27 April, 2009
MUSIC MATTERS – THE ASIA PACIFIC MUSIC FORUM
CELEBRITY ACCESS INDUSTRY PROFILE:
JASPER DONAT, PRESIDENT, MUSIC MATTERS
Industry Profile: Jasper Donat
— By Larry LeBlanc
This week In The Hot Seat with Larry LeBlanc: Jasper Donat
The Asia Pacific Music Forum--Music Matters 2009--takes place in Hong Kong, June 2-4.
The 4th annual conference will focus on practically every business sector that music touches
including: advertising, gaming, television and satellite networks, mobile, online, social
networking, and live.
As well, there will be extensive discussions on how to tackle such regional issues as rampant
music piracy and cross-platform licensing.
Asia is, perhaps, the most important region for the music business today. It may well be, in
fact, on its way to becoming the epicenter of the international music industry.
―Asia’s time is now,‖ argues Music Matters’ president Jasper Donat, also co-founder and
executive director of Branded, the Hong Kong-based media & entertainment marketing
agency. ―The world is looking at Asia to drive future growth through technological innovation
and creative business modeling.‖
Donat may well be right on the money.
The rise of music sales via cell phones? That happened in Asia first.
Record labels promoting artists via tie-ins with consumer products? Ditto
The introduction of the integrated 360-degree business model for artists? Ditto
As well, Asia’s copyright holders have struggled with wide spread music piracy long before
P2P file-sharing exploded worldwide
Donat began his career in media and advertising in 1987 at Chris Ingram Associates (now
Mediaedge:cia) in London before joining Eurosport in 1992. He moved to Hong Kong in 1995 to
work for STAR TV’s Prime Sports (later renamed ESPN Star Sports), and then became vice-
president sales & marketing at music and entertainment Channel V in 1997.
Donat co-founded Branded with Michael Denmark in 2001. The company has worked with such
leading brands as Coca-Cola, Motorola, Canon, Cathay Pacific, Virgin, SonyBMG, Endemol,
the Discovery Channel and with such acts as Celine Dion, the Black Eyed Peas, James Blunt,
Alicia Keys, Coco Lee, and Barney the Dinosaur.
Although the Asian music market continues to face such crucial challenges as widespread
piracy, the region is the world's biggest music market in terms of long-term potential revenue
due to the sheer size of its population. And it is likely that the mobile sector will power that
In contrast to the Western culture, Asian youth prefer to download their favorite songs on to
their mobile devices rather than computers. At the same time, listening has exploded online,
with both illegal and legal music downloads surging ahead while music piracy is worsening.
Capturing the exploding mobile market will be one of the main focuses of Music Matters 2009.
According to Chinese government figures, about 84% of China’s nearly 300 million Internet
users download music over the Internet, and most of it is used for cell phone ring tones.
In April, 2008, China Mobile started its testing of the third generation (3G) of mobile
communication in 8 cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Qinhuangdao,
Shenyang and Xiamen). While test results have not been made public, it predicted that the 3G
usage will surge up to 100 million in China by 2011.
Meanwhile, Google, partnered with a Chinese company, Top100.cn, and 140 music labels,
including EMI Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and Universal Music,
have joined together to launch Google Music Search, giving Chinese Internet users free
downloads of some 350,000 songs. Eventually, the service will offer some 1.1 million tracks
Google, which has no plans to offer the service elsewhere, hopes to build traffic and win
advertisers. Record labels, instead of earning money from downloads, will share advertising
revenue with Top100.cn.
Most Chinese users now receive their music for free. According to the International Federation
of Phonographic Industries (IFPI) 99% of the music downloaded in China (largely through the
Baidu website) violates copyrights. The multinationals have unsuccessfully sued Baidu, trying
to force the company to stop linking to unlicensed sites. Baidu has said it is simply a search
engine and does not engage in piracy.
A number of Western music industry figures, including Sire’s Seymour Stein, remain bullish
about opportunities in India--with its English-speaking population that could facilitate growth
more quickly than in China.
Mobile penetration in India recently hit an estimated 250 million subscribers, and is projected
to hit 500 million by the end of 2010, when broadband Internet connections should reach 20
Asia’s time is now?
Asia is an amazing place. There’s the diversity of India, the scale of China, and the (sales) volume of
Japan. There is an incredible hot bed of talent that is married to ridiculous piracy levels that are
clearly not going away. You then combine that with the new technologies that are being devised and
Asia seems farther along the road in terms of being a technological-based marketplace.
