The question seemed innocent enough: “He’s said to be a pretty corrupt individual.” Her reply- and having worked with many high profile executives and artists in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China and knowing plenty of dirty little secrets- was succinct: “Who in the entertainment business in this region is not corrupt? It’s about different levels of corruption. The only people who make money are the artists who either manage themselves or are under management companies. Whether their projects win, lose or draw, they get paid upfront. The financial pressures are on those funding these projects- mainly films and concerts.”

She’s of course totally on the money. The smart Canto Pop artists have diversified their portfolios. They might come out of “retirement” again and again for the right price and if whatever project offered with the right price tag is not totally a piece of crap, but most have their houses (plural) around the world, they’re outwardly happily married with kids and have started new businesses that can open and close without really hurting their bank balances. It’s summertime and the living is easy and Canto Pop is just a memory and a good fallback plan when needing some spare change.

The demise/irrelevance of Canto Pop might also go some ways in explaining why quite a few Hong Kong based entertainment companies have quietly closed their doors. After years of band aids to stop the financial haemorrhaging and keep up pretences to “save face” to still have seats at the head table of functions- they’re always functions and always held at five-star hotels- more and more of these companies have decided to cut their losses.

One reasonably active local entertainment company started out by a now ageing Canto Pop “idol” today has three, maybe two, artists on its roster. This includes himself. And though his records stopped selling over a decade ago as did his movies, he charges a cool HK$1m for a 20 minute public appearances. Of course one must be relevant to be offered this type of money. And if one’s image has taken a battering there aren’t many takers.

This entertainer is set for life- financially- but he’s no longer sitting at any Head Tables while his music company plods along and is now run by the unmarried mother of his soon-to-be born child who was once married to one of his most in demand singer-actors whose career went down the gurgler extremely quickly. Get all that?

The moral to this story: Very few are who they are and pretend to be, something lost on the number of B Grade entertainers, especially from the U.S. coming to Hong Kong and breaking yum cha with many cut off from their former gravy trains and trying like hell not to be seen as being irrelevant and broke. It’s why driving the latest BMW is so damn important and that waiters bow and scrape whenever they enter a restaurant. But waiters in Hong Kong know more about what’s happening in this city than most newspapers. Eavesdropping is big business. Unlike most, they know the BS drill and play along.

In other words, it’s about strange bedfellows checking each other out with both not realising that neither has anything going for themselves except for hoping something happens.

But as we have said here many times, nothing happens for free. Those rich fat cats who really are rich fat cats are today extremely careful about what they invest in. This caution just might be what’s needed: A world with less clutter and social media smoke mirrors and more meaningful businesses that will help create a better world.

Drinking too much of the Kool-Aid and believing unknowns on social media peddling their wares? No, we’ve been there, seen them and done our background checks. BECAUSE of the damages afflicting Facebook, Twitter and now also Instagram, it’s obvious what the world needs: Change in the real world. And the real world doesn’t come with hashtags.


#CantoPop #HongKong #HongKongMusic