Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Companies Are Drooling over China’s Emerging Performing Arts Market

Under the rapid economic growth, China is now embracing the development of culture and arts industry. With an open-door policy and the “going out” strategy, Chinese government welcomes overseas companies to enter China’s performing arts market and encourages domestic projects to enter the global stage. China’s audience base is also dramatically growing, not only because of a stronger purchasing power, but also thanks to the globalization and Internet, through which Chinese audience are easily exposed to various forms of art and culture. All these political and social systems as well as the openness to foreign investment pose vast opportunities for overseas companies to enter China’s performing arts market, from Beijing and Shanghai to second- and third-tier cities.

Natural to performing arts, touring may be the most frequently adopted strategy to enter a new market, mostly with a goal to make a good profit in that one short period, both from performances and byproducts, as well as to gradually cultivate an overseas audience base with more and more exported shows. In the context of musicals, for example, there has been more and more musicals touring to China in the past decade, especially world-famous musicals such as Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, and Mama Mia.

Partnership is another emerging model for overseas companies to enter China’s performing arts market and obtain mutual benefits for both sides in the long run. For example, Nederlander World Entertainment, “one of the international pioneers in the emerging Chinese cultural industry” (NWE website), initiated a joint venture with China’s performing art industry in 2005. Since then, it has presented four Broadway shows (42nd Street, Aida, Fame and Luma) across China. Under this partnership, a new project called “China on Broadway” was also initiated in 2009, with an aim to “bring the best of Chinese culture to Broadway, featuring annual presentations on Broadway and elsewhere of the finest theatrical events in China”. Viewing China as “one of the biggest, but least-tapped markets for classical music and dance – as both an importer and exporter” (The New York Times), IMG Artist, a major representative of classic musicians in the U.S., announced a partnership with the China Arts and Entertainment Group in 2013, with an aim to “create new paths for performances and marketing in both countries”.

Though flourishing with vast opportunities, China’s performing arts market also poses various challenges to overseas entrants. In addition to variable policies and social trends, some challenges also come from inadequate product and labor markets, because many things are still developing in this emerging market. For examples, many old Chinese theatre venues may not meet the requirements to put on a Broadway show. There is also a shortage of local production and management professionals. The cancellation of the musical Chicago tour in China would be a good example. More efforts still need to be made from different aspects by companies. Through whichever method or model, companies have to adapt, bring a change, or stay away.

[1] Website of Nederlander Wordwide Entertainment,
[2] Michael Cooper, "New Musical Partnership in China", The New York Times, Nov 23, 2013
[3] Zhang Kun, "Chicago Cuts Tour Short", China Daily USA, Jan 17, 2014

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