Q&A: Aussie Nik Phillips launches TV channel in China to help international artists
Brisbane artist-turned-businessman Nik Phillips was the first Australian to release an album through a Chinese Government owned record company, topping the Chinese charts. Now he wants to act as the conduit for western music’s injection into China, via his Korea-based online live broadcasting and production company, Cantara Global.
Last week the company announced its plans for Cantara TV, a dedicated TV channel which will be accessible to over 200 million households across 26 provinces in China. Western artists are currently struggling to break into the territory – marketing tools YouTube and Facebook aren’t available in China and record labels are hesitant to invest in touring. But Cantara Global plans, among other tools, to use its full partnerships with companies including Tencent, which owns three of the world’s five biggest social networks, and e-commerce company JD.com.
In the Q&A below, Phillips chats to TMN about what Cantara TV can do for artists wanting to connect with music fans in China, the agreement it has with rightsholders, why it can bridge the gap created by record labels, which see China as “a high-risk region for western artists,” and much more.
What can you do for artists with Cantara TV that isn’t currently on offer in Asia?
We can offer artists national media access across all mainland China and partner that with interactive marketing activities. We also connect the Chinese audience directly via our e-commerce shop on JD.com which is the largest online retailer in China, similar to their version of Amazon, so artists can sell music and merchandise to obtain direct income. We can also provide full viewer statistics which can be utilised by artists for tour booking and sponsorship alignments which are very important in China.
Tell us about “C-commerce”, content-led digital marketing. From an artist perspective, why is it the best way to get western music into China?
Record companies no longer invest much in touring the region. China is currently a high-risk region for western artists and western promoters because they are not well known, the ticket prices are lower than Western markets because of the Chinese currency value and traditionally marketing has been very expensive. We create content which catches the audience’s attention, raise funding through sponsorship and advertising packages, providing mass media access for the artists. It’s a system that can get an artist to market there in a way that costs the artist or label nothing. In fact they get paid or obtain profit sharing for going into the market.
Is there a focus on live performance content? What else does Cantara TV offer in the way of music?
At the moment live concerts are a big focus for us. It is a major achievement for us to be able to stream live content into a country so highly media regulated. We know of no-one else who is able to do this and the shows we have produced have been very successful. We will also be developing a wider range of other shows both music related and otherwise over the year.
What kind of agreements do you have with rights-holders?
Artists are paid broadcasting fees for the concerts. We enter into profit sharing agreements with the artists for sales and advertising packages and we also are an official representative for the Copyright Protection Centre of China so are very keen to see the protection of artists’ copyright. We can obtain Chinese Copyright Licenses and manage those licenses if requested to by the artists.
In the press release you said: “No record company is going to assist artists to financially take on China.” Why do you think that is?
Under the “old” models, it is very high risk financially for companies to enter a market they don’t understand. CD sales do not exist. Live concerts have been very difficult to market and income is much lower because of the currency rate. Despite all these issues, China cannot be ignored, due to the size of the market and the explosive growth occurring in the consumer market. Cantara solves all the mentioned issues and supplements income for artists through media sponsorship and advertising sharing deals.
Which regions were the most difficult to crack into and why?
In China the most difficult regions are the western and northern provinces. In terms of Asia generally China is by far the hardest due to a range of issues. The Media is highly regulated by the Government and the cost of advertising is very expensive. The sheer size of the market at 1.3 billion people also makes it difficult to get traction and on a national level the majority of Chinese people have little to no knowledge of even some of the biggest western artists. There is interest in Western culture, but the normal tools used by western artists such as YouTube and Facebook, are not available in China.
Are there plans to make Cantara TV available in the Asia Pacific, and more specifically, Australia?
No the TV Channel is for China, however, our programming will be delivered into various markets through regional partnerships. In Australia we will be streaming our first Korean concert into selected venues in April.
Your Chairman and CEOs were in Australia last week. Which companies were they meeting with and what would you see as the best possible outcome of those meetings?
We are meeting advertising companies, music companies, Government organisations and investment companies. We are showing Australian companies, brands and services that by investing in advertising packages associated to the music shows we are developing, we can offer them extensive and interactive exposure to the mass Chinese consumer market.
This is C-commerce- creating content that the market wants and then exposing them to the brand messages. Artists benefit in getting traction in the 2nd largest global economy while sponsors and advertisers obtain very cost effect marketing and sales exposure in China. For the Chinese consumers it’s also a big win as they get to enjoy many more western artists and also access quality international products.