transmitchina 2010 - Shanghai reception
// by Louise Upperton, photos by Tobyn Ross / Jun 2, 2010

We arrive at the stunning Intercontinental Puxi hotel in the Zhabei District of Shanghai in the early afternoon. Tonight the transmitCHINA conference will officially begin with a welcome reception at Glamour Bar. But, to kick things off a bit earlier, there's another first for transmitCHINA – a daytime B2B mentoring session sponsored by Ontario with the legendary Seymour Stein, co-founder and chairman of Sire Records. Stein famously signed the likes of Madonna, the Ramones and Talking Heads. The informal session was held at 228 Quxi Road in the Xuhui District. Formerly a bomb shelter, it's now Shanghai's most popular music rehearsal space below a restaurant and a hotbed for Shanghai's underground rock scene. A poetic location for a "how to" session with the man who signed the Talking Heads after witnessing them play CBGD's by accident.

Stein says that the reason he comes to China and India so frequently is that he feels the future of recorded music depends on Asia. "Markets in the West are dropping off tremendously. In the United States, every year, down 9 to 10 percent. It's very difficult to continue. Germany is the worst in terms of losses… All of Asia is important, but the two most important – because of the number of people they have and the tremendous success they've enjoyed recently, in the last 15 or 20 years – are China and India… Unless we get China and India on board, we're dead."

Stein is interviewed by Han Han, who is the co-founder of one China's most successful independent labels, Miniless Recordings, as well as the frontman of three Shanghai-based bands – Duck Fight Goose, LAVA|OX|SEA and Booji. Han Han is also a designer for the t-shirt brand, The Thing.

Han Han asks Stein what the key element of a rock band should be if they want to be famous. "This is the music business, so it's the songs," Stein insists. "The songs are everything." He emphasizes that just as real estate is all about location, music is all about the songs. "Great musicians know the importance of great songs and young bands will only become better musicians… Stage performance is also very important – most people have to work on this."

Stein says his personal view is that the internet has done a lot of damage to the music business, but it's also had a positive outcome. "There's more good music now – accessible because of the internet – than ever before, but it brings home how difficult it is to make it in the business." He also believes the Chinese government should make an investment in the music industry and be more supportive of local artists, using music to draw people to China. "With good marketing and if the government were behind it, it would be tremendous," says Stein. "If you don't think it's possible to be successful from China, you're wrong." He cites a tradition of music in Asia that pre-dates Europe and the United States, and claims there is no reason why the Chinese can't export their music to America.

Stein's advice to young artists: don't sell your principles and join the rest of the pack, but do allow yourself to be inspired and influenced by something new and re-invent yourself based on that. It's important to be original. You have to have the courage of your own convictions. Be determined and dedicated. Throw yourself into what you do and make it your life. Be patient. He reminds everyone in the room that it took the Beatles more than a year to release a record in the United States, even after their success in the UK.

Of course, we're all keen to find out how all of this wisdom will help local bands in China. It certainly helps if you stick around until the end of the session to have Seymour Stein write down his personal contact info on where to send your demo.

Back at the hotel, conference attendees are arriving one by one, and before too long, a delegate-packed mini-bus is on it's way to the elegant Glamour Bar. This late-night hot spot is located at the corner of Guangdong Lu and the Bund, which runs along the western bank of the Huangpu River facing Pudong. Nestled between the historical buildings along the Bund, Glamour Bar boasts a breathtaking view of central Shanghai. It's the perfect introduction to this wonderful city.

The Canadian delegation mix with a diverse group of internationals who will also be attending transmitCHINA, including at least 30 of China's leading innovators in the music space. Scanning the representation in this room, it is clear that music in China is a vital part of many people's business. Along with record executives, publishers, promoters, journalists and bloggers, there are a number of representatives of Chinese-based social media firms, not to mention the head of rights for the NBA in China who happens to be using music as a driving force behind his promotional efforts. There is no question that the music industry in China is as diverse as the guest list at this cocktail reception. It's only Day One, and things are already getting interesting…

To see the full gallery of the Shanghai Reception, please visit Tobyns website HERE.

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