The Music Where East Meets West, and Dances
- The Shanghai Restoration Project blends traditional eastern music with western hip hop and electronica, producing a unique sound. Together with Neocha, Dave Liang, founder and producer of The Shanghai Restoration Project, is about to release a new compliation of Chinese independent musicians at the Shanghai World Expo on May 4.
THE CHINA BUSINESS NETWORK
: So, I’m going to ask Dave about the Expo artists’ collaboration between Shanghai Restoration Project and Neocha. You’re bringing some fantastic music from China to larger audiences. Tell me more about what’s going on.
: Expo is a collaboration between me (an electronic producer) of the Shanghai Restoration Project (which fuses western rhythms and harmonies – predominantly hip-hop and electronica – with Chinese instrumentation) and this company Neocha
, which is an online artist community site in China. It's essentially an independent Myspace with 30,000 followers in China. Users upload their artwork and their music for basically the community as a whole. I met the founder of Neocha, Sean Leow, in 2008. It was May and we both really dug what each other were doing and realized that there was an opportunity to share some wonderful art and music from within China with the rest of the world.
So we wracked our brains over the past two years to figure out exactly what could be done, and late last year, with the Expo fast approaching in Shanghai, we decided what would be appropriate would be to put out a compilation of ten independent electronic Chinese artists and time the release with the announcement of the Expo. The reason we did this is because we realized there would be a lot of attention on Shanghai and China at the time, and we figured we could maximize the eyeballs and the ear drums on this particular project and on the ten particular artists.
: Now, the website where people can find out more about this project showcasing the independent electronic artists in China –the compilation is called ExpoArtists.com, and I’m on it right now, and there’s video, there’s music, and there’s a store. So tell me, what sort of expectations do you have for being able to sell this stuff – this music – internationally?
: One of the primary reasons we did this was because artists in China, specifically on the music side, don’t have a lot of outlets to get compensated for their work. It’s very different than in the markets where I have developed my brand – namely, the US, Europe, and Japan. And, as anyone who operates in these countries knows, essentially, even with all the piracy there’s a very healthy music market where an artist can release a song on iTunes or on Rhapsody, emusic, Amazon – somebody buys it, the distributor takes a cut. And then, as a result, the artist gets compensated. Many artists, including myself, can make a pretty decent living doing this. But if you look at China, where you have a lot of piracy and you don’t have a very established infrastructure for physical distribution of music – and when you do it’s priced extremely, extremely low, mostly as a result of piracy – it’s very difficult for these artists to be encouraged to do music full time.
What’s interesting is that a lot of these artists have jobs. A lot of them do have jobs in artistic fields – I think over half of them are graphic designers of some sort, and one of them happens to be a school teacher – but what you end up having is, they cannot, for economic reasons, dedicate more time to their craft.
Now I want to point out that this is not necessarily the case for all types of music in China. I think if you sing more pop type stuff, you can make a pretty decent living touring and you can make a decent living with sponsorship. But, for independent artists, which is what Sean and I really care about, it’s more difficult. So over the past few years I’ve been able to make a good living not only selling music to the west through digital and physical distribution, but also through licensing. That’s another area where these artists can start to make money. Companies – whether they’re Fortune 500 companies, fashion companies, TV shows – decide they want to use your music in their advertisement or their TV show or their film, and there are established rates that they are willing to pay. I’ve experienced this in Europe, in the UK, in the US and Japan, but never China.
: Right, I’ve heard your music at fashion shows, I’ve seen it on TV commercials and things like that. I see that there’s a licensing agent for the Expo artists as well, so that’s great that you’re opening up a new channel for this music to get out and be heard in more places where they’re compensated for making music. May 15 in Tribeca – is there going to be a party, and do you want to tell us about it so we can go if we’re in town?
: Yeah, in New York City on May 15 we’re doing a release event at the 92YTribeca. It’s on 200 Hudson Street, downtown, just south of Canal Street. It’s a really great performance-arts venue, where they’re equipped to do a lot of great performances, but what’s special about this is that we’ve synchronized our entire performance – me and a DJ I work with by the name of Natural Fact – we’ve synchronized our entire performance to visuals, mostly of Shanghai, past and present. Over the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of working with several renowned videographers and cinematographers – some I’ve brought out on my own and some of them have worked on films that have debuted at Sundance. One other one, Tomas Medina, recently – he and his father, whose photography we use in our show – won a contest in National Geographic.
So these are really great visual artists who are, like myself, very fascinated with China. They’ve gone and captured some amazing visuals of Shanghai. And so what we do is we set it to a lot of the repertoire I’ve done in the past, but what’s unique about this performance opening at 92YTribeca on May 15 is we’re debuting repertoire from these Chinese independent artists, and so, while none of the artists will actually be in the US for visa reasons – and also we have our own Shanghai release party a week later – they will be participating in their own special way because their music will be heard for the first time in a live venue in the US.
: So, Expo, a compilation of independent Chinese electronic artists being presented – their music – with great video, at the 92YTribeca. It’s $12 in advance, $15 at the door. How can people book?
: The best thing to do is actually to go onto the Shanghai Restoration Project
website and, either on the front page or on the tour section, I believe, you can click a hyperlink that takes you to a very long URL
where you can buy tickets. The website is shanghairestorationproject.com
. I believe expoartists.com
has a link as well.
: Thanks for being a part of bringing the sound of China – the energy of China, the energy of young China – into the public eye and the larger world. I am a big fan, so keep up the good work.
: Thanks so much Janet. It’s very exciting for the ten artists on this compilation.
Dave Liang was born in Lawrence, Kansas and attended high school in upstate New York, where he was selected as the pianist for the NY All-State Jazz Ensemble. He attended college at Harvard University where he majored in Applied Mathematics and Economics.