Grammys cleans up its act in bid to enter giant Chinese market

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BEIJING (Reuters) – The organizer of the music industry’s annual Grammy Awards on Thursday said it would respect China’s media curbs and only promote artists with a “positive and healthy” image, in its bid to break into the world’s second-largest economy.

The Recording Academy, which is behind the Grammys, the industry’s biggest awards show, plans to launch a tour in China in 2018 featuring award-winning artists, or nominees, performing live shows.

China has launched a campaign to cleanse the entertainment sector of content it deems inappropriate and unhealthy, a vague term the authorities also frequently use to justify censorship of politically sensitive topics.

“If there are restrictions and things in that nature, we have to be respectful,” Neil Portnow, president and chief executive of the Recording Academy, told Reuters in Beijing, the capital.

Stars blocked from performing in China include Lady Gaga, Bjork and Bon Jovi, who have all met or expressed support for the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

Recently a Chinese state office barred Canadian pop star Justin Bieber, citing his bad behavior and urging him to improve his conduct to become a singer “truly loved” by the public.

President of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Neil Portnow (C) and CEO of Bravo Entertainment Steven Fock sign a record during a ceremony in Beijing marking the start of a partnership to create the Grammy Festival China, August 3, 2017.Thomas Peter

Bieber, a Grammy winner, has been nominated for the award seven times, including four nominations last year alone.

The Recording Academy is organizing the Grammy Festival live show tour with Bravo Entertainment and China Music Vision.

“When it comes to selection of artists, they will mainly be Grammy-nominated or -awarded artists, and we will promote artists with a positive and healthy image,” said Steven Fock, chief executive of music events organizer Bravo.

At a time of slowing domestic growth, Chinese audiences have become increasingly important to the U.S. entertainment industry. A livestream of the Grammy Awards in China last year drew nearly 11 million viewers.

In contrast, Grammy viewership dipped slightly for the latest show in February, from nearly 25 million last year in the United States. In January, the Recording Academy said it would build its first overseas Grammy Museum in China.

Portnow said he hoped curbs on some artists would be lifted eventually, vowing to keep urging China to battle piracy beyond the great strides it has made in intellectual property protection.

“We will stand strongly behind using as much influence as we can,” he said.

Reporting by Pei Li; Writing by Brenda Goh; Editing by Clarence Fernandez



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