MIC Taiwan: Discussing the Future Of Taiwan Music In The World

Posted in the Alternative-Rock Forum

Since: Oct 12

United States

#1 Nov 29, 2012
Taiwan is a country that has consistently pulled above its weight, and it's culture is no exception. While there are only 23 million inhabitants living in this sub-tropical island, Taiwan is Greater China's (Mainland, Hong Kong & Taiwan) culture superpower with revenues from domestic TV, film and pop music industries reaching US$45 billion in 2009. Its dominance of the pop music industry has produced the sector's top earning stars such as Jolin, A-Mei and Jay Chow, with over 85% of the music listened to in Greater China being produced in Taiwan.

While Taiwan is not alone in culturally pulling-above-its-weight on the world stage - think Canada, Sweden and South Korea - it finds itself facing some unique challenges in an increasingly competitive environment. Taiwan has always had to compete with Japanese Pop culture since the 70s, however, now Korean Pop (K-Pop) has grown within East and South East Asia's cross-regional musical phenomena. This has pushed countries across the region, notably Singapore and China, to invest in developing their soft power, ie., global cultural reach.

But it is the Mainland that presents the greatest challenges and opportunities for Taiwan. Take just one statistic - a survey in 2011 found that Taiwan had 2.9 million smartphone users, however, China is estimated to have 100 times as many users and continues to grow rapidly. 2013 is also likely to be a landmark year for China's music industry as the government is to begin rolling out a new model to clamp down on piracy and track usage, enabling royalty payments to creators. As one expert consulting the Chinese government on digital music standards recently told me, "Perhaps next year, music will no longer be free in China." This tremendous opportunity, of course, also presents Taiwan with its greatest challenge of holding its lead in the sector as the Mainland's music industry inevitably develops.

This was the context for the Music Industry Conference (MIC) Taiwan held at the Sunworld Dynasty Hotel in November. Since 2010, Taiwan's Government Information Office has been increasing its support of Taiwan artists performing in the West. MIC, on the other hand, gathered international expertise for an open discussion on key issues to form the building blocks of Taiwan pop music's international development, including:
* Artistic collaboration between Taiwanese and Western artists, from songwriting and co-production, to live events and touring.
* Investments in music education and curriculum, particularly of music professionals through training and certification
* Digital platform: mobile & web audiovisual stream business collaboration

I had the opportunity to participate in several of the panels, so I wanted to share some of my takeaways from the forum.
I often have "discussions" with individuals knowledgeable about Asian Pop as to its potential crossover in the West. While Psy on the surface appears to bolster that potential (Billboard's Rob Schwartz laid out an interesting 5 step plan Psy would need to take to go from fad to star in the US), I still contend that Asian and Western Pop are very different animals and not very translatable in the respective markets. Even in Asia, Western Pop lags far behind K-Pop, J-Pop and C-Pop (with the exception of the Philippines where US Pop is dominant).
As such, if Taiwanese acts want to branch out internationally, collaborating with their Western counterparts will be key. First off, they need to come equipped with English songs. Apart from the odd exception ("88 Luftballons" in my day), Americans just don't get down with foreign-language lyrics. K-Pop has understood this and is responding with English-language releases in 2013 from major acts like The Wonder Girls.

But this demands research and collaborating with the right people. Iggy Dahl and Hayden Bell, one of the most successful European songwriting duos in Asia noted at the conference the amount of time and research invested in understanding the difference

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