WISE: What Do You See In The Future, In China?

Music Press Asia undertook a second revision of the text: A conversation between Philipp Grefer, Founder of WISE and Eric-Reithler Barros, Founder of Fold Artists & Speaker at WISE.


In this 2nd release of Barros’ interview with Grefer, founder at WISE and FakeMusicMedia – we’ve decided to include all of the Q&A from Part 1 in the hope to achieve a more impressionable storytelling of Grefer’s passion in founding WISE, how he believes these institution of brains and brands may possibly share a dream in understanding the structure of, and what could truly satisfy human craving to create another form of human intelligence more supreme than the flesh – Artificial Intelligence.

We sincerely thank Eric-Reithler Barros for presenting the studious and immersive questions and Philipp Grefer for his wit and courage to embrace and firms what he truly wants for WISE.

EDIT NO. 2, PART 1-2
VENUE: UCCA Contemporary Art Museum on October 26, 2018.

WISE, THE BEGINNING                          

“[our most engaging panel discussions to date]…when we talked about
‘Humanity — The Next 100 Years’.”

[Barros]: Describe WISE, the conference in one sentence.
[Grefer]: A Future Think Tank and platform for big ideas and practical knowledge.

[Barros]: Tell us about when and how you came up with this concept?
[Grefer]: I co-founded a music company called FakeMusicMedia 10 years ago in Beijing. Obviously the name was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but “fake” was what China was mainly known for in these days. Now “fake news” is mainly associated with a prominent North American person.

Times have changed. And I got older. So from Fake to WISE it is somewhat a natural progression. And something I can strive for for the next 40 years without ever reaching it. So it’s a good way to keep me busy, combine all my interests and experience, plus a good excuse to surround myself with people smarter than me, have a good time with them and hopefully create a bit of an impact for the people who pay for a ticket to hear the talks and network.

L-R: Jan Kern, Al Di, Prasad Shetty in the "Art vs. Money: The Challenges & Opportunities in China's Movie Industry" panel.

L-R: Jan Kern, Al Di, Prasad Shetty in the “Art vs. Money: The Challenges & Opportunities in China’s Movie Industry” panel. Image courtesy of WISE, Fake Music Media.


“So I also learned a lot from them [Reeperbahn Festival]. They were all fascinated by the conference as well as Beijing. So I expect there will be more collaboration in the future,” said Grefer.

[B]: If WISE had a role model, what conference(s) or brands would it be?
[G]: I´ve been to a lot of inspiring events all around the world from SXSW in Austin, to Tech Open Air in Berlin, or Sonar in Barcelona to name just some of the biggest ones.

But rather to copy a model or event that has worked in another city, I´d rather create something with its own identity that is unique to the place where it takes place, in this case the ‘798 Art District’ in Beijing, which in itself is an absolutely crazy place.

Also this year we had the co-founder of Reeperbahn Festival, the biggest music industry event in Europe, and the head of Ars Electronica, which is probably the longest running festival in the world on the intersection of art and technology.

HOW’S WISE GOING TO WORK IN CHINA?                                    

[B]: People outside of China may tend to perceive that free thought is censored and controlled, particularly in the capital city of Beijing.  Do you believe this is true, and does that pose a threat to a think-tank-like event such as WISE?
[G]:  It is no secret that there are limits to an open political discussion when it comes to certain topics in China. But the goal of WISE is not to push a specific political agenda, but rather to engage in dialogue between cultures and industries and think of how we, as humans, as a species, can shape our common future. Again, this can be in the form of visionary ideas which transcend cultures and territories or in concrete applicable knowledge, in the different industries we cover.

‘WISE’ IN ACTION                                                

[B]: There were Western and Asian speakers at WISE this year, did you notice any surprising instances of either cultural clash and/or accord onstage?
[G]: I think, no matter what industry and country, everybody was quite in accord that China´s importance is still growing. To give you an example: China already has the 2nd biggest movie industry in the world, in the last two years its music industry went from the 20th biggest to the 10th biggest. Other industries are similar. The trajectory is clear.