Okay, there’s a bump in the road with the global economy right now. Everybody is looking into
themselves trying to find new ways of surviving through these times.
If any creative business models are going to come out of anywhere they might come from a new
frontier like Asia rather than in North America where templates are (based) on previous models.
There’s a reluctance to change in the Western world. There seems to be more of an openness to
change in Asia.
With piracy the way it is here, the only way to survive is to be creative. That’s being creative in your
business model, creative in your collaborations, and understanding and embracing technologies. In
some cases, although people will never admit to it, it is also understanding and embracing piracy.
Social networking is becoming a big word in the U.S., and Europe but it has been here for years.
Everybody (in the international music industry) is talking about mobile music now. It’s been mobile in
Asia for years as well.
Only a handful of Asian artists are known in the West. Korean stars like Rain, Se7en and BoA
have lately been able to secure label or distribution deals in the U.S.
You’ve opened a very interesting topic. Not if, but when will an Asian artist successfully have a career
in the West? It’s going to happen. It is going to happen soon. It will be people like Rain who’ll lead that
[In 2006, Time magazine named Rain as one of the quot;100 Most Influential People Who Shape
Does the full roll-out of Google Music in China push the issue of enforcing intellectual
property rights there?
We are waiting to see what’s happening with Google Music. It is the first time that I’ve seen the entire
industry come together and say, “Hey, This might work.” We all have to get our heads around what it
means for the industry.
As I see it, Google Music offers the industry a safe solution that is funded (by advertising). And it
doesn’t try and change the way consumers behave. So it embraces the consumer, and embraces the
(music) industry. The advertisers pay for it, and get bang for their buck. And, it is in a market where
the industry isn’t (going to be further) hurt. Eventually, artists will get paid. It’s got to be seen as a win-
win-win for everyone.
I’ve always thought that the ad-funded model is the way to go in Asia, But you have to be able to
provide volume to make it work. China certainly provides the volume.
China Mobile had been the only service paying music rights holders in China and there are
disputes about payment rates in other markets in Asia.
There have been some contentious issues with the amounts the mobile gateways are paying
(throughout Asia). The launch of Google Music is interesting. We are highlighting it as one of our key
pillars at Music Matters. Google is using China as its global launch platform (for music). They have
said if they can make it work in China, they can make it work around the world. It has been embraced
by the music industry and that is fantastic. Now, we need to have it embraced by advertisers.
When Prince did his free giveaway with the Daily Mail in the UK a couple of years back and ran 21
shows on the bounce at the O2 Arena in London, everybody kind of highlighted that as a genius
move. But (doing a giveaway) has been going on here for 20 years.
[In 2007, Prince granted British tabloid the Daily Mail on Sunday exclusive rights to distribute
his new album ―Planet Earth‖ as a freebie. Cutting out record stores, online sellers, and even
his U.K. label, Sony BMG, he decided to take the album straight to the people, and all it cost
them was the paper's cover price]
Well, certainly it has in China.
The big Chinese artists make their money out of endorsements, live and record sales. They use the
record sales to promote the tour. Not the tour to promote record sales. Now that’s happening in
Europe and the U.S. but it has been happening here for 20 years.
Asian music buyers favor streaming and/or music-on-demand services or owning a ―snippet‖
that allows them to use it in various ways from a ringtone to a ring back tone.
Absolutely. The idea of tethering a portable musical device to a computer is foreign to many people
here because they don’t have a computer. That’s changing. But giving them a mobile phone and a
service to download a single track in 30 seconds costing 2 RMB in China has been very successful.
Mobile music has been an amazing story in the region.
India has 250 million mobile subscribers, and is projected to hit 500 million by the end of 2010.
The Indian market may offer better growth opportunities for foreign partners.
And India is not even as big as China. The good thing for India (accepting) international music is,
obviously, that the English language is one of the main languages there.
In 2008, 750 delegates attended Music Matters. Given the tough economic times what
attendance do you expect this year?
We are expecting the same number of delegates... We are doing everything we can to facilitate that
all our delegates get here. We have not raised our prices. In some cases, for certain supporters and
for people who have bought in bulk, we are doing some fantastic discounts. We have also secured
some amazing flight costs from Virgin America out of London and Sydney. The Grand Hyatt has
insured that their (room) rates are lower than last year. So we are doing everything we can.
