It's quite late and I'm about to sleep but I thought I'd write a few words since I haven't written a journal in quite some time now, it seems. I've been traveling quite a bit for the past week and a half as I was in Thailand last week and now I'm in China continuing my promotion. It was my first time to Thailand, Bangkok and it was actually quite interesting and fun. We were there to shoot a commercial that was quite challenging but we all made it through all right except for a few sunburns. The weather was great and it didn't rain and wasn't as hot as we had expected it to be. I picked up a few Thai phrases which was quite fun and got to know a bit more about Thailand and its culture and people. It was an eye opening experience and I’m glad I had the opportunity to stay there for so many days.
Now I'm in China on the 2nd leg of my China promotional tour and this time I'm visiting a couple cities I’ve never been before. One is 深圳 which I've heard of but only till now visited. The other city I've never heard of or been to is 南昌 I know very little about this city as so far I've only just seen the city on the ride from the airport to the hotel. Perhaps I'll get to see more of the city tomorrow and I'll share with you my findings.
The album has been out for over a month now and I've been quite busy with promoting the album lately and it will continue for a while since there are still many more cities and places to visit. I'm excited about promotion though I must admit it is quite tiring running from city to city and living out of a suitcase.
There are good and bad things to report as of late and I'd like to share them with you. First, the good news-and, that is, the album is receiving good response and I'm happy to hear that more and more people are enjoying the album, it's songs and stories. Sales are good comparably though the market overall has dropped a good 30% to 40%. There are many reasons for this including illegal downloading, piracy and, quite simply, less consumption by you the consumer. The world population is ever increasing and so are gross incomes but mysteriously sales are dropping and that's something that is very alarming to all of us in the business. Yes, I'm a musician and I care about music but I also care about the business aspect of things and why the market is shrinking. If you read the papers and press you’ll find that record companies all over the world (especially Mandarin music territories such as HK and Taiwan) are claiming how many records they're selling and how great things are. The fact of the matter is that much of what you're reading are lies and exaggerations. The truth is that sales suck and the market is ailing badly. Why they lie and continue to exaggerate is beyond me. Why not just come out and tell everybody that sales suck and that we are all struggling to stay alive? Is there more good music in the wings waiting to come out? NO. Unfortunately, I know what many record companies have in development and what's new and up and coming and, frankly, there's really not much to be excited about except for a few new artists and projects. There's little money and resources to develop new projects because record companies are NOT making that much profit. If you think record companies are making tons of money off record sales then you are WRONG. I would say that the majority of artists (85%) are not selling enough records to break even and cover their marketing and promotion costs. Why do you think so many artists are doing endorsements, making commercials, acting and other non-music related events? It's not necessarily because everybody likes to but they HAVE to because if they were to survive alone on record sales they would starve. That’s the truth and it's something I'd like to share with all of you. I'm really sick and tired of the fact that there is so much lying and exaggerating going around in the music industry. Most sales figures you see claimed and reported by record companies and in the press are padded probably a good 50% to 70%. And that's not an exaggeration on my part. You can take it from me…that’s the truth! Often times, they need to create this hype and aura that the artist is “hot” and popular so you'll be lead into buying his/her album and music. More money is spent on this hype, marketing and media bombardment than the music and so music, in the end, suffers and is often just a vehicle for the artist to get exposure. After all, the artist has to have some “product” in order to come out and promote, right? Of course, there are, in fact, some artists who are truly doing well, selling records and making good music. But that's only a select fortunate few and I'm sure you can guess who those artists are. If everybody is doing so well then why are so many artists and singers disappearing?
All of this is very depressing to me and I'm sure to many others as well who believe in music because the market will change more and more in this direction. There is a whole generation that thinks music SHOULD be downloaded for free and that it's free for the taking. It doesn't even cross their minds that music is somebody's property and enjoying it without paying for it is the same as walking into a convenience store and stealing a drink or chocolate bar without paying for it. There's really no difference except for the fact that music is something intangible and abstract and not a physical entity. Can you download a chocolate bar or can of soda for free? You can music, a movie or a photo, though.
I personally feel one of the other reasons for the “downfall of music “ is that music has been often been considered only as “entertainment” and something light and without value in the Chinese market. Because of this thinking, people may question why they have to pay for it? You pay for a car because it's something very useful and substantial. You pay for an education because it’s something that'll help you get a job and through life perhaps. You even pay for going to KTV with your friends because it's fun and can give you pleasure. However, why pay for music as it's something invisible and only for “entertainment”? That's one of the subconscious fallacies in many people's thinking. This is not the fault of the consumer but of the record companies, media and even musicians who make art and culture (films, music and the arts) out to be “light” and meaningless. If we make it out to be only entertainment and without “weight” then how do you think the consumer and audience will perceive it? If you don’t take something seriously do you think other people will? This is the same as if you don't respect yourself do you expect other people to respect you? Therefore, the majority of Mandarin music has lost respect and credibility in the eyes and ears of the consumer and audience and has become nothing more than “cheap” entertainment. Thus, people will feel less and less of a need to “honor” it and purchase it with their hard earned money. This is a vicious cycle because as less people support the arts the less profit there is for the artists and musicians and, henceforth, less budget and resources to develop more and better products, music and artists. And that is exactly what we have today in our Chinese music market. Are there more contributing reasons and causes for the current decrepit state of things? Of course, there are but I would need more time and space to go into them.
The fact is that WE need to stop pointing fingers and need to start asking ourselves what have we done to make better music and create a better environment for the audience and consumer. I ask that of my superiors and also of other record company executives. What have you done lately in terms of really making better music and artists? I also ask this of other musicians, artists and even myself. What have you done lately to make yourself a truly better musician, singer and performer? Or has money, profit and income been the most important thing on your mind? I'm no saint and I'm guilty of certain things too but I know myself and a few others in the business are trying to overcome this vicious cycle and we are trying to put in the effort to make what we think is at least real and honest music. The Arts are something very abstract so it is always something very subjective. Beauty is always going to be in the eye of the beholder and you can't say something is simply better than the other in a quantitative manner. Of course, you can say something sold better in terms of quantity but that shouldn't be the way to judge anything in this world. The sad fact is that music quality and sales are going down while illegal downloading, piracy and needless fancy marketing are on the upswing.
What needs to happen first is that WE collectively need to work together and start making better music and products. We need to start signing and developing better artists who are truly good at what they do. If they can sing then they really need to sing well. If they can dance then let them dance. If they want to dance and sing then make sure they can really dance and sing. If they are good looking and can' t sing or dance then let them be a model or have them work harder till they become a professional who excels at their craft. Would you want a teacher who can't teach or who isn't professional teaching you or your children? Would you eat at a restaurant with a chef who can't cook well preparing your food for you? I really hope we can be MORE PROFESSIONAL and RESPONSIBLE in what we do and stop acting like a bunch of clowns and amateurs. Where has the craft gone and where are our skills?! Where are the singers, actors, models, and performers of the past who could truly amaze you with their skill, presence and TALENT? It seems everybody these days off the street can be a STAR and artist…
This is getting long and it's time for me to go to sleep as I have interviews and a performance tomorrow. I hope it leaves you all with something to think about. I think about this all the time and it's quite disturbing to me. It's real and perhaps a bit serious and critical but it's the truth. I take my music and work seriously and this is what I'm thinking about. Am I being pessimistic, not really, as this IS what's happening around us it's just that most of you don't know what's going on behind the scenes. Everybody in the business knows about it but it's just that we like to pretend it's not happening and that it'll get better in time. It WON'T if we DON'T do anything about it and continuing doing what are doing now. Let's SHAPE UP OR SHIP OUT!