In China, Music-Branding Works Backwards

Levis Is Cooler Than Linkin Park ... They Must Be Doing Something Right

By Published on .

The Times ran a great piece about American rock bands striking out for tours in China. Like Coca-Cola and Nike, Linkin Park and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are looking to bring back home some of China's growing wealth, although -- like in America but on a grander scale -- piracy has undercut the possibility of making money selling records.

Instead, for Chinese and U.S. bands, gigs and sponsorships are crucial to bringing home the Yuan. The fascinating part is that, according to (our very own Ad Age columnist) P.T. Black, America's familiar music-branding relationship often works in reverse in China:

"In the U.S. an artist becomes big, and then a brand latches on to borrow their credibility," Mr. Black said. "Here there are virtually no artists who have more credibility than the brands. Coke is a lot cooler brand than any young musician today in China."

Without a well-established domestic record industry, China is comfortably growing legs in the age of piracy while we, with an entrenched structure and reluctance to change, are experiencing some of the worst growing pains. Some of the recent developments here -- like "360" contracts -- are already popular there, and, although we're (thankfully) far too cynical to regard Motorola more highly than Sonic Youth, the importance of brand sponsorships in China is a telling sign for the direction of our own musical future.
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