are scornful of his approach, Mr Hui described him as one of two of the most exciting findings that the company has made.

The other is a young 22-year-old who can "perfectly" sing records by artists such as the Backstreet Boys or Michael Jackson despite not knowing a word of English.

Chinese music has undergone great change since the 1980s, when it first began to move away from a traditional folk-based sound to rock.

Outside China

Cui Jian, whose song I Have Nothing became a symbol of the frustrations of the Chinese youth in the 1980s, is one of the few Chinese artists known outside of China.

He played a concert in New York's Central Park in 1999.

"I want to see a lot happening," he said.

"But it's very hard to find a live music club in China. Mostly they have karaoke everywhere in big towns. But you'll only find two or three live music clubs in Beijing, at the weekend."

Cui Jian
Cui Jian wants to see more international music by 2008
Meanwhile Chinese music's undisputed megastar is Faye Wong - who owes her success in part to another branch of the entertainment industry, videogames.

Officially the best-selling console pop artist ever, many young Westerners know her through the song Eyes On Me, which was recorded for the videogame Final Fantasy VIII.

However, no matter how popular an artist is, one thing that will not usually make money is record sales.

Profits are held back by poor distribution networks and piracy - the illegal copying of records.

"Music fans cannot purchase what they want from the shops, and the communication between the purchasers and the distributors can be quite poor," said sales analyst Marcia Jueng Cheng.

"That is why sales of legal products are awful... and because of piracy, the music professionals cannot get paid for what they have done."


SEE ALSO:
One in three music CDs 'illegal'
23 Jun 05 |  Entertainment
UK music office to open in China
15 May 05 |  Entertainment
Shanghai schools swap Mao for pop
16 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
China bans 'opium' song
30 Oct 03 |  Entertainment


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