Stokes Nielson has a dream-to make Chinese pop singers big in the United States.
He wants to find talented Chinese, who could one day become as popular as the K-pop band BTS from Seoul.
Nielson was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee, known as the “home of country music”, where the music industry has an economic impact of about $10 billion a year.
The 2000 graduate of Vanderbilt University in Nashville dived into the music industry as a singer, producer, recording artist and songwriter. The award-winning songwriter has also been nominated for the Academy of Country Music Award three times. Nielson has produced original content for such leading artists as Tim McGraw, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.
He’s the founder of Channel Greatness, a media content provider and online video channel-building company. Nielson also consults for major brands and broadcast companies.
Nielson befriended a music group from Shanghai at the Grammy Awards ceremony five years ago. They asked him if he could help to bring some exposure to Chinese artists in the US.
“They also suggested that I start to think about making songs available to the Chinese audience as well when I write,” Nielson says.
“That started my real collaboration.”
In the past few years, Nielson has promoted Chinese pop singer Zhang Liangying (Jane Zhang) and Yiyang Qianxi (Jackson Yee) of TFBoys in the US via radio programs. He brought Zhang to the Grammys and set up interviews for her with top 40 US pop stations.
“They talked about her music and played her songs,” he recalls.
Nielson did an interview with Yi in China and had it aired over major US pop stations. He also became friends with Chinese Canadian actor-singer Kris Wu.
“In the US, the audience generally discovers singers through radio. We started introducing these Chinese artists to Americans,” Nielson says.
He says he considers Zhang, Yi and Wu “fantastic” artists.
“Jane Zhang is one of the best pure singers on the planet. Her vocal range is amazing. Kris Wu is very creative. His new song, Freedom, proves that he is a wonderful lyricist. Jackson Yee is an amazing dancer. Each of them can compete with any on the planet,” Nielson adds.
However, Chinese artists still need marketing and promotion to make it in the US.”You have to learn about the American market. It’s different from China.”
Nielson says this is an exciting period of growth in China’s music industry.
“China’s film industry is very mature, the music industry is an emerging economy, and there are a lot of opportunities. A lot of music artists can benefit by having a collaborator in the US where the music industry is very mature,” he says.
He says he believes a Chinese pop singer will connect with American audiences in a major way in the next four or five years.
“I want to be part of that story when it happens. I want to find, discover and promote that artist here. When I go back to China in September, one of my purposes is to become more aware of the new artists,” says Nielson, who on average travels to China four times a year.
Nielson also wants US artists to treat China as an equal market. He finds such opportunities in China, especially in cities such as Chengdu and Chongqing.
“We have been hearing news about the tariff issues between China and the US. We need to look at the broader story-these are two great nations that are trying to find out equitable ways to work together,” Nielson says.
“I want to do as much as possible with my counterparts in China to build a true bridge good for creativity and money. I believe music can build a bridge of understanding for the two cultures.”
Recently, Nielson took a group of Chinese listeners of a Shanghai radio station to a Nashville studio, where one of his client artists was recording.
“They learned the lyrics in the studio. We had them sing, and they are recorded in the production. They are part of the song, which is coming out this fall. That’s the kind of cultural bridge I am talking about,” Nielson says.