Meeting the Chinese Music Industry


The Chinese Music Industries Association (CMIA) met with CAFIM (The Confederation of European Music Industries) at Music China earlier this month.  Stephen Wick, representing the MIA, reports…

This was the regular annual meeting between the CMIA and CAFIM, an event which has been taking place for ten years now. The CAFIM delegation consisted of representatives from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Czech Republic and Austria and the CMIA delegates included political appointees and major Chinese manufacturers, such as Pearl River and Jin Yin. NAMM was represented by their Director of International Affairs, Betty Heywood. It has been important to establish good contact with the leaders of the Chinese industry, and our talks over the years have resulted, amongst other things, in progress in reducing the level of tariffs on musical instruments imported into China.

One challenge facing their industry is shared by us – where are the new customers for our products going to come from? In our case, it is mainly about trying to make our music education work as it should. In their case, it is about developing a fast-growing domestic market and creating music education where there was none before. The CMIA have visited Germany, France and Japan to observe music classes there, and will be visiting the UK soon to learn more about aspects of our music education.

Music in China has developed greatly in recent years. Young Chinese musicians are making their mark in International competitions; learning to play music is considered to be prestigious and a good indicator of a student who shows dedication and ability; Chinese-made instruments are achieving much higher levels of quality than before. This growth of interest in Western music results in Chinese retailers and musicians looking to European and US manufacturers for quality products.

As more and more manufacturers are exporting to China, the question of Intellectual Property Rights is an increasingly important one, and most of the meeting was devoted to a discussion of IP. China has laws in place which recognise IPR, and Western companies have benefited from the enforcement of these laws. Interestingly, many Chinese companies are now concerned about their own IP. Unscrupulous Chinese companies have been known to rip-off the trademarks and designs of well-established Chinese as well as Western brands. So the members of the CMIA are as keen as us to establish enforcement of IPR.

Problems sometimes arise when a company tries to register their name and trademarks, only to discover these have already been registered by someone else. This means that a third party owns the name of that company in China, which can lead to problems. Do make sure that name and trademarks are registered before you do any business in China! Daniel Yu, an excellent LA-trained IP lawyer retained by the CMIA, advised us that companies should make sure that they record their activities (trade shows, adverts, sales events and so on) in China. Your claim to your name will be much stronger if you can show that you have actually been using it over a period time.

Problems sometimes arise when legal protections don’t work. An educational keyboard company registered their company name and trademarks at a centre in China, only to discover six months later that the same name had been registered in the same centre, under the same category on the same afternoon. An extraordinary coincidence or corruption? Any criminal can register a company name, but there are defences against this. Daniel Yu advised us that unfair competition laws can be used to make sure that your IP rights are protected, and that there are other measures that can be taken.

The IP situation is definitely improving, with fake products now much less visible than before. The CMIA have a big incentive to make sure that Intellectual Property Rights are enforced: they need their own rights protecting, and they need Western companies selling into their market in order to set the standard for their own manufacturers and end-users.

The meeting was positive – the problems facing exporters to China are gradually being addressed, and perhaps one day we will achieve a more level playing field. Perhaps the most positive aspect of our meeting was Music China itself. The Exhibition (part-owned by the CMIA) attracts over 2,300 exhibitors and an exhibition area of over 150,000 square meters. It is the fastest growing music show in the world and the number of visitors was expected to reach a massive 200,000; a truly remarkable figure if it proves to be accurate.

Paul Mc will also be meeting with the CMIA in early November.