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How to Write Great Songs for the Asian Song Market

Photograph of the blog post author, Jon



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Eastern Music Markets are always looking for western songwriters to write for their artists, as it is a fast-growing market in need of talented songwriters. The Chinese music market in particular is booming and growing at an unprecedented rate. This is most prominently reflected by sales of digital music, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry states that in 2015 digital music sales in China had grown by 83%, posting revenues of $170 million. QQMusic, a Chinese streaming service, sold more than 20 million digital copies of albums in its first 18 months. It now has 800 million users, 100 million daily active users, and is one of the most profitable streaming services in the world.

Eastern markets are always keen to have tracks written by individuals who understand how to create tracks for western audiences. The ability to craft and create catchy melodies or effective song structures transcends nationality or regions and is an internationally applicable talent to have.

However, western writers don’t always have a full understanding of how pop tracks/ballads are written for eastern artists compared to their western counterparts. It is important to understand the market you are aiming for, if you are pitching on a brief for a specific regional market it is always worth investigating the songs topping the charts in that area. Writing for Asian markets can benefit you massively both in an artistic and a financial sense. Last year we spoke to Claire Rodriguez about her success in writing for eastern markets. She told us that the key to success is understanding the market that you are writing for, being aware of it and knowing what is current in each territory.

Depending on the genre and region of the music, different elements are required or altered. Chinese ballads have a heavy focus on the lyrics and the vocal melody. They sound more like they are ballads from a musical than ballads found in popular western chart music. The song structure and arrangement still has a pop mentality about it, but the vocal performance is key. Modern western pop ballads have a greater focus on the arrangement and instrumentation, but Chinese ballads are all about the vocal and a huge chorus.

Eastern tracks in general usually have an explosive chorus. Western Pop tracks will tend not to introduce too many new elements at the first chorus and will instead gradually build towards it. However, KPop, in particular, will have the first chorus lift both sonically and melodically. Stylistically a lot of the K-Pop and J-Pop tracks tend to be similar to mid-to-late 90s western Pop. Male groups will have a Backstreet Boys sound whilst female groups will sound and feel similar to the likes of Spice Girls or Destiny’s Child. Again this simply comes down to your understanding of what you are working on, it’s always important to do your homework before pitching.

When tracks are selected to be used in eastern markets, fundamentals can be altered. An obvious example of this would be the lyrics, as English could be translated to Japanese, Korean, or Mandarin. If they are translated they would be translated by ‘adaption lyricists’. This doesn’t mean however that the quality of the lyrics is not important. The translations will mean that the final output differs slightly from the original lyrics, but it’s always best for the labels/artists to work on high-quality songwriting. Also the greater the quality the more likely the track will be successful.  

Мusic Gateway is fortunate to have a lot of opportunities for songwriters or composers to write for high Profile artists in eastern markets such as K-Pop, J-Pop and more recently the Chinese market. Make sure to check out these projects and pitch to have your chance to write for Eastern Artists. 

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