Hollywood Reporter had a story in this weeks issue titled “Hollywood’s New Gold Mine: Youku Tudou”. In it they talk about the new addiction in China, American TV shows; “It’s a regular sight on the Beijing subway: commuters glued to their cell phones and tablets, watching The Walking Dead”. The show has received 160 million views in China via their two biggest video sharing sites Youku and Tudou.
China has an Internet audience of 591 million and it is growing. The big companies in Hollywood and the big record labels are all jumping in to grab their slice of the pie. What about indies though? The Internet has always been about connecting the whole world, not just the US, Europe and Australia and I think a lot of people forget that because the US market is the one that everyone has always aspired to first. But now the Chinese market is already bigger than the US in terms of total number of potential viewers and the Japanese market in music is now the number one in the world so maybe it is time for indies to expand their horizons.
Another thing that I think people tend to assume is that by being on sites that are popular in the US they have the world market covered in terms of exposure. That is not the case though and China is a good example. When I started experimenting with ways to reach the Chinese market with indie material the first thing I had to take into consideration was the fact that China and Google don’t get along. If you search for a music video on Baidu (that’s right, no Google search in China) you quickly realize that your film trailer or music video on YouTube is doing you no good there because YouTube is part of Google. A quick look at the top websites in China on Alexa will confirm that.
I figured the best approach was “when in Rome” so I took a couple videos from Artists I was working with and started my own accounts on Chinese video sharing sites just too see if it was possible. It was and I uploaded the videos. The Chinese seem to be much better at sharing indie videos than the US. I uploaded to one or two sites and the last time I checked one of the videos, by Erie Ave, I uploaded showed up 56 times on 5 or 6 different sites in China. Not too bad for no further promotion than just uploading the videos.
I imagine that you could get better results if you treated those sites the same way you normally do US sites in terms of DIY promotion, ie; add friends and comment on other videos and gradually build a fan base. The important thing is that I saw it was possible for independent media to gain a foothold in the China market. Another 591 million potential fans couldn’t hurt, could it?
This is not just about music either. Filmmakers, I think you can do the same thing and maybe even better. After all, your film trailer is essentially just a commercial for your film. IF someone pirates your film trailer who really cares? All the better if the pirate posts your trailer on sites all over the world. It is just free publicity! Whereas a music video IS the product or at least it contains the whole product (the song). But, as an indie, the publicity is probably as valuable as song sales to some extent. If you determine to give one song away for publicity purposes and make your music video with that song you are essentially killing two birds with one stone.
Does China like American music? Well, Baidu has recently started Baidu Music which is sort of a combination of iTunes and a streaming site. If you go there and search some big name US acts you will find they are already there. Right now they only accept music submissions from “companies” but if you are or are signed to even a small record label the opportunity is there.
While YouTube is not available in China many other sites are, as a quick search on Baidu will confirm. So if you put your film trailer on Chinese video sharing sites there is a decent chance that viewers will be able to find a way to get the film if they want to from existing VOD/PPV sites. I think that there is a better way to self distribute indie films and I will write more on that shortly. For now put on your thinking caps and go forth and conquor (the Chinese market).