Binjiang bets on booming 'audio economy'

Wu Huixin
With an eye on the booming "audio economy," the Binjiang government hosted the M Plan Dubbing Competition, which attracted around 2,000 contestants.
Wu Huixin

Hangzhou's Binjiang government hosted the M Plan Dubbing Competition in tandem with China's popular video platform Bilibili on December 5. Famous voice artists Tong Zirong, Xia Lei and Bian Jiang handed out prizes to three winners.

The competition kicked off in April and attracted around 2,000 contestants. Dubbers, in addition to working as narrators and doing voiceovers for movies and television shows, also voiced characters in cartoons and animated films.

The prize winners will be able to do voices for well-known domestic intellectual property and work with famous dubbing studios.

The Binjiang government hosted the competition in an attempt to grab a piece of the market share of the booming "audio economy."

"China's audio product users have already surpassed 700 million, with nearly 15 percent of them prepared to pay for it. That translates into a big market," said Zhang Tianxing, industrial director of the Binjiang Cultural and Creative Development Center.

Aside from ordinary audio books, broadcast, radio dramas and podcasts, the audio economy includes innovative digitally integrated items. For example, white noises can put people to sleep.

"Binjiang has already collaborated with smartphone manufacturers in producing audio content, which is popular among consumers," said Zhang. "Now, the district is going to provide both services and content, building an entire industrial chain in the audio economy."

Binjiang bets on booming 'audio economy'
Ti Gong

The M Plan Dubbing Competition, which is part of the Binjiang Audio Art Festival, has drawn 2,000 entrants in the last six months.

Binjiang adopted an industry-focused policy in April, spanning talent, research and development, marketing and promotion. It intends to attract further investment by forming a talent and industrial agglomeration here.

The M Plan Dubbing Competition serves as a means to expand the talent pool. The majority of competitors are between the ages of 18 and 28. Except for professional voice actresses, the majority of them study trade, medicine or finance at universities. By far, the competition attracted over 2 million Douyin streams and 72 million views on Weibo.

Organizers asked well-known dubbers to offer lectures in universities across Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces between September and November, which attracted over 1,400 students and 200,000 web hits in total.

"I'm happy that young people enjoy dubbing. It takes perseverance and enthusiasm," said Tong Zirong. "The industry has been in decline since the 1990s. Now is the time to capitalize on the trend. The most important task is to discover gifted actors and filmmakers."

Tong is one of China's most distinguished voice artists. He became famous in the 1970s for his work on the film "Zorro." Other notable works from the 1980s include doing voices for films such as "Shaolin Temple," "La Grande Vadrouille," and "Tess."

Binjiang bets on booming 'audio economy'
Ti Gong

Voice artist Tong Zirong

Some contestants chose to dub domestic animated films, like "Qin Shi Ming Yue (秦时明月, The Legend of Qin)." Binjiang is home to the nation's best enterprises and talent in the cartoon and video game industries.

The competition is part of the Binjiang Audio Art Festival, which also includes seminars, contests, lectures and performances. In recent years, the district has emphasized the economic growth mode of "culture + technology," depending on "innovation, content, platform and talent" to promote the cultural industry.

"While Binjiang lacks top-tier audio content producers like Ximalaya (China's largest audio platform), it does have a number of digital enterprises in the video game, animation, filmmaking, and virtual reality industries. These companies require a large number of audio resources. That is why Bilibili looks for prospects for collaboration here," Zhang said.

Bilibili, frequently referred to as the "B Site," has about 100 million daily active users. It is an anime, manga and gaming-themed video sharing website where users can submit, view and add commentary subtitles to videos. Danmu is a commentary system in which viewers leave live comments that scroll over on-screen content.

"We anticipate that the B Site will contribute more high-quality information to this site.

"Our goal is to be a leading district for both content production and digital technologies," Zhang told Shanghai Daily.

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