Interview with Toni-Matti Karjalainen

Toni-Matti Karjalainen is working as Academy Research Fellow at the Aalto University School of Business. At the moment he is doing a five-year research project focusing on trade of cultural narratives in the rock music industry. EARS got the chance to meet the guy and talk about those cultural narratives and academic collaborations between Europe and Asia.

What is your academic history and what has Asia got to do with it?

15 years ago I was writing my Master’s thesis for Nissan. That’s how it all really started with Japan. Afterwords I have done collaboration projects with Japanese companies, one-way research projects, researcher exchanges between universities, lectures at Kyoto Institute of Technology and various institutes in Tokyo. For years now I have been also lecturing and collaborating with South Korean Universities and companies.  At some point my personal interest towards music also became the topic of my research.

What cultural narratives are present in the rock music industry?

Finland has a positive reputation in Japan. In the Japanese music industry, Finland is the key word of getting the attention from local consumers: Finnish music has its roots deep in our original culture, which is interesting and exotic in Japan. Especially heavy metal fans know Finland as a small home country of various metal bands. These bands are representing the whole Finnish culture when touring in Japan: I’ve witnessed a heavy metal guitarist sign a Moomin troll and answer fans questions about the latest Marimekko‘s print pattern. I see this as a sign of wide interest towards Finnish culture, but also about open mindedness of Japanese consumers who don’t feel the need to categorize culture as design, music and Moomins. They take it all in and embrace it.

What kind of experiences do you have with collaboration with Asian universities?

Mostly my experiences have been good: the collaborations have been carried out with good spirit and mutual satisfaction. Japanese universities vary from Finnish ones in educational, operational and scientific principles. This makes some academic collaborations more difficult than others. The cultural barrier is the biggest factor, language another one. By learning some Japanese you already make a big impression on local partners. Differences in research are also clear: in Finland research results go deeper and are wider as in Asia, the results are concrete and easier to interpret.

What kind of collaborations would you like to do in the future between Europe and Asia in the cultural and academic fields?

I see Universities as great contact networks and impartial embassies between different countries and operatives. Their neutral approach makes universities perfect collaboration partners in various projects. For example, Aalto University has a Design Factory in Shanghai. If I’d meet a Finnish designer interested in starting a business in China, I would advise to contact Design Factory to get guidance on Shanghai’s design field.

In the future, I would like to see more cross art projects in Japan with Finnish culture as the main topic. Surprising combinations and creative madness interest Japanese whose local culture limits people’s creative way of thinking. Finnish art could be seen as an escape from the bureaucratic society.

More information about Toni-Matti Karjalainen on his website.

EARS – Europe-Asia Roundtable Sessions is a platform focusing on creative industry collaboration between Europe and Asia. The next EARS event will be held in Helsinki, August 27-30, showcasing the latest developments from the fields of design, music, performing arts, literature, marketing and media.

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.

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 Nevin Domer

Maybe Mars is an independent CD label that was started in 2007 to promote, identify and support talented young Chinese musicians and artists. Their current catalogue includes many of China’s exciting, new and ground-breaking bands and musicians such as Carsick Cars, P.K.14, Joyside, Snapline, Demerit, SMZB, White, The Gar and many more. EARS got insight into the opportunities of Asian music in Europe from Nevin Domer, COO of Maybe Mars.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Nevin and I work for Maybe Mars Music. I also run a vinyl record label called Genjing Records. In the time that I’ve been in China, I have done many things including sending Chinese bands abroad and bringing foreign bands to China. I’ve been living in China for over ten years and in Asia since 1999 and in Beijing since 2005. When I got there, I first got involved with a venue called D-22 by booking shows for them. Through that, I ended up working with the label and then starting Genjing.

What made you go to China in the first place?

I originally went to China in 1999 to study and I was a student at the university at that time. I completely fell in love with China. After I graduated from the university, I took a scholarship to Korea and spent several years there but started missing China. So in 2005 I moved back, specifically to play in a band and just to enjoy the scene.

Could you tell us a little bit more about Maybe Mars Music?

Maybe Mars is one of the two big independent labels in China. It was started in 2007 and it has now over 50 releases and a total roster of 30 bands.

[quote text=”The music industry like the rest of China is developing and changing very quickly.”]

What kind of challenges are you facing with the music industry in China?

The music industry like the rest of China is developing and changing very quickly. In China, everything can completely change within just six months to one year. I’ve seen the music industry, especially between 2007 to 2012, change very rapidly.

What kinds of opportunities do you see for Asian music in Europe and in the US?

I see lots of opportunities for Asian music in Europe and in the US, mainly because it’s fairly unexplored. Most people in Europe and in the US don’t know much about Asian bands besides bands from Japan. As the Chinese music scene grows and as people learn more about these bands, I’m sure there will be a market for them.

From your experience, what is the best way of promoting Chinese bands in Europe and in the US?

I would say the best way is to connect the band to the local scene – having them partnered with local bands for tours and connecting them to the local media that deals directly with the type of music that they play and a type of scene that they move in.

You have also a band of your own. Could you tell us about that?

I’ve been playing in several bands in China but there’s one that I’ve been particularly playing in since 2006, it’s called Fanzui Xiangfa (犯罪想法). It is a hardcore punk band and it’s completely independent, not affiliated or signed to any label. We’re touring Europe for the second time starting in a week!

We’re now in Helsinki for EARS. How do you like the city?

I’m just starting to get to know Helsinki and I really like it, it’s a beautiful city! EARS has been very interesting and I attended EARS on China last year. Here in Helsinki, I’ve been continuing conversations with people on going deeper into some connections between the music industries in Europe and in Asia.

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.