Music Matters has donated HK$200,000 in tickets to 50 artists from Alivenotdead.com to
attend conference. [The local website has a community of 1,200 artists and 420,000 registered
We’d noticed in the past three years that artists can’t afford to be at Music Matters unless they’ve
made it. So what we’re trying to do is give them an opportunity to meet with local and international
managers, promoters, agents, and labels to learn how to manage their lives.
(Nettwerk Group CEO) Terry McBride will be doing a mentoring session. He’ll be onstage with an
artist and their manager without having met or hearing them beforehand. He’ll be like a fan hearing
their music for the first time. Then they will go over (the artist’s) marketing plans over a year, and re-
construct them in a real contextual marketing format. We will come back 12 months later, and see
how they got on.
How big is the indie sector in Asia?
It is huge. We have an Asian Indies panel this year. In the program, it says, “In most local markets the
independents are bigger than the major.” People like Avex Asia (based in Hong Kong), and Taihe Rye
Music (the national leader in Chinese music) have huge businesses selling and exporting local, and
importing. Of course, Japanese Indies have long exported to various parts of the world.
Music Matters is an industry event that brings the different industries together—gaming,
music, advertising, technology, digital media, mobile manufacturing. The conference is very
broad in scope.
We have to be. Music touches so many areas of life. The business itself, we felt, needed to be
promoted into all of those areas. The reason we brought it all together is because that is how the
industry needs to survive. It needs to collaborate. You need to have a correlation of talent with
technological advances and know how the networks that exist here work.
The idea of Music Matters is to promote successes within the industry whilst discussing the issues
and trying to plot the road maps for problems. We try to come at it from the angle of success.
Music Matters’ panels are quite mixed.
We have learned in the past that if put four promoters on a panel they will all agree with each other.
You need to spice it up with different viewpoints from different industries where they do work together.
These industries are so inter-related today.
Exactly. As I said, we have to promote these cross-collaborations and get (people) working together.
Our licensing panel this year will have panelists from a publishing company, a label, a handset
manufacturer, a digital distributor and a collection society. They may well have a go at each other.
Last year, with the licensing panel, we had one of the most successful panels ever. Factions in the
audience started getting behind their kind of person on the stage. They were cheering and
applauding. Then everybody onstage started posturing.
Last year’s ―360 Degree Business Models‖ panel moderated by British promoter Harvey
Goldsmith was pretty lively.
The 360 panel was fun. There was an attitude from the Asians of, “What’s this about 360 deals? We
have been doing this for years.”
In a recent interview Alison Wenham chairman/CEO of the Assn. of Independent Music,
stressed the importance of live side of the Chinese music industry. She, in fact, argued that it
is far more important in building a strong fan base and having a business in China than just
Absolutely. One of the trends coming through our Music Matters survey we do each year with 3,000
kids, not just for China but everywhere in Asia, is live. It is absolutely huge (in importance). There’s
been the (recent) advent of (large-scale) festivals. Now, Asia is drawing on concepts from the West
but there’s still a long way to go.
In the UK, there are probably 300 festivals (annually). In China, there are probably three major
festivals. Last year, with the Olympics and the problems with Tibet, festivals in China got postponed.
But they are all back this year with sponsors and funding. Zebra Media has a new one (The 2009
Zebra Music Festival in Chengdu in Sichuan province, May 1-3).
At the conference there will be discussions about the opportunities of bringing Western music
into Asia. Where that works and what the market is and the investment and development that
But many Western acts aren’t known in Asia.
That’s correct. A lot of people won’t know of these artists. But stop somewhere in the middle of the
U.S. and ask them to name three Chinese artists. Even in New York, if you ask someone to name
three Asian artists, you’d get a 2-3% uptake. In China, 95% of the market is local music. Well, 5% is
still 50 to 75 million people who like international music. The challenge is how do you find them.
Well, you don’t find them by just flying in and playing one show and flying out again. You need to build
a relationship with the Asian audiences. You use the new social networks. In China, you might use
QQ (instant messaging) which has something like 220 million registered subscribers.
Japan has traditionally been the destination for Western acts playing Asia. We are now seeing
acts like Celine Dion, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams, Beyonce, 50 Cent,
Wyclef Jean, Shakira, Aerosmith, and Iron Maiden playing throughout the region.
