Humming the theme song of the 11th Asian Games Beijing, Wang Ju, executive vice president and secretary general of China Audio-Video Association, has too much to say. He is its producer and production supervisor. From 1989 to 1990, Mr. Wang was appointed by the 11th Asian Games Organizing Committee to take charge of the production, recording and issuance of all related songs for the 11th Asian Games.
The Past "Thundering Roar"
Mr. Wang remembers vividly the experience of creating this song. Twenty years ago, the then Asia Games Organizing Committee (AGOC) contracted, about creating a theme song for the 11th Asia Games, with China Broadcasting and Audio-video Publishing House, which was incorporated by Wang Ju under the commissioning of China National Radio. During the May holiday that year, Xu Peidong, upon a consensus reached after communicating with Wang Ju, played on the piano a melody, the later Mighty Winds of Asia.
In retrospect, he said with a tinge of emotion, “That song is the fruit of concerted efforts. Xu Peidong recorded it again and again and tried to make it perfect. Whenever he found something improper, he would immediately call up a guitarist or other musicians to perfect it. Although this song is outdated by the current standard, it was really popular and suited with the then national situation.” Because of time pressure, the AGOC decided to organize two groups: one was to create the collective dance; the other, the theme song. “After the show, Mighty Winds of Asia was played and all people at present, about 100,000, were singing along with it, pushing the ceremony to climax. I was rather touched.” Wang Ju said with excitement flaring in his eyes.
The 1990s witnessed the emerging of the audio-video industry. The bestseller in 1990 was the collection of the 11th Asia Games songs, represented by the theme song, the Mighty Winds of Asia, which were produced by China Broadcasting and Audio-video Publishing House. More than three million tapes were sold that year alone. It was the golden time of audio-video publishing houses, and virtuous circle of investing, issuing and marketing was forming.
In Mr. Wang’s eyes, China’s music creation has declined by a large margin. “Actually, China has let three excellent chances slip: the Beijing Olympic Games, the Shanghai Expo and the Guangzhou Asian Games. We were very strong and successful in holding these large activities, but very bad in publicising our culture. We, people of the music industry, should feel ashamed about this. People were impressed by Barcelona of Barcelona Olympic Games, Hand in Hand of Korea Olympic Games, and Reach Out of L.A. Olympic Games. But what has the Beijing Olympic Games left? Nothing! All the other countries value ideology and demonstrate their capacity of music creation and representability of music through sporting games. In contrast, we have no impressive music that we can take pride in through the three global meetings. That is a real pity.”
The Growing Pains
The audio-video industry has been taking shape since the beginning of the 21st century. The kinds, volume and amount of audio-video products increase by a larger margin compared to the last century. Three highly concentrated industrial belts have been formed surrounding Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, and several audio-video enterprises become financially strong, including China Record Corporate, Shanghai New Remit Cultural Entertainment Group, China International Television Corporation, Taihe Rye Music, Hurray, Huayi Brothers, etc. and strong in producing and issuing, including Zoke Culture Group, Beauty Media, Peacock Records, etc. These leading enterprises are excellent at creation and distribution, owning masses of copyright.
Main suppliers of audio-video products are private enterprises, which take advantage of high market shares and ample funds to consolidate and extend its distribution channels through purchasing numerous copyright of music, movies and TV series. The flourishing of the audio-video industry stimulates the development of upstream programs. The price of the movie Hero rocketed to 12.5 million Yuan at an auction proves that. The investments on some popular TV series are recovered just from the sale of copyright for audio-video production, far before they are sold for TV broadcast. Music copyright, especially the distribution right of Hong Kong and Taiwan songs, is heated. The audio-video product market now is the most important source of income for music, movies and television programs.
Wang Ju witnessed the fluctuation brought by the speedy updating of audio-video carriers. It took album forty years to replace coarse stria turn fast record; thirty years, from album to tape; ten years, from tape to CD. In 1998, the newly appearing VCD took the place of tape rapidly and developed into the mainstream production, with its market share reaching up to 53% in 2003. After 2005, new media updated quickly. Network music, telephone rings and MP3 are popular, which heavily hit the traditional audio-video market.
Wang Ju analyses, thoroughly and accurately, the influence brought by the Internet for the audio-video industry. On the advent of the Internet age, numerous audio-video companies focused on the Internet and invested in it. A spurt of users of coloring ring back tone seemed to indicate the new profit point of audio-video industry. However, the recent years underwent the stagnancy of authorized music downloading service and shrinkage of the CRBT service profit. The development of digital music and online video will be heavily impacted by the lack of an effective and stable business model and a mutually beneficial credit mechanism between telecom operators, facilitators and service providers. The phonogram industry’s failure to benefit from the new media has seriously affected the development and creation of new programs. If once this forms a vicious circle, the insufficiency of original creation will definitely result. People’s zeal for digital music and accompanying speculation on related concepts do not equal to music production. The low quality of Internet songs and videos can't meet the requirement of consumers. Free download resources are doomed to disappear, and the resulted insufficiency of good music will bring pain. People's enthusiasm for the Internet and mobiles is sure to decrease. This phenomenon, for its negative impact, constitutes a confusing factor to the development of the audio-video industry toward digital publication.
