// Theme 1: Intellectual Property
Chicken or the Egg: Does a sustainable music business in China need a Western style copyright regime, or are we all better served by the clean slate that it currently enjoys?

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution (and the opening of physical and cultural borders), China has been identified as a market defined by copyright abuse. Many Western commentators in the music business and other creative industries broad-brush China as a haven for illegal content consumption. Is this oversimplification of the issue?

Many would argue that technology has enabled an infinite flow of information to all corners of the world, but for China "access" has often been just an idea and not a reality. While the issue of access can be challenging in Western markets, it presents different challenges in the Chinese market. What are the reasons behind Western-based content owners and their unwillingness to license music to emerging markets like China?

Some argue that the "free-flow" philosophy is being challenged by multiple stakeholders trying to control and restrict access to their products — imposing their respective wills and value systems in conflict with differing social, cultural, language and legal norms.  This can be seen in sharp focus in territories like China.

Consumers and digital distribution services on both sides of the Pacific Ocean are confused and frustrated by a world of fragmented and non-aligned music rights that they need to make sense of in order to conduct legal commerce.  Consumers seek legitimate access to music at a price they deem fair but ultimately, consumers will do what it takes to access the music they seek if not provided with a functional front door.  

What are the differences between music consumers in China and those in the West when considering the creators / content owners fair right to compensation?

In theory, free markets should be best for resolving these complexities and an increasingly popular solution is the provision of a single licensing source.  Unfortunately, the key stakeholders in a Western dominated music sector have been unable to find a model that meets everyone’s interests. And while everyone waits for a solution, new legitimate and illegitimate models keep offering the consumer new ways to access this content. At the same time, it has to be realized that there are also companies that have a vested interest in the breakdown of copyright enforcement, so that they can capitalize on and monetize valuable content without the need to pay the creators. This complicates the situation further.

// Theme 2: Next Generation Leadership

What will define successful leadership in the music business in China over the next ten years?

Next generation leadership can be identified in individuals and companies, cities and countries. It is defined by innovation and creativity in business practice and in the development of products and services.

Creative industries are in a transitional period.  The transition into a healthy and sustainable music business worldwide will require fluid and innovative business models, combined with technological innovation and simpler/ standardized legal processes.  The question is who, where and why?

Who are the leaders, thinkers and creators that will lead us into this sustainable ecosystem? Will leadership manifest itself in new start-ups or established multi-nationals? Will this leadership manifest itself in the West or will we see innovation and leadership blossom out of new markets such as China? Will leadership manifest itself in more complex devices and services or through stripped down technology based on “constraint-based” innovation?

Is it possible that innovations in technology and copyright regulation in China can take place in the absence of Western participation or do these two very different markets depend on each other for true sustainable growth?

China is known for a unique kind of innovative development called “Shanzai” or “adapted innovation.” The poor protection of IP enables native Chinese manufacturers to take technology (mostly developed under sophisticated IP protection elsewhere) and develop/ localize it for their own gain.  But, innovation is also flowering – Chinese internet companies that began with identical versions of successful Western IT ventures (QQ’s copy of ICQ, XiaoNei of Facebook) have “copied and adapted”, and are now in some cases much more profitable and successful than their Western counterparts.

Does this phenomenon (disruptive by Western standards) hold China’s economic expansion back or does put it in pole position as a leader in innovation?  Can Western companies learn from this business culture? How does this affect the monetized consumption of music?

A new class of young entrepreneurial leaders is emerging.  They are in touch with today’s creative content consumers and this is turning the heads of established players running traditional entertainment and media companies.  Many of these experienced players are realizing that to ignore this shift may be at one’s own peril. This doesn’t just apply to individuals and companies but to the markets in which they reside. Is it important to balance the experience, capital and networks that exist in a more established generation with the creativity, digital literacy and fan knowledge of the young up-and-comers? Does the past matter at all?

What qualities do tomorrow’s leaders, thinkers and creators need?  How can the next generation of entrepreneurs best build bridges with the older establishment so that, together, they can collectively steer the creative industries to sustainable profits?

// Theme 3: Opportunities and challenges between the West and China
China’s music industry: success story or car crash-in-waiting?

Theme three discusses the unique characteristics of the Chinese mainland and what differentiates it from other Asian markets.  Furthermore, this roundtable session is intended to openly discuss the barriers that have led to such pronounced failures amongst western businesses in China.

  1. What are some of the characteristic mis-steps that Western businesses make when building strategies for China?
  2. What are the common misunderstandings that Western companies experience when maneuvering through a negotiating process with Chinese counterparts?
  3. Despite hundreds of studies, thousands of in-depth articles and billions of dollars in investment, have Western companies actually started investing the time to truly understand the unique attributes of China or do they keep trying to apply their Western paradigms onto the Chinese?
  4. How do Chinese businesses executives measure progress?
  5. How realistic are Western expectations for timely returns on investments?

As is the nature of many companies in emerging markets, ownership is concentrated. From a broader perspective, this means the leading shareholders in these companies can take long-term bets on new ideas without fear of losing control of their companies to flighty shareholders.  The independent music sector worldwide is a direct beneficiary of this scenario. Does the indie scene worldwide stand a better chance of success working in markets that support this style of business?

While state owned companies such as China Mobile are unlikely to privatize into Western style corporate models, neither will there be an increase in private/state hybrids in the West. How can the interaction and creative exchange between these two distinct business models benefit the creative economy, digital media sectors and technology sectors?