Chris Fenton was president of the China-based DMG Entertainment Motion Picture Group, General Manager of DMG North America (owners of Valiant Comics), and Senior Advisor to IDW Media Holdings. He has now written a book, Feeding The Dragon, looking at his career, getting American movies into Chinese markets, notably Looper and Iron Man 3. I recently read it, and it made for quite the page-turner, and there are so many nuggets to share. You can follow along with a few I wrote with this tag. But he also spilled the beans on just what happened with Hanson in China. And talks about his DMG partner Dan Mintz's desire to use the Hanson song "I Will Come To You" in a Volkswagen TV ad for China – and to actually license it as opposed to just rip it off. He writes;
No one thought that China would play by the rules, especially when it came to valuable entertainment assets. Music publishing was one of those… The assumption immediately was that China steals everything—and music publishing was no exception. Fortunately, our CEO wanted to do it right. Even better, we wanted to showcase our ability to play by the rules. It would tee up new business down the road.
The song was owned by a few different entities—Universal Music, Sony ATV, and the band itself. Each was very excited when I called to say China wanted the rights. I could hear the chop-licking through the phone. "China? You guys want to actually pay for a song to use in China? Wow! Didn't think I'd ever hear that during my career," an executive at Sony ATV said when I called.
However, encountering budget difficulties with studios, he reached out to Hanson's manager, Jordan Berliant.
After connecting with Jordan, I started to see some daylight. I had $150,000 to spend on the song. That was it. $50,000 for each entity. Maybe something significant for the band, but surely not something that meant all that much to the media conglomerates of Sony and Universal. That said, I did have leverage. China normally just runs with a song without paying for it. The big publishers were looking to change that dynamic. Closing the deal and publicizing it was key.
After some time, we did get it done. The VW campaign ran for two full years. By the end, many Chinese knew the song very well and they liked it. They liked it so much, many Chinese used the song during their wedding ceremonies. "I Will Come to You" became that kind of phenomenon, and Jordan took full advantage of it. He put a tour together for Hanson in China that following year. It was amazingly successful.
And I even found some of that DMG PR from back in the day… and for Hanson's subsequent tour of China. Here's the video of the song… that ad must exist somewhere, right?