Local singer Kit Chan has become the first artist to sign to a major China record company, Taihe Music Group.
It is all due to I Am A Singer and the doors it has opened for her in China. Her short-lived but nevertheless high-profile stint on the third season of the popular televised contest early in the year led to her first regional tour, which kicked off in Singapore in June.
On Dec 3, Taihe - created from the merger of Taihe Rye Music, Ocean Butterflies Music and Touch Music Publishing - announced that it will merge with search engine giant Baidu's music platform, Baidu Music. Taihe owns the copyright to a massive library of 700,000 songs.
Chan, who released her last album Re-interpreting Kit Chan (2011) under her own label Banshee Empire, tells The Straits Times in an exclusive e-mail interview: "I just realised it has been more than a decade since I have signed on with a record company. Freaking amazing."
The 43-year-old adds: "It seemed natural to start expanding my reach and to ensure that my future works reach my newfound Chinese audience. My own label can never do that. We are a small outfit and there is no strategic plan nor capabilities to go beyond my two strongest markets, Singapore and Hong Kong."
Out of the several offers from both regional and international labels that she received, Taihe stood out for her.
"It is strong in its digital marketing because it has recently merged with Baidu, a major digital platform in China. For someone who lives somewhat off the digital grid, you can see how much I appreciate this advantage. (Laughs) I am aware of what is happening in the world, even if I choose to be a little old-school."
There is another reason Taihe won her signature:
"They understand my need for artistic autonomy, which is extremely important to me at this stage in my life and career."
Singing the same tune, Taihe CEO Qian Shimu says in Chinese in an e-mail statement to The Straits Times: "Kit is a pop music queen whose rich talent and versatility everyone knows about. But I most admire her courage and sincerity, qualities which drive her to take on new challenges in her music, achieve breakthroughs, strive to reach fresh frontiers and produce new works that are meaningful."
No one would doubt that Chan knows what works for her. Her refusal to showboat on I Am A Singer has paid dividends as her sensitive performances won her new fans even though she was twice eliminated from the show.
So when it comes to the creative direction of, say, her next album, she gets "a lot" of say. "But it might surprise some people when I say I sometimes choose to relinquish control, and let other people have their say. I may be a control freak, but I also am one of the best collaborators you can ever hope to find. I believe in sharing ideas, and in respecting the other person and letting them realise some of their own inputs. Otherwise, where is the fun?"
The move is likely to have a bigger impact on the business part of her career rather than the creative side. She points out: "I will obviously have more resources to work with now, and more marketing support and the ability to reach a much wider audience across previously untapped platforms."
The singer is "terribly excited and raring to go", and in fact, pre-production has started on her new album, which is slated for release next year. Her last album of original songs was 2004's East Towards Saturn (Re-interpreting Kit Chan comprised covers).
It strikes her suddenly: "This will be my first studio album of original material since 2004. Oh my god."