Confessions of a Music Criminal

1 Sep
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By Ren Fang | September 01, 2009

Here in the US, it’s no mystery that music and record labels have been slowly dying due since the birth of the Internet over 10 years ago. In China, it goes as far as saying that the music labels are officially dead. Just looking over the past couple decades in my life in China, it adequately explains why record labels are a thing of the past in China::

1993: I thought I bought an original copy of Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” as my first introduction to Western pop only to find that three songs from “Thriller” were added as ‘bonus’ by music pirates.

1994: I bought a tape album of an obscure Chinese folk singer – my first purchase of a legitimate original copy of music. That was my first and it also happened to be my last.

1995~2002: I bought 500 pounds of “dakou” tapes and CDs, from artists such as Muddy Water to Prodigy, but later found out that I was the proud buyer and owner of music “trash”:

“Record labels and retailers from across the world took their surplus tapes/CDs — the ones with the telltale notches in the cases — and shipped them out as trash. Thousands of these ‘dakou’ or ‘saw-gash’ tapes/CDs ended up in Chinese garbage dumps. Then, through a network of scavengers and middlemen, these ‘dakou’ tapes/CDs found their way into China’s alternative record stores.”

1999~2002: I was a drummer in a college band – playing cover songs at the local pubs in China. Our set would usually consist of one song Beatles, one song Metallic, and one song Joy Division in our 10 minute performance. I like to say that we were the top 1 band in the genre of ‘no genre’ category.

2002-present: With Baidu’s free MP3 search/download and P2P sharing, I lead a happy and digital life.

I saved the time on the classic argument of the fate of record labels and am going straight to the ‘rules of no money’ for those companies throwing their bets in the music business in China.

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