China seems be showing that in a world where no one wants to pay more than $4 for a CD and most CDs are pirated, the artists can still survive.
In the USA, free downloads of copyrighted music are driving the recording industry to sue teenagers and holler about the morality of obtaining songs for free. But if China is the future, that’s all in vain. The genie is out of the bottle. Eventually, recorded music will no longer make money.
Yu Quan and most other Chinese pop artists similarly find ways to make money other than through selling CDs. A lot of it comes from sponsorship. Clothing, shampoo and computer brands pay to advertise at a concert. A bottled-water company put singer Wang Lee Hom on its products.
The danger with this scenario happening in the US or Europe is that, while the RIAA/IFPI might lose some of their power over artists, that power might be turned over to the (artist management department of) ClearChannels of this world. And however talented you may be, you would better look good or at least ‘interesting’ too, or you might not be able to get a contract.
Just ask Kim Cleysters where Anna Kournikova’s money comes from.