How music collabs are becoming a weapon of mass seduction for Chinese artists
Music industry giants are always looking for new territories to conquer, and China is firmly in their sights. Labels and record companies are increasingly looking to the Asian country to reach new audiences. One strategy to achieve this is to boost the career of Chinese artists on the international scene by introducing them as featured artists in musical collaborations.
James Blunt is no stranger to collaborations, joining forces with other artists to explore new musical lands. The English singer joined the French rapper Sinik on “Je réalise,” and German DJ Robin Schulz on “OK,” for example.
Now, Blunt is turning to Asia for his latest partnership, featuring Jason Zhang. The Chinese pop star makes an appearance on a new version of the single “Adrenaline.” Here, Zhang sings in English, as he did for his hits “Pretty White Lies,” “Love Thoughts” and “Jump.”
While most music lovers know Blunt thanks to the huge success of his song “You’re Beautiful,” they’re probably less familiar with Zhang. However, the 39-year-old singer is a genuine star in China. He has appeared on numerous TV talent shows including “Super Boy,” “I Am a Singer” and “My Show,” which he won in 2004. He has 12 studio albums and 190 music awards to his name.
Despite this, Zhang is relatively unknown beyond China’s borders. Warner Music Asia and Atlantic Records UK, which represents Blunt, hope to remedy this situation with “Adrenaline.”
“Jason is an accomplished artist. This track allows him to build his presence across the globe, giving fans who might not have known about him the opportunity to discover his talent,” Paul Samuels, vice president of artists and repertoire at Atlantic Records UK, said in a statement.
This appearance as a featured artist is also not without commercial ulterior motives for Blunt. The English singer has every interest in capitalizing on Zhang’s notoriety in China—a country where he performed in 2018 as part of his global “The Afterlove Tour.”
“For James… the track provides an exciting offering for his growing fan base in the region,” Samuels pointed out.
China: A (difficult) market to conquer
Warner Music Asia and Atlantic Records UK also have a vested interest in ensuring that audiences are receptive to “Adrenaline.” Music professionals are increasingly looking to Asia—and especially China—to increase their influence.
On the face of it, the country is an El Dorado for the music industry. It has more than 1.4 billion inhabitants, who seem to particularly appreciate this art form. The Chinese spend an average of 22 hours and 9 minutes per week listening to music, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. They spent just 17 hours and 7 minutes per week on this activity in 2019.
Most Chinese people listen to music through streaming platforms, not through piracy, as was the case a few years ago. Still, Spotify, Apple Music and others still have difficulty penetrating a market that is mostly controlled by the Tencent group. However, they are stepping up their efforts in this direction. In 2017, Sweden’s Spotify made a 10% minority cross-shareholding deal with the Chinese digital giant to expand their respective presence in each other’s core markets.
Record companies and artists are counting on using featured artists to serve as a gateway to the Chinese market. A collaboration with a local talent can allow a singer to gain visibility in a country where people mostly listen to local productions.
“Partnerships between Chinese and international artists are set to be a growing trend as international acts want to tap into the vast audiences here and local performers want to take their place on the global stage,” Jonathan Serbin, co-president of Warner Music Asia, said in a statement.
Time will tell if Blunt’s “Adrenaline” can do the trick. DC