The Wall Street Journal did a couple of stories last week on the difficulties foreigners face when getting involved in China’s concert business.
The first article, entitled, China Wants to Rock but Regulations Hinder, but Regulations Hinder, consists mostly of a Q & A session with Beijing entertainment lawyer Mathew Alderson. Alderson focused on the obstacles foreign companies face in doing business in China’s entertainment industry:
Foreign direct investment in the entire entertainment industry is tightly restricted. The restrictions mean that foreigners cannot operate without a Chinese partner. So the first obstacle is the continuing restriction on international record companies that want to make and sell music in China.
Without record companies and music publishers it is harder to support a live industry drawing on touring international acts. But, then again, record piracy is rampant and the Chinese consumer is not fond of paying for downloaded copyright material anyway, so the traditional commercial foundation for record companies and music publishers does not exist. I suppose, then, that contempt for intellectual property comprises the second obstacle.
The third obstacle is the licensing system that applies to live performances. All live events must be licensed, but the system requires the advance submission of details that are often not known until the last moment, such as the details of all support acts and technical crew. Ticket sales cannot be advertised or marketed until the license has been granted.
Again, because of regulatory restrictions, foreigners simply cannot promote shows except via a license held by their Chinese partner. In many respects, the licensing system reflects censorship concerns. When some foreign entertainer gets up on stage and goes off about some topic they know to be off-limits, it only makes it harder for the promoter of the next act to get a license.
In the other WSJ article, Heavy Metal, Preapproved by China, Alderson talked of how performers in China must secure preapproval for every aspect of their show, down to the song lyrics, in an effort to prevent that which might be deemed politcally sensitive.
Despite all of the obstacles, however, foreign concert promoters are starting to make big money in China and optimism seems to be running rampant. In other words, the business of putting on China concerts is not too dismilar to what foreign companies face in doing business in China as a whole.