Classical Music Struggles to Be Heard

Linked with Müyesser Günes – Turkey. – Published on China Today, by staff reporter ZHANG XUEYING, 2005.

Excerpt: … Promoting Classical Music – a Risky Business:

No market analysis has been made of the Chinese National Symphony Orchestra or China Philharmonic Orchestra. What is a suitable ticket price range? What do audiences expect from concert? asks Zong Xiaojun, teacher at the Chinese Conservatory of Music and promoter of China’s classical music market. He adds, We can only rely on our experience when estimating the market returns of each concert, which is very risky.

Zong Xiaojun got his master’s degree in music and entertainment business administration from the University of Miami in 2001. He went on to establish a music business and art administration course at Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music. It offers classes in performance project planning, marketing, public relations development, ticket sales and stage management. Much of what I learned in the US does not apply in China, says Zong. For instance, in the US I learned how to encourage elderly patrons of classical music to leave legacies in their wills to orchestras or other organizations and so reduce their family members inheritance tax. But there are no such laws in China.

Zong has tried his hand at arranging l musical events. He sponsored the Chopin Music Festival, which included a Chopin piano playing contest, a film show and exhibition on the life of Chopin. This big event was aimed at popularizing Chopin and classical music generally and was enthusiastically received by Chinese music circles. Ticket sales, however, were far lower than expected, and the festival just about broke even. Every person in marketing considers costs, and I am no exception, admits Zong, adding Staging the Chopin Music Festival seemed a viable proposition as the cost of the piano contest was not high, Chopin is well known in China and the parents of the large number of children learning piano would want them to hear how it should ideally be played. But the response to the festival was nevertheless disappointing. The Chopin Music Festival was, consequently, a one-off. Zong now proceeds more prudently in his classical concert promotion activities.

The market for classical music in China is, however, promising. In many large cities, the number of children aged from 3 to 10 learning piano playing is steadily increasing. Their parents take them to concerts and buy them classical music CDs to encourage them to learn. These children are, therefore, all potential consumers of classical music. Furthermore, in 2003, the average price of concert tickets in Beijing was slashed to 20 yuan from 80 to 50 to yuan and that of classical music CDs from 100 to 40 yuan. (full text).

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