IMG Artists Invests Hundreds of Millions in China Projects, Including Classical Music Reality TV

By James Inverne on Nov 27, 2013 03:36 AM EST

Classical music reality TV has been tried in the Western world already. Sometimes with great success.

The BBC's The Choir, for instance, and some years ago Classical Star are considered successes. And American conductors from Toscanini to Leonard Bernstein to Michael Tilson Thomas have known how to use that box in the living room for classical music's best interests.

But now China is getting in on the act, and we're bound to hear more.

Because the major players are CAEG--a state-owned entertainment group (in China, almost every serious big business needs to have, it seems, some formal involvement with the state) and the giant management company IMG Artists (which, despite some recent troubles, is still of a size to have a significant impact). The two bodies have joined in a joint venture called Sino America Global Entertainment (SAGE) and, reports Forbes magazine, they plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to cross-fertilize the Eastern and Western classical music worlds.

TV will be one of their first goals, with a new reality show that will pair Chinese classical and pop artists and challenge them to create a performance piece together. The aim is to bring in both fanbases and especially to bring more young people to classical music in China.

It's a laudable aim and an interesting idea. One that will depend entirely in the artists involved. Imaginative musicians could produce something truly original. If they're unimaginative it could be terrible--but then the right to fail is the province of art as well as commerce (well, in commerce, it's actually more a crime than a right).

Forbes goes on to report that, in 2012, the performing arts market in China grew 75 per cent from 2011 to $5.6 billion. Much of this will be attributable to musical theater and indeed pop music. Classical has many millions of fans and young would-be performers in the country, but its infrastructure is often seen as being bedeviled by problems: concert halls that aren't able yet to bring in audiences or, because the audiences are still uninformed, stars who will help fill those houses; distribution problems for CDs; huge piracy for recordings.

All of which makes the business of classical in China difficult.

Yet, because the hunger for the music is genuinely there and the populous so numerous, the industry also knows they have to be there. IMG Artists will be hoping now is the time a large investment and some lateral thinking can start to pay off.

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TagsIMG Artists, China, Michael Tilson Thomas, Leonard Bernstein, BBC, The Choir, SAGE

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