[B]: What’s the take-away you hope for, for them? Did you achieve it this year?
[G]: I hope for people to be inspired, get a new perspective on things they took for granted, do some business, or get a new job… and also have some fun in the process.

One speaker even fell in love with an audience member, and another speaker is still hanging out in Beijing waiting to take me out to a club in this very moment!  A few partners already approached me for next year. So, frankly, it has worked out better than I could ever have expected.

[B]:  What was the most controversial sparks-filled panel this year?
[G]: It was on your own panel that you moderated for us, Eric.  The quote by [Acupuncture Records and ARP Creative Agency founder] Miao Wong questioning “Key Opinion Leaders” (China-speak for “online influencers”) and their role on youth culture, it got stuck in my head:  “I’m not quite so sure about KOLs. Are they really leaders? No. Do they have opinions? No.”

"The Future of Chinese Youth Culture & The Role of Brands" moderated by Eric-Reithler Barros.

“The Future of Chinese Youth Culture & The Role of Brands” moderated by Eric-Reithler Barros. Images courtesy of Eric-Reithler Barros.

THE FUTURE OF WISE                                                

[B]:  If you could invite anyone from any time period to WISE, who would that be?
[G]: I think to have a panel discussion with Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, and Confucius at WISE would be pretty dope.

BEIJING VS SHANGHAI                                                  

[B]: Is it time for the creative and cultural world to take heed of Beijing as a center for thought and creativity?
[G]: Well, I think in the last few years Beijing took the backseat compared with Shanghai in the international perception. Shanghai is a city which is a lot more easily accessible for foreigners, was built as a colony, and is the seat of a lot of the advertising and brand industry.

So naturally it has a bigger international outreach than Beijing. And I have to admit, its also more comfortable to live there. But let´s face it: Beijing is still the political as well as cultural capital of a country with 1.3 billion people.

What happens in Beijing, spreads to all of China. The [site of the WISE Conference] ‘Art District 798’ is serving as a blueprint for similar creative districts in China, case in point.

The most influential domestic artists, musicians, intellectuals and media personalities still live in Beijing. Zhongguancun, China´s answer to Silicon Valley is in Beijing. And the “hutong lifestyle” [of imperial-era alleyways and backstreets] also gives Beijing a unique aesthetic. So yes: the world needs to notice this more.  That said, Beijing went to a bit of a creative clean up the last few years. So, it´s time to “make Beijing great again”!

WHO IS PHILIPP GREFER & FAKE MUSIC MEDIA?                                                         

[B]:  What’s your favorite artists you are listening to right now?
[G]: I finally discovered Brian Eno and ambient music. Forget your meditation app  – that stuff just makes you float in space and time.

[B]: What’s the best film you’ve seen this year?
[G]: I hardly watch films these days but I´m currently watching two Netflix series in parallel – one called “Trump – An American Dream” and one on the Bhagwan sect called “Wild Wild Country” – both fascinating psychological portrayals on some seriously bizarre people.

[B]: Apart from WISE?
[G]: With FakeMusicMedia I manage Chinese music artists NOVA HEART, THE HORMONES & SHAO, as well as bringing a lot of international artists to China to tour. In September we had Royksopp, Weval, and Tristesse Contemporain. In December we will help to bring Leftfield, Tosca and Death In Vegas. We brought over 200 artists the last 10 years.

I also do some consulting on the Chinese creative and tech scene, and currently am preparing an event with that topic for the German embassy as part of the “Berlin-Beijing Partner Cities Anniversary”. Oh – and I travel a LOT!

Philipp Grefer, founder of WISE and FakeMusicMedia. Photograph courtesy of Wise.

Philipp Grefer, founder of WISE and FakeMusicMedia. Photograph courtesy of WISE

Eric Reithler-Barros has 19 years of international branding and business development experience, and holds an MBA from Thunderbird.  His experience ranges from SFX Entertainment/Livestyle, Level3 Communications, Verizon, A2LiVE/STORM Festival, LimeWire and many others.  He is also a professional electronic music DJ and producer for 28 years, has released over 100 records, launched 4 house/techno labels, promoted hundreds of club events and festivals, and spoken at the biggest music industry conferences around the world.  He currently heads Fold Artists in Shanghai.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *