Okay, try and follow me here. Remember the piece about Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child being bigger than Beyonce in China? It’s quite extraordinary how many people have written in to ask [A] Who is Kelly Rowland and [B] Why isn’t the other of Destiny’s Children cashing in on the brush with fame with Beyonce?

As for question B, I don’t know how to answer this. Who is the other Destiny’s Child- didn’t they have a few?- though Michelle Williams had the longest stint as part of the trio and, more to the point, her agent hase done a piss-poor job of marketing her in China. Michelle Williams could be “the new Kelly Rowland” in China.

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: The only market where unknown acts can make huge amounts of money touring and doing sponsored gigs is China simply because China is not sold on the need to have “UK and US chart successes” and hype.

More and more, whether it is China or Korea, even Vietnam and India, International artists are doing all they can to become “Asia friendly”, or “China friendly.”

It’s there in everything they do and reminds me of that Wikileak when Hillary Clinton moans about not being able to get tough with China ‘cos “how does one get tough with your banker?” True.

China holds all the aces in this global economy, they know it, the artists who are businessmen know it and if they wish to make music the backbone to other businesses, these people know they have to “appease” the decision makers in China.

I watched the new video for will i am and it resembled a calling card to be invited to China so he can say, “Let’s have yum cha and do business”. will i am is smart. He can smell the money.

Nearly long before most of the contemporary artists, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett saw an affinity with China and which meant having Noodle in Gorillaz and embarking on their “Monkey King” project. Animation is hugely popular in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, India, the Philippines and Jamie Hewlett is just as a big a star as Damon Albarn in the creative community.

Launching that line of Gorillaz merchandising talked about with CMO, their management company over eight long years ago is still not too late- if one can avoid the piracy. But Gorillaz and China, Noodle and China: It’s a perfect fit and not to “sell” music either. Gorillaz in the online gaming world is something I would want to see- and know will work.

China has little idea- and nor do they care- as to who and what is old, new or indifferent- especially brand managers in the major cities.

What they want from artists is a commitment to tour the country and be accessible¬† so that they can get behind one or two names, feel some sense of “ownership/partnership” and promote them more like “friends” than “superstars”.

The nicer one is, the more gigs there are- and the more business opportunities that will simply happen. Behave like a diva- or a divo- and it’s hasta la vista, baby. There is an awfully big choice out there- and not only Kelly Rowland and Ronan Keating.

Speaking of which, dear Ronan popped up on television screens last week as a special guest to another of those shameless beauty pageants, this time searching for a Miss Earth and held in Vietnam. Someone won and Ronan sang a syrupy song and, I hear, made around U$200k for his five minutes onstage. Not a bad night’s work.

Last night, I was with my old friend Maksim who is making a bundle performing in China. I know, I know: Who IS Maksim?

Maksim is a pianist originally signed to EMI Classics and whom I first saw perform at one of the company’s Marketing Meetings in Barcelona.

I was gently stoned at the time and was dared by an equally stoned senior executive with the company to make him a star in Asia.

Wait: He actually bet me US$1000 that I wouldn’t be able to sell 25,000 units of his first album titled “The Piano Player”. And thus began Maksim’s Asian Odyssey and Oddity.

Perhaps it was the Spanish fly, the buzz, the whatever, but I took the bet that this strange-looking, gangly Croatian pianist dressed like Alice Cooper’s son who banged away at the piano and played well-known Classical tunes to Dance tracks could achieve these “numbers.”

Maksim was a “crossover act”, a label used to describe an artist no one knows how the hell to categorize and what to do with and, for whatever reason– mainly Maksim coming to Hong Kong so often on promo tours that some thought we were sharing a flat- the artist sold close to 200,000 copies in this city alone- plus another 200,000 throughout the region.

When I met Maksim last night, he had just finished one of several private functions for the Giorgio Armani brand and they loved him- in China and Hong Kong. Even some of their senior people from Italy came for the gig and they loved him.

Right here and now, do understand that, silly as it might sound,¬† in China, Maksim is bigger and more well-known than Justin Bieber, Jay-Z, Kanye etc and is a sponsor’s dream. Why? Commitment to a country- and region- which so many in the West just do not understand.

While you have bands producing great music few will ever hear and 30 Seconds To Mars filming music videos in China to try and break into the China market, Maksim is, well, making them look like hapless tossers. How? Why? Again, commitment and music which a certain group of people- mostly cash-rich people, well, like. It’s not exactly rocket science.

Maksim and his manager- good ol’ Mel Bush who introduced the crossover act BOND to the world- know that words like “talent” and “brilliance” are good words and useful, but that image trumps them all- and all the time.

BOND was all about image- four very sexy girls in very tight jeans and from different parts of the world playing this “crossover music” and which was original Crossover Diva Vanessa Mae times four. It had to succeed and for a time, it did.

When BOND split from Bush, he turned to Croatia and discovered a struggling young classical pianist who looked like an androgynous Rock star.

He had found the male, piano-playing equivalent of the violin-playing Lolita that was Vanessa Mae and someone women- and men- could find appealing.

Mel worked hard on creating an almost on-stage “Goth-like” image for Maksim- a friendly Goth- who played well-known classical tunes such as “Flight Of The Bubble Bee” to a Dance rhythm.

It was “dangerously safe” music for the masses with accompanying music videos produced in Cuba and who wanted to “rock”- but without the sex and drugs and just enough “beat” for them to tap along to and go mildly wild.

It was chic music and which is, no doubt why, the smart marketing people snapped him.

Maksim looks the part; he dresses well, the all-black leather outfits work, so does the chunky jewelery, the boots and, these days, a hairstyle which would not make him outta place as the new lead singer with Tokio Hotel.

Plus, he has been around Asia for almost ten years and knows how to work the media, he can charm the pants off them and is now, like Michael Learns To Rock, and Kelly Rowland, the most in-demand International artist in China.

He has appeared on television shows for China’s biggest- and only- national television station- CCTV- and is scheduled to perform for them again on New Year’s Eve.

He has won the Award for Newcomer of the Year some time back for MTV Asia, he has won something at all the various awards shows- some meaningful, the others just plain useless- and is now making some very good money banging away on his piano to a backing track- and putting in some very long hours and days into being available to anyone with the bucks in China.

Many artists today wondering why they are broke and have no gigs can learn much from a guy like Maksim. Brand managers can learn much from the people with Giorgio Armani.

Sure, some might laugh at what could be called “cheesy music”, but the difference is Maksim doesn’t care.

He might be nothing in many parts of the world. But in China, Maksimus Rules and the man is laughing all the way to the bank.

Hans Ebert

Chairman and CEO

We-Enhance Inc

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