I was lucky enough to be invited by the UK Trade and Investment Government Division to the Great Festival of Creativity in Shanghai, China, where I met our future King (and Paddington Bear!)… It was my first trip to China, and quite frankly it blew me away more than hurricane Eric, or whatever stupid name they give these climate-changing episodes. The size of Shanghai, the industrialism, the commercialism, and the general mass of everything is like nothing I have ever seen before; and I've been to a lot of cities. The population of Shanghai alone is the same as one-quarter of the population of the whole of Great Britain!
The total population of China now exceeds 1.3 billion people, and as an artist and musician who sells commercial records, I start thinking ‘Wow! If I could make it in China, I could very easily become a multi-millionaire, selling millions and millions of records more than I ever would in the UK’. Except, of course, the difference with China is that their rate of piracy is massive and in terms of percentage, only 1% of CDs that exist in China are legitimate, with 99% being illegally copied.
What this means is that although China has a massive population, it would be easier to straighten the leaning tower of Pisa than become a successful artist and make money from record sales. The interesting thing about China is that they love Western music and they seem to love Western products, for example, Jaguar Land Rover sells more cars over there than the rest of the world put together.
When I was growing up, it was popular to buy CD's; but in 2015 the world changed, and streaming music became the norm. Back then I predicted that by 2020, nobody will own music, they will just stream what they want, when they want it. Truth be told, it didn't take five years for that to happen. This has a massive effect on musicians and how they get paid. In future, I predict music will be given away free, but ticket prices for concerts will rise faster than you can say 'I'm just going to pop a viagra'.
Making money out of music is unbelievably hard, and more often than not, the result of becoming financially successful seems to be based more on luck than talent. It’s for this reason that very early on, I decided that if I could make money out of music, that would be a great thing, but fundamentally I want to make music. But as I wasn't born a Prince, I still need to find a way to make money; which is why I made the early decision to create other businesses around the entertainment industry to support my passion for music making.
This decision is the sole reason why my symphonic orchestra Arts Symphonic was created, why my production house Arts Festivals was built in 2005 and why I run the UK’s most successful music tuition agency, the Arts Academy. All of these reasons are simply there to make sure that I continue making music and I don’t have to worry if I can afford my next cup of Starbucks.
This puts me in a very privileged position, but I do wonder whether more musicians can take this attitude and spread their wings a little?
I suspect one day in the future, live musicians will be rarely used for film recordings, live performances or on live albums. Digital instruments are already getting dangerously close to sounding like the real thing...
I hope I am proved wrong; but if the people at the top can’t find the way to make their money successfully, then the people at the bottom aren’t going to be able to survive either.
For now, I will carry on along the path that I’ve carved out, with the orchestra, conducting, playing the piano, and looking after my businesses. All of this seems to be working well for me and keeps me out of trouble for the majority of the time - which is always a benefit at the end of the day.
Recommended books on Shanghai
Lonely Planet Shanghai (Travel Guide) - this is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Beijing and Shanghai (Eyewitness Travel Guides) - the ideal travel companion, full of insider advice on what to see and do, plus detailed itineraries and comprehensive maps for exploring these diverse and compelling cities.
The Shanghai Free Taxi: Journeys with the Hustlers and Rebels of the New China - as any traveler knows, the best and most honest conversations take place during car rides. So when a longtime NPR correspondent wanted to learn more about the real China, he started driving a cab-and discovered a country amid seismic political and economic change.
LEGO UK - 21039 Architecture Shanghai Souvenir Model - ok, not a book, but a very cool piece of Lego if you have a child!