Gao Xiaosong (born 14 November 1969) is the current Chairman of Alibaba Entertainment Strategic Committee, co-founder of Alibaba Music Group, is a composer, songwriter, music producer,  movie director, and a “Chinese Campus Folk” representative.

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Gao Xiaosong had been appointed as the Honorary President of Beijing Contemporary Music Academy in 2009. Beijing Contemporary Music Academy founded in 1993, is by far the biggest and oldest music academy in China.

Apart from his successful musician career, as a well-known academia, he explores into American & European history and cultures and enjoys talking about cultural comparison in his talking show—Xiaosong Pedia (晓说).

The most interesting part of Gao Xiaosong can be his diverse research field, which includes of course pop music and history, also content distribution, demand generation and Venture Capital investment.

After all, he is a pop star.

A Musician & An Academia

Last January, Gao Xiaosong became an associate of the faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, he announced on social media.

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“I am officially appointed to Harvard University today. I went to the library and it was exciting to find out that the staff members at the library had prepared lots of materials I am interested in. I am touched by their professionalism.”

He also added that besides doing his job at Alibaba Entertainment, he will “do research at Harvard”. Gao’s appointment is also posted on the university’s website.

The 48-year-old Gao, dropped out of Tsinghua University in 1991, is recognized for introducing “campus folk music style” to Chinese music lovers in the 1990s by writing popular hits, including the super album My Desk Mate(同桌的你). He released his song collection, No Regret Youth, in 1996, with some of the country’s most popular singers performing his songs. In 1996, he, along with Song Ke, a guru in Chinese music circles, launched a record company, Taihe Rye Music.

Now, Gao and Song serve as chairman and CEO of Alibaba Music Group, which is under Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group. Besides music, Gao also has his talk show, directs films and publishes books.

Among the talking shows he hosts, U can U BiBi is the most outstanding one that attracts hundreds of millions of netizens from China, Taiwan and other overseas Chinese demographics. The talking show was so stunning that people almost forgot his musician identity and view him as a stand-up comedian.

‘U Can U BiBi’ — A Huge Commercial Success

If you spend any time walking around public spaces in China, there is a high chance that you’ve heard people talking about U Can U BiBi (Qipashuo,奇葩说), the famous Chinese online talking show that just wrapped up its fifth season.

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The show is a debate program produced by online video platforms iQiyi and Miwei Media. During each episode, two teams debate about a single topic, and the team that gains the most votes from live studio audience wins the round, while Gao Xiaosong was one of the coaches and co-hosts. The show became a huge sensation after its first season (2015), and four seasons later it has still managed to keep its click through rates. The fourth season of the show racked up more than 780 million views.

“I like this season of U Can U BIBI,” Sun Yizhu, a student who is also a member of the debate team at Beijing Forestry University, shared her opinion of the recent season.

“Every topic has made me think, especially when candidates express their opinions from different perspectives and in different ways. I really enjoy it. I want to be one of the debaters.”

“More topics about love and relationship have been added into the discussion,” Sun said.”Which I think caters more to the tastes of the public because they are closer to everyday life.”

According to the data released by Chinese streaming site iQiyi.cn, 65 percent of the show’s viewers are aged 18 to 35. Therefore, more topics related to the lives of young Chinese have been discussed on the show such as “Who should apologize first when you fight in a relationship,” or “If you had a button that would display how much your partner loves you, would you push it?”

With the rise of variety/talking shows such as U Can U BIBI, Temptation Banquet (Fanju de Youhuo,饭局的诱惑) and Who’s the Murderer in China, more and more viewers from Southeast Asia have become hardcore fans of these ‘mainland shows’.

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The show is free to watch but is heavily sponsored; not a scene goes by without seeing product placement. Chinese tech giant Xiaomi reportedly paid a staggering 140 million RMB (±20 million US$) to be main sponsor for the fourth season. The Xiaomi brand name is visible in the show’s logo and practically everywhere else in the studio. U Can U BIBI host Gao Xiaosong with branded content from sponsors on his desk. Besides Xiaomi and Head & Shoulders shampoo, Chunzhen Yoghurt is also a prominent sponsor of the show, with packs of the products standing on all desks and tables.

As mentioned, the show is not just broadcasted online, it also interacts with online topics; the issues addressed in the show are selected from different online Chinese Quora-like Q&A forums such as Baidu Zhidao and Zhihu. The most popular online topics related to love, lifestyle & career are selected to come on the show. In selecting the topics this way, the producers already know that they are of interest to a great number of netizens.

Gao’s Business Vision on AliMusic Group

Alibaba on July 15, 2015 announced the creation of Ali Music Group, saying in a statement that the new business unit would be “a crucial pillar of Alibaba Group’s digital entertainment strategy”.

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The formation of Ali Music Group includes the integration of two Alibaba-owned music streaming apps, Xiami and Tiantian. Alibaba brought in Gao Xiaosong to serve as Chairman and named Gao’s long-term business partner Song Ke as Chief Executive Officer.

Alibaba Music Chairman Gao Xiaosong & CEO Song Ke

Alibaba Music Chairman Gao Xiaosong & CEO Song Ke

“It is hoped that the two will creatively disrupt and catalyze the music industry (by) combining their cumulative experience … with Alibaba’s capabilities in the Internet space and Big Data,” Alibaba said in a statement.

Following the announcement, Gao wrote on his official Sina Weibo social media account that Ali Music Group “will become a world-class music business operation,” noting that 20 years ago, he and Song teamed up to form Taihe Rye Music. Alibaba “will be the last stop for us as music executives,” he wrote.

Alibaba reportedly has rights agreements with BMG Records, Rock Records and HIM Records to use the labels’ products on its platform. The deal with BMG, announced in March, brought more than 2.5 million copyrights to Alibaba covering work by artists including Australian singer Kylie Minogue and the Rolling Stones, according to Reuters.

Alibaba has been aggressively expanding its digital entertainment capabilities, anticipating that the sale of music, film and television content will become a major revenue driver in China in coming years. Late last year Alibaba established a movie production house, Alibaba Pictures Group, after acquiring a majority stake in ChinaVision Media Group.

As Gao gets on board, he said in a speech in Tsinghua University that a traffic-profit balanced content distribution platform that could potentially surpass Netflix may be on its way to shape.

(Content edited from en.people.cn,Manya Koetse, whatsonweibo.com, Chinadaily, Alizila)

Edited by Joreal Qian