VALPARAISO | China plans to more than double the value of its entertainment and other cultural industries to nearly 3 trillion Yuan – or about $460 billion – within the next several years, and Valparaiso University is poised to take advantage of the new cultural venues.

A delegation of graduate students and faculty from VU's Arts & Entertainment Administration as well as its Digital Media masters programs attended a four–day workshop at the Beijing Cultural Academy in March.

"With this current government there's a push to restore the traditional Chinese arts and to embrace arts from across the world and make art part of the Chinese culture again," said Kathleen Gibson, assistant dean for the College of Arts and Sciences.

"What distinguishes us is our international component. It's exciting to see this industry as global because that's where it's heading."

The purpose of the workshop was to explore a cultural exchange between the two countries, including how each would market and promote its own forms of entertainment overseas.

Workshop instructors included promoter Charlie Blum, who runs the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, as well as representatives from the Beijing Dance Academy, Shanghai Music Conservatory and Nanjing Arts.

Students learned the fundamentals of the business and case studies looked at how to market the doo-wop band Blum manages, Under the Streetlamp, to Chinese audiences as well as how to market Chinese stage musicals in the U.S.

Students analyzed the market for Blum's band and discovered it's not the same as promoting international pop sensations such as Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

Student Yi Ke said a 1950s-style band would appeal to Chinese who have traveled abroad and speak English as well as a younger population. Affordable ticket prices would also help.

The marketing of Chinese entertainment in the U.S. is about finding a venue that will draw large crowds, said student John Bayard.

Ke, who was born in China, agreed an opera might be too high culture and limited in its mass audience appeal. "Even I might fall asleep ... We don't listen to that anymore," she said.

A musical on mainland Chinese issues might not be appealing to American audiences. "There's a balance of finding enough culture aspects ... that niche between authentic and not authentic enough," Bayard said.

China's entertainment industry is in its infancy but expanding rapidly along with the increasing numbers of middle–class citizens, Bayard said. Its government wants to support and promote cultural arts activities but many are not accepted by the growing marketplace, Ke said.

"You have this growth as well as new markets and tastes," Bayard said. "You can offer a lot more variety of bands and musicals but not many concerts are held in China because they haven't developed their marketing and promotion strategies. They have a long way to go but there's potential there."

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