Mapping China: Music - State Policy: Music Industry Funding

Mapping China: Music - State Policy: Music Industry Funding

The cultural and creative industries discourse provides the rationale and method for government agencies to invest in the music industry. This discourse also resonates with China’s drive to become a cultural superpower. ‘Moving out (into the world)’ (zou chuqu) became a buzzword in policy circles around 2010.

  • Whereas in the West creative industries discourse provides arguments for reducing government spending on culture, in China it has resulted in an increase of government spending. That said, it’s difficult to say how much the government is spending. ‘Between 1990 and 1998, the cultural production of the national cultural system increase from 1,21 to 8,37 billion, or sixfold,’ puts the Outline for the Tenth Five Year Plan forward in 2000. In 2009 the cultural industries grew to 840 billion or 2.5% of GDP, whereas it provided 12,3% of the GDP of Beijing. Additionally, The Twelfth Five Year Plan (2010) stipulates that the added value of the cultural industries will grow to 316,6 billion or 1.10% of the GDP of the service sector in 2015. These numbers suggest that the government wants the Chinese cultural industries to grow at an even faster pace than the Chinese economy in general, and is willing to put its money where its mouth is.

Infrastructure Projects

  • Most of this money is spend on showy, large-scale projects. Since 2005 local governments across the nation have organized festivals and built opera houses and theaters. Often local audiences and music scenes are not consulted or even considered in these processes. The idea is: built it and they will come.
  • City and district governments have identified industry parks where clusters of cultural and creative industries are offered tax breaks, lower rents and other benefits. For instance Beijing identified seven areas in and around the city for the music industry, focusing for instance on instrument making. Although record companies may profit from these constructions, most musicians are skeptical of these developments, arguing that only employees of state-owned music institutions are eligible for support.

PRC Ministry of Culture

  • Song Zuying has performed in Sydney, Washington and Vienna, most likely subsidized.
  • Several China festivals in the West have worked together with the PRC’s Department of Culture, for instance Europalia in Brussels. The Department of Culture tends to favor Western art music orchestras and established Peking Opera groups.
  • Chinese bands have been able to obtain reimbursement of international travel expenses to festivals and shows from the Ministry for Culture—a metal band for Wacken in Germany, a reggae band for a tour in Canada, and so on. The procedure and amount of funding available are not transparent.

PRC Cultural Investment Funds

State-owned investment funds long deemed the music industry unfit for investment, and said so at music industry events. However, there are signs this is changing. For instance the China Culture Industrial Investment Fund became one of the decisive investors in Modern Sky, reportedly investing 100 million RMB in the company’s B round of 2014.

PRC Municipal Funds

After 2011 the government announced hundreds of millions RMB of funding for the music industry in Beijing alone, under the rubric of promoting the cultural and creative industries. It is unclear where this money went. Most likely the state-owned cultural enterprise Gehua was able to apply for some of it for their ill-fated joint venture with LiveNation, which launched the short-lived outdoor music festival Happy Valley.


The Taiwanese government has a music export subsidy scheme. Bands can apply for support in the travel expenses to a handful of European and North-American festivals. Procedures are much more transparent than in the PRC, but public scrutiny of public spending also means that subsidies go to those artists who are already successful and arguable need the least.