This undated photo shows Zong Xiaojun, center, and his students at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. (PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
When Zong Xiaojun went to the United States to study as one of the first Chinese students in Miami University with a major in music business and entertainment industries in 1995, he met his professor, Maurice Oberstein, who was also a record company executive then.
Oberstein told Zong, who back then was his only student from China, that the future of music market lies in China.
Surprised, Zong asked Oberstein why he thought that. His professor responded that in his experience of working as the managing director of PolyGram Music, which at the time was home to Canto-pop stars such as Alan Tam and Hacken Lee, he was impressed by the vibrant music scene and the artists' popularity across Asia.
During his two-year stint in the US, Zong－who learned to play the cello at age 5 with his musician parents and graduated from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in 1991－learned about music business management, a subject not widely understood in China in the late 90s, and he participated in music conferences to learn the inner workings of the industry.
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"I've been thinking of what professor Oberstein told me and I believe he was right," Zong says, recounting the story at the Music Industry Forum 2018, which took place in Beijing on Wednesday.
Upon his return to China in 1997, he had three wishes: to write a book about the management of music industry, to launch his own music company and to establish a university major for music business management in China, teaching Chinese students just like professor Oberstein had taught him.
About two decades later, Zong, now 50, has realized all three wishes. He published a book, entitled The Secret of the Music Industry, in 1998. He is the owner of a music company, named Music Generation, focused on artist management and musical copyright issues. In 2001, he launched his university major in music business and art management at the Central Conservatory of Music, which has trained about 120 graduates so far.
The music scene in China is booming and the industry is getting better and better
"The prediction of professor Oberstein has become real now. The music scene in China is booming and the industry is getting better and better," says Zong.
Statistics prove that China's music industry has developed drastically with the changing ways of how people now listen to and consume music, according to a report released at the forum, which was jointly organized by the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television, the Communication University of China and the Music Industry Promotion Committee.
The report says the total value of China's digital-music industry in 2017 was more than 58 billion yuan (US$8.39 billion), an increase of 9.6 percent compared with 2016. There were more than 520 million digital-music users in China in 2017 and the income of the Music Copyright Society of China was over 816 million yuan, an increase of 17.2 percent year-on-year.
In this undated photo, Zong Xiaojun speaks at the Music Industry Forum 2018 in Beijing. (PHOTOS PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
The report also highlights achievements in the development of the country's music industry, including the music-streaming company Tencent Music Entertainment Group's initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month.
The total size of China's music-performance market reached 17.6 billion yuan in 2017 and there were over 15,000 live music performances last year, which attracted more than 13.4 million concertgoers and generated a revenue of nearly 6 billion yuan, a rise of 23.4 percent over 2016.
"It's apparent to see that China's music industry is on the healthy road to recovery after years of battling rampant piracy," says Zhao Zhi'an, vice-president of the School of Music and Recording Arts at the Communication University of China.
In 2015, China's National Copyright Administration had asked online music-delivery platforms to remove all unauthorized songs. This is seen as a major move in the fight against rampant piracy in the industry, he adds.
Zong also gave a speech about musical talent training and musical education during the forum, in which he shared his working experience with the Shanghai Philharmonic Orchestra over the past eight years.
In these years, he has given about 500 lectures to introduce classical music to audiences, and he has helped to arrange 800 concerts, which have attracted audiences of all ages.
"Music is about emotions, imagination and aesthetics. It connects with people naturally. What we need is to build a good business environment, be original and creative," Zong says.
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