Taiwan Beats: At the forefront of promoting Taiwanese music

Evan Murray talked to Brien John, Executive editor at Taiwan Beats.

Fire EX. / Taiwanese Pop Punk - Punk Rock band (Courtesy: Taiwan Beats)

Tell us about Taiwan Beats and how you got involved with it.

Taiwan Beats is a Taiwanese government-funded project. What we do is to promote Taiwanese music to the global market. It's based on music media outlets and related services. I have been named executive editor since 2017.

What music genres have been popular in Taiwan in the last 5 years? In your opinion, are there any music genres that wouldn't work in Taiwan and why so?

We have a long history of pop and folk ballads. It's still very popular now.

However, hip-hop music has been overwhelming in the past 5 years. It has definitely gone beyond the line dividing mainstream and independent and become a national trend.

According to my experience, jazz and electronic music (not EDM) usually don't work. But who knows.

Is there an underground/Indie music culture in Taiwan?

Yes we have a long history of that too. I think it originated from the early 90's when the "alternative rock" went viral globally. Rock music, including its subgenres, used to be dominant in the past 2 decades. It's still there, but we have seen a shift towards more groovy styles such as hip-hop, R&B, city-pop, etc.

I understand Taiwan is a country of different languages. How does this play a role in the popularity of artists in Taiwan and abroad? 

Mandarin is still dominant. Hip-hop and indie music might use some English.

There is also a market for Hokkien. It's kind of like a local dialect.

Is Taiwan's music culture different from that in China? What are the main differences or similarities? 

I'm not a Chinese music expert. But I would say that the biggest difference is the freedom of speech. We do have many things in common when it comes to music.

China has huge money and population which no one can deny; while Taiwanese artists are more of individualism and do whatever they like.

What are your thoughts on Taiwan's export initiatives? How have these initiatives impacted the local music economy? 

There's not much to talk about I guess. It depends on each artist. Generally speaking, China and Chinese-speaking markets are still the first place people would choose. Territories other than those are for those who have distinct styles.

What countries do you feel Taiwan export should be focusing on, and why? 

Japan is definitely the top priority other than China. The reasons are very obvious: people of both countries are familiar with and friendly to each other. We are close to each other so that artists can fly over easily without spending too much money on flights.

What is the future of Taiwan Beats? How has it impacted the local music economy? 

I don't know. It's still a small project in terms of its budget.

Name some Taiwanese artists you would like us to check out? In your opinion what makes them special for an international audience?

Sunset Rollercoaster, 9m88, Prairie WWWW, LEO 37, Elephant Gym.

Not only all of them are very unique in their styles but also experienced in presenting themselves to the global market.

If there were ways you could change the Taiwan music industry or the goverment funding sector, what would you do to try to improve it?

I'd choose a few artists, invest and develop them to be global popstars. It involves a comprehensive global plan of A&R, marketing, and so on.

EVAN MURRAY is Event Co-ordinator at Live at Heart, Newfoundland, Export Development Officer at Vision 360 (Canada) and Canadian Coordinator at Live at Heart, Sweden. He is also International Music Consultant at Wonderwall Media, India.