It will be focused solely on soundtracks and scores, seeking to work with local artists and composers to create tracks for Chinese film and TV projects.
Veteran film marketing executive Kelvin Hou will be the Beijing-based label’s CEO. Hou is the founder and former CEO of Chinese film website Mtime. Magic Muses will “bring together local talent from music and the film and TV, help them share ideas, exchange resources, and produce quality works,” he explained.
Prior to the new label, UMGC previously worked with the local blockbuster “The Eight Hundred” on its original soundtrack, which consists of 20 tracks created by composers Rupert Gregson-Williams (“Hacksaw Ridge”) and Andrew Kawczynski (“Dunkirk”) and producer Yu Fei. The closing track “Remember” is a take on the old Irish “Londonderry Air” sung by tenor Andrea Bocelli and Chinese singer Na Ying. The film was pulled from its planned theatrical release last summer due to censorship concerns, but is now scheduled to premiere Aug. 21.
Soundtracks and scores typically have not featured prominently in Chinese film promotion, nor are they usually marketed as full albums.
Garand Wu, managing director of Universal Music Greater China (UMGC), said this presented a “great opportunity.”
He noted that the label will be the first ever dedicated to soundtracks established by one of the international majors in China, giving Universal a chance to work in a “previously neglected genre” and “reimagine the commercial and promotional opportunities that music can add to film projects.
“It is our vision to help redefine film and TV music production and make Magic Muses the most respected and recognizable home for film and TV music in China,” he said.
UMGC chairman and CEO Sunny Chang said the label’s launch “shows UMG’s strategic commitment to helping further raise awareness of Chinese music, culture and creativity globally.”
Earlier this week, Universal Music Group, which counts Tencent and Tencent Music Entertainment (TME) as joint holders of a 10% share stake, announced that it had signed multi-year direct licensing agreements for China with both TME and its competitor NetEase Cloud Music. UMGC and TME will also be launching a different, still unnamed joint venture music label together at a later date.
For a U.S.-backed venture, the label has chosen a decidedly Chinese patriotic direction for its debut and tone.
Magic Muses’ first project will be the “main melody” film “My People, My Homeland,” which is set to premiere on Oct. 1, China’s National Day holiday. As a patriotic film, it will be essentially guaranteed a large box office.
Backed by the Chinese firm Beijing Culture, it is a sequel of sorts to last year’s jingoistic anthology film “My People, My Country,” made to laud the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic over the same holiday last year.
The new film gathers together five shorts each set in a different Chinese region. They are helmed by directors Ning Hao (“Crazy Alien”), Xu Zheng (“Lost in Russia”), Chen Sicheng (“Detective Chinatown 3”), as well as duos Yan Fei and Peng Damo (who collaborated on “Hello Mr. Billionaire”), and Deng Chao (“Shadow”) and Yu Baimei (“The Breakup Guru”). The title counts Zhang Yimou as lead executive producer.
Magic Muses musicians will create original works for the film that showcase different regional cultures. Speaking of the project, Wu praised China’s “long history of over 5,000 years” and said: “Some of the world’s most successful musical works are rooted in local culture and history.”
To promote its new venture into soundtracks, UMGC has also launched a variety show called “Hi! Movie Music” on Bytedance’s Douyin — the Chinese version of TikTok — which it describes as the country’s first original online series dedicated to local film and TV music.
It opens with pianist Lang Lang tickling the ivories briefly before turning to camera to say: “Here, I’m using music to represent my good wishes for my hometown and motherland, and together transmit the power of love. Let’s go Liaoning! Let’s go China!”