Bubble of Prosperity “Various reasons result in the large amount yet low quality of artistic works. Most people agree on this point. A top leader even pointed out that China, technically speaking, has no culture industry. What on earth is culture industry? An industry, first of all, must be a collective group of enterprises, but not individuals. However, observing the representatives of NPC and members of CPPCC from the culture sector, artists overwhelmingly outnumber entrepreneurs. Artists and entrepreneurs are different, judged from their perspectives and limitations. That does not mean artists can not represent art, but they only speak for a certain cultural field and can not think, like entrepreneurs, from the perspective of the whole cultural industry, such as industry development, investment, marketing and so on.” Wang Ju said. As an expert at the audio-video industry, he is prudent with the over-heatedly speculated concept of “culture industry”.
Mr. Wang always believes that the culture industry should be developed by enterprises from a certain business circle, instead of individual artists. Take America as an example. The core of American music and movies is the top four record companies and top seven movie companies, but not a certain actor or director. Individuals have limited impact on the music or movie industry. This is worth our attention. And an analysis of this phenomenon can help us easily realize the importance or copyright to the culture industry. Copyright is an enterprise’s greatest fortune and is indispensable for its prosperity. If there is no copyright, there is no virtuous business ambiance for an enterprise’ survival. Wang Ju said, “Enterprises win profits through marketing their products, otherwise they are non-profit organizations. Enterprises can only survive by making profits. ”
Wang Ju used a series of figures to prove the enormous value of the culture industry. Number speaks louder than others. The year of 1999 marked the best days of the traditional record industry. During that year, the total worth of global record sales was USD 39.5 billion; in 2009, it declined to USD 11.93 billion. The worth of digital music sales, in contrast, rose to USD 4.30 billion. But the sum of the two was USD 16.24 billion, far less than the height of ten years ago. China’s situation is more or less the same.
The worth of music is realized through the sale of audio-video products and copyright transaction. From the aforementioned figures, it can be seen that a constant decline arises in the worth of audio-video products realized through the traditional phonogram sale, while the values realized through authorized use of copyright are on the rise. The value of digital music, as a typical example of this digital era, is realized through the lawful authorization of copyrighters. If copyright is infringed, or fails to be well protected, the whole industry will suffer.
Free Meat, Chronic Poison
The material piracy can be neglected, and the real jeopardy is on-line piracy. According to a survey, 98% of the surveyed listen to on-line music, but the profit of record companies is less than 100 million Yuan. There are still some websites, such as the top100.cn, that provide authorized music. Top100.cn cooperated with Google, which was its main revenue resource, and lost heavily after Google’s withdrawal from China. It has in its databank 65,000 authorized songs, which brings an annual profit of about 50 million Yuan. However, all those authorized songs can be found through the search engine and deep linking of Baidu for free. Listeners of course do not refuse free music especially when they don’t have to register for government supervision. Actually, music websites only owning tens of thousands of authorized songs, like top100.cn, are hard to keep operating. The outrageous piracy jeopardizes the normal run of record enterprises, and the phonogram industry is in fact almost extinct. “As far as I know, many singers have left record companies for the latter’s failure to invest in them.” Wang Ju said with obvious misery.
Customers are God. This is a saying everybody knows. But nowadays God does not pay anymore. He wants free music alone. When everybody downloads free music, the virtuous development of the record industry becomes a daydream, as music producers even fail to get back their investment, not to mention profits.
“We have been reflecting our past ways and trying to change our thinking. We should not blame customers of course. There was a case in America. The defendant was a woman who downloaded several unauthorized songs from the Internet. Even upon a settlement agreement, the defendant paid a damage of 70,000 US dollars. If the case had been judged at the court, the damages should have been over three million US dollars. This has turned customers into adversaries of record companies, a situation we will never want. The customers are not to blame. It is the circulators’ wrong. The government should inflict penalties on those that forge the present vicious circle which impairs the interests of the whole industry.” Wang Ju said.
“For the past decades, we have seen success and failure, glory and desolation, hardship and opportunity, hope and disappointment. They accompanied the audio-video industry all along. My biggest wish is to develop and protect our culture industry. This is a rather important task before us.” Wang Ju said in earnest.
(Translated by Qiu Qing)