Entertainment Mogul Kenny Bloom: First In The Land of Many
His latest venture will fill yet another void in China, as he sets his sights on forming a 24 hour music channel
Sweet Reunions: Zorro Xu and Kenny Bloom at Hitweek China in Beijing
Entertainment mogul Kenny Bloom has been a tour de force in China's entertainment industry since 1988. At that time, as part of a joint venture with China Film, Bloom secured a license in China for the Warner Music library and created the first foreign owned PRC record company since 1949. But even that accomplishment wasn't enough for Bloom. "I got out of the record business in 1999 because I was doing a lot of television at that time. We produced Supergirl around 2004-2005, and introduced it through Hunan Satellite TV, where it became the American Idol of China. It became an extraordinary popular show. We were not making that much money in the record business, and I wanted to do something different from what everyone else was doing."
So what does a man who has made history in China do next? He makes more history in China. Bloom's next move was to establish Mogo, one of the most popular music video website in China. "Mogo originated 5 years ago to fill a void. State television only plays one kind of music, which is pop, and we needed a platform for music videos. There were hundreds of bands around China at that time, and now there are tens of thousands of bands around China. We shoot and produce about 98% of our content in our Beijing studios. The bands come in and do unplugged sets for us along with an interview, and that's a 45 minute show." Continuing, he said, "Historically, we'd shoot in clubs, we'd shoot in music festivals, wherever the bands were, we'd go and shoot. To date, I don't know the exact number, but we have well over 8000 videos that we've produced representing more than 400 bands."
With internet piracy being one of the biggest problems in China today, you might think that this would be an area of concern for Bloom, but it isn't. He explained, ""You can't really pirate something that's live. You could pirate a recording, but we don't mind if people "pirate" what we do. If they embed the videos and share them, it's okay. Our whole idea was to make the music popular, and the bands popular. Pirating or sharing on that level only helps to promote what we're trying to accomplish."
Now, surely with as much success Mr. Bloom has had in the Chinese market, he could easily sit back and rest on his laurels. But that's not Bloom's style at all. Instead, he continues climbing the mountain of obstacles, making it look almost effortless. His latest venture will fill yet another void in China, as he sets his sights on forming a 24 hour music channel. "The content will come from taking the 8000 videos and putting a host in between the videos. When we have a host explaining who the bands are and why they're important, it becomes compelling content. Video on demand only works if you know who to search for. Our platform is more like the early days of FM radio, when the deejays played what they liked, and you got to hear great new music. MOGO has become what FM radio was in the 60's and 70's, a platform of discovery."
Aside from music, China has no cable channels like in the States. No cooking, sports, golf, or cartoon networks, so as an alternative to state television, there are vast opportunities, and Mr. Bloom is about to tap into them. He is developing an online platform of video channels (think cable network) that are currently nonexistent in China. "There are 700 million viewers watching content online daily because the network run by the state is very conservative, and does not appeal to a lot of people. Advertisers are spending a lot of money on the networks and losing a lot of it. Imagine having no ESPN or MTV. This generation wants that type of content, and we're going to provide it for them." That's where Kenny Bloom is going with his company, and he wants to make it available on any device that connect to the internet, like the iPod, iPad, and Android, all of which are very popular in China.
"Online television is enormous here, if you can figure out the business model, which I believe we have. It's just like television. It's a new media and we're plugging in a traditional model that, theoretically speaking, should work. "The bands now are starting to receive sponsorship from brands. They're touring a lot more, and there are club circuits opening up."
But Bloom has a word of advice for those who think they might want to just jump into the Chinese record market. "If you're looking to sell records, this isn't the place -- downloads, maybe. The whole industry is going through a change. We're going to see a different model for the record business, which is turning into the music business. The biggest problem with the industry is that the music people are no longer there. You can't have a music industry run by bankers and accountants."
It's no secret that China is a communist country and censorship is central to all aspects of life there. So how does one conduct business and reach untapped markets? Bloom has an answer. "The government is very concerned about culture. They're also concerned about Western influence. Everything we do is Chinese. We're on their radar, and they certainly know about us. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them are even fans. But seriously, we don't do anything that would, excuse the pun, raise a red flag."
"I think the key is balance, and if you have balance in your repertoire, you'll be fine. If you're just trying to push western movies, western TV shows, or western music, you'll eventually have an issue here just as you would if you were In the U.S. trying to push all eastern content. The Chinese government isn't forcing its music on Americans. Common sense will prevail."
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