The international artists coming here have tended to be the legends. So Billy Joel and Rod Stewart,
those guys have been here and their shows tend to sell out. A new trend we are seeing are rock
bands like Panic at the Disco, and One Republic--that level of artists--going around Asia playing in
2,500 to 3,000 seat venues. They are selling because people (here) want to be stimulated. Live music
here is proving to be a great escape.
China has the largest Mandarin-speaking population in the world, Taiwan is considered the
nexus of Mandopop. With the easing of restrictions by both territories, will the Mandopop
industry shift to China. It’s such a big market.
Taiwan and mainland China do speak one common language, essentially Mandarin. So Taiwanese
artists are huge in China - absolutely massive.
Somebody mentioned to me recently that as recently as 2 years ago, her father, living in Shanghai,
would take his tape recorder into the shower to listen Taiwanese music. He was concerned that he
would get caught by the authorities.
Now, look at where the country is. They’ve had the Olympics and the Rolling Stones, Linkin Park and
Celine Dion have all been there. Sarah Brightman just sold out all over the place. And the Taiwanese
artists are making huge careers for themselves on the mainland. It is an amazing change.
[Among Beijing's newer venues is the 18,000-capacity Olympics Basketball Arena, co-
managed by Australia- and U.S.-based AEG Ogden, and the National Basketball Assn.. it will
be China’s first commercially branded venue, with naming rights now on the market.]
There have been some bumps on the road there as well, including when Taiwanese pop singer
Ah-mei sang the Taiwanese national anthem at President Chen Shui-bian's inauguration at
2001. She was reportedly briefly banned in China.
That was a mixture of naiveté and bad luck. But there haven’t been that many cases of that
happening. Oasis recently got canceled in China because apparently one of the brothers (Noel) had
sung at a pro-Tibet rally. That’s the Chinese being very careful. You have to roll with it. You are not
going to change it.
[Oasis had planned play in Beijing on April 3, and in Shanghai on April 5 but the Chinese
government revoked the performance licenses already issued for the band, and ordered the
shows canceled. According to the shows' promoters, the concerts were called off when
Chinese authorities had discovered band member Noel Gallagher had appeared at a quot;Free
Tibetquot; benefit concert in the United States in 1997.]
You and Michael Denmark launched Branded in 2001. Did you see a gap in the local
Yes. We both had been working for different media organizations and working with branded content.
There was a lot of great entertainment out there. There were great (entertainment) companies who
had fantastic ideas but didn’t know how to execute them in a branding context. They didn’t know how
to talk to Coca Cola, Nokia or Motorola. Michael and I saw the opportunity to set up a company that
could bridge that gap.
Branded has worked with Celine Dion, James Blunt and Black Eye Peas. Although, Asia is a
local content dominated market, have opportunities opened up for Western artists as well?
They have but it depends on what the artist is willing to do. Many of the international acts (coming
here) are legends who have already had success in terms of record sales. The longer they have been
in the business the less likely they will do anything for sponsors. But when there are younger acts
coming out, we can work with them.
When the Black Eyed Peas came to Asia, they were only a couple of albums deep. We had Lane
Crawford (The quot;Harrodsquot; of Hong Kong) sponsor them and they went to the store, and did a press
shopping visit. Fergie was there trying clothes on. It was fantastic. I wouldn’t imagine for a second
they’d do that now without being paid a huge sum.
What is Barney the Dinosaur willing to do?
Barney goes to supermarkets, and shopping malls. Interestingly, Barney is not willing to do meet-and-
You’ve worked extensively in London and Hong Kong selling sports for international TV
networks. Are there any parallels between sports and music industries?
The main difference is that sports is full of boys. Music is full of girls.
Larry LeBlanc was the Canadian bureau chief of Billboard from 1991-2007 and Canadian editor
of Record World from 1970-89. He was also a co-founder of the late Canadian music trade, The
Record. He has been quoted on music industry issues in hundreds of publications including
Time, Forbes, the London Times and the New York Times.
The LeBlanc Newsletter is exclusively carried and archived by Canadian Music Week in
Canada and CelebrityAccess and their online ezine Encore in the U.S.
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Music Matters Event Information:
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June 2 – 4 , 2009 (Forum on June 3 and 4 )
Grand Ballroom, Grand Hyatt, Hong Kong
Media & Press Registration and Enquiries Delegate & Registration Information
Jessica Hyams Amy Laing
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Sponsorship & Media Partnership Information Event Production
Konstancija (Stan) Ruza Tracy Tan
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