Chengdu Music Cities: the power of music in the economics of the intangible

By Dani Ribas

When we exit specific contexts towards a country with very different habits, there’s no way we can deny the power that music exerts on our lives: it permeates all impressions and comparisons. In the eyes of a Western female, everything in China seems different.

China is an enormous country with millenary traditions and an impressive cultural diversity. The State is present in virtually everything, particularly culture incentives. The performances during the 8th Music Cities Convention in Chengdu, on April 11th and 12th, revealed this to visitors, and city tours served as a testament of the sheer reality: music is an integral part of people’s lives.

The event is organised by Sound Diplomacy. It is a conference of global reach discussing the relation between music and the urban environment. Case studies include the value of music in urban planning, for development policies and for quality of life. The conference saw 48 speakers and more than 500 delegates from China and the rest of the world in just two days. They included government stakeholders, academic experts, organisations and representatives of the music scene, who enthusiastically discussed, debated and reflected about new ideas.

Music Cities Chengdu included showcases from the cities of Bologna (Italy), New York and Nashvile (US), Beijing (China), Sarawak (Malaysia), Kingston (Jamaica), Melbourne (Australia), Seoul (South Korea), plus the American states of Mississipi and Alaska. They demonstrated how each territory utilises music for social and economic development strategies, thereby building and promoting a brand.

DATA SIM and the Brazilian music hubs
I was invited to represent DATA SIM on the panel “Developing Music Hubs at Global Level”, alongside professionals from the US, China and France. The discussion was around how these networks are formed and help to create safe spaces and encouragement for artists across the globe. Plus, how to engage communities so that music becomes a development factor both human and social transformation, while are strengthening the local cultural identity.

During the presentation, I described the specifics of the Sao Paulo music hub, which incompasses many cities in one. City center, districts and suburbs are diversified and possess their own own individual rationale, however interconnected with each other. Our first research piece in the music space demonstrated this supported by data: Sao Paulo is diverse, cosmopolitan and open to the new and the experimental. Likewise with Brazil: there are many countries within the country. Each region can be considered a hub, and the socio-economic differences between the regions add interesting elements to the music dynamics. The suburbs are very creative and generate the most innovative music production. We are very much aware of such dynamics. We study and we follow from inside, with a local gaze in a strong position to observe such questions, both through DATA SIM and Sim Sao Paulo. Our hub concept takes this and much more into consideration, whichis also reflected on our research.

I also highlighted the role of SIM Sao Paulo in the articulation and engagement in the network of musician and professionals - the likely number one musical hub. The qualification of the professional market through the conference was also debated, since the hub is a highly professionalized market. DATA was born with the support of SIM Sao Paulo, the largest music conferece in Brazil and Latin America. Programmers from approximately 150 Brazilian and Latin American festivals took part in 2018, plus professionals from 25 countries. We are connected and supported by various international institutions (consulates, embassies, export agencies), we are partners with festivals such as MIL Lisbon (Portugal) and FIM Pro (Mexico). We have a very robust network, and this enables a very good relationship with the ecosystem. Our connecting power with audiences is very strong!

DATA SIM’s mission is to understand and to measure the value of music through research studies and market date. Our biggest challenge in Brazil is the lack of government support. The recent political changes represent a real barrier to the construction of a strategic cultural vision. We are working towards a better understanding of the value of music in our society, both from an economical and cultural perspective. We have the following objectives, in a country where music and culture were never government priorities: to generate market growth and to provide guidance to brands about how to invest in music; to influence government in order create policies that will help to firmly establish the country in the global market; and to transform the lives of people in all social classes. Data and studies can harness real transformation in our society. We believe that we are developing a music hub even without government support, with this research and the SIM Sao Paulo network to hand.

Chinese Market
Data from the IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) from the year of 2018 demonstrate that China is the 7th largest music market in the world, behind the US, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, France and South Korea, and ahead of Australia, Canada and Brazil. In 2018, Asia and Australasia became the second largest global region in terms of combines digital and non-digital revenues, with an annual growth of 11.7%. Latin America is at the helms, with 16.8% growth.

The consultancy iResearch presented the Digital Music Industry REport for China at Music Cities Chengdu, with detailed country information not covered in the IFPR reports, such as a comparison with the US market.

China Recording Group, the largest Chinese record company, has brought to the Conference the challenges and the opportunities of one of the most promising industries in the word. The representative from We Capital (China) explained how companies may invest in China and the major barriers that they will encounter.

On the other hand, the presentation from Chengdu Culture, Radio and TV, Press and Publication Bureau, the Chengdu Culture management body, demonstrated that the city has been a multicultural music center since the Tang Dynasty between 618 and 907. Chengdu revealed itself as the next big musical city in Asia, and explained its most important strategies for the sector development: the International Immaterial Culture Heritage Festival and the establishment of the brand new Chengdu Concert Hall. A panel about the Chinese market discussed all of the topics raised throughout the presentations.

Music cities throughout the world
Music as a foster of tourism was also a topic debated. The case studies were Genoa, Italy, and Mississipi, US, plus discussing the role of opera both in Genoa and Tenerife (in the Canary Islands, Spain).

The enthusiastic presentation from Pierce Freelon - professor, director, musicians and winning producers at the Emmys and former mayoral candidate at Durham (in North Carolina, US) - told us how young people can contribute towards human development in society and sustainability in the value chain of music.

To boot, delegates from the UK, the UK, Australia and Malaysia discussed the potential of the relationship between music and education. Julia Jones, from Found in Music in the UK, explained how music can improve cognitive health. Merlijn Poolman - Night Mayor at Groningen, the Netherlands - did a vibrant presentation about Night Economics and Night Mayors. The strength of music as a tool for economic development was also debates by representatives from the US, the UK, Australia and Canada.

The value of culture
Since the importance of music and its invaluable symbolic value per se and not recognised by society and government, the economic argument becomes far more prominent. Government leaders should take advantage of official visits in order to experience firsthand how cultural matters inform our world vision, allowing us to become ourselves, while also impacting our worldwide reputation. Without recognising this - which China does particularly well - Brazil will never become an integral country, developed and ready for the future.

Commodities are important - and China knows this very well. However, we are living in the era of intangible economics. The IFPI reports list the 10-digit figures for music consumption stored on the cloud. In the economics of the intangible - or the economics of the creative - sophisticated services, naturally “enriched” by creativity, become increasingly available even in the manufacture of goods. China has taught us all a lesson of how to recognise the value of music and how to leverage it in order to create growth.

Music - a universal language by excellence - is one of Brazil’s greatest assets in the economics of the intangible. Discarding the role of music for human and economic development of the country is tantamount to turning your back on the future!

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