Artist Interviews

&R interview: Outdustry’s Marcus Rowland talks Chinese Democracy

Photograph of the blog post author, Music Gateway Team

Music Gateway Team


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We sat down with Outdustry’s head of A&R, Marcus Rowland, to get some advice and tips on how to approach A&R placements.

As one of the biggest actors in the Chinese music market, Outdustry, a music services company that focuses on emerging markets, is leading the way in placing tracks from all over the world with Asian pop artists.

As their head of A&R, Marcus is the leading authority in song placements in Asian markets, which have characteristics that are quite different to western markets. For example, he tells us that an advance is required by publishers from labels due to weak nature of publishing royalty payments in China. The relationship that artists have with song choice in A&R is also very different to western markets. Marcus comments:

Most major artists we work with are independent and so the decision whether or not to cut a song is normally made by them, not an A&R. I think this makes it more important for songs to stand out – the more unique features (song structures, production elements etc) the better.

“Demos are not generally considered based on their ability to get onto radio or streaming playlists, as these are generally much weaker promotional platforms in China. More important elements here are the concept for the (Chinese) lyrics and how suitable the song is for performing on TV shows or live concerts.”

We’ve worked with Marcus and Outdustry on several occasions and recently we have placed a track from one of our members with a major Chinese pop artist. While this arrangement required communication across three continents, thanks to Outdustry’s mediating proficiency, the process went smoothly.

The lesson here is that communication is key, as Marcus points out:

“Working on China/Western projects really brings to light some of the fundamentals of how musical collaborations work. When two Westerners work together, they have many shared points of reference and a shared cultural history.

“To a large degree you don’t have this in Western/Chinese collabs. I have worked on many projects where a Chinese artist provides a reference track, but it soon becomes obvious that what the artist hears in that track and what the (Western) producer hears are very different things. It is therefore very important to make sure both sides are communicating well, or at least really taking the time to understand what the other side wants and what their expectations are.”

As our members know very well, success in the music industry, often comes down to collaboration. Something else that our members will know, is that here at MG, we deliver as many opportunities as possible and helping our community find success with these opportunities by providing resources is also something very important to us. On that thought, Marcus shared this advice with us for success in placements in the Chinese market:

“Strong melodies. It’s really obvious, but given that (a) Chinese music doesn’t have a strong culture of rhythm/beats and (b) clients don’t pay much attention to English lyrics on demos as they will typically re-write Chinese lyrics, the only other main element they have to focus on is the melody.
“We have had some great success writing on spec for artists, as the writers are often able to write melody lines that really suit the specific artist. To me this highlights a simple rule – take time to understand the artist in the pitch. Reading though the bio and the recent singles we send over in our brief is a great start.”

For the rest of 2018 Outdustry can look forward to some great releases, including an on spec job for a Chinese pop star where the chorus was written using Google translate, so keep an eye out for that one.

Do you have tracks that might suit Outdustry’s brand? Why not submit to project like this and more by signing up to Music Gateway with a free 14 day trial today.

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