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January 1, 2010

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Battle of the Bands winner

FOCUS 5 - five music students - has won the reality TV show "Battle of the Bands." Nie Xin listens in. A lot of Chinese young people are playing pop rock these days, more than 1 million guitars were sold last year and there are an estimated 20,000 active bands, mostly the cute boy-band type, according to QMusic, PepsiCo's recording label.

The live concert and music festival industry is growing by almost 30 percent a year, says QMusic.

There's a lot of money in the band scene and subculture.

Music competitions and reality TV talent shows like "Battle of the Bands" on Zhejiang Satellite TV are extremely popular. They provide platforms for young musicians from all over the country.

One of the hottest young bands is Focus 5, five students from the Tianjin Music Academy who won the Zhejiang Satellite TV's "Battle of the Bands" last September. The band triumphed over 6,000 bands that entered the three-month contest in 120 cities.

The show was rated the No. 2 entertainment show in China in terms of audience ratings.

The five members of Focus 5 are vocalist Ye Xingxuan, guitar players Zhu Hailong and Xu Peng, bass player Xin Xiancun and drum player Ning Hao.

"We all had a common goal when we got together to form the band two years ago - to create original music," says Ye.

In Shanghai Focus 5 gave an opening performance for "Queen of Pop" Karen Mok at her "Aftertaste" concert at the Shanghai Grand Stage on December 26.

"It was our first performance at such a big concert and we were nervous and thrilled," says Zhu. "We expect our own concert one day in the near future."

The band performed yesterday in the New Year Eve's Gala on Zhejiang TV.

The musicians are preparing for their first solo concert in Hong Kong in March.

They plan to release their first album in May.

The "Battle of the Bands" champion won a recording contract with PepsiCo's recording label QMusic, Fender guitars, Mapex drums and a trip to Hollywood - 1 million yuan (US$146,464) of prizes.

Focus 5, which writes its own music, is anything but a moody, stereotypical rock band of the old days.

"The band is named 'Focus 5' because we five hope all the lights will be focused on us, on our rock and roll and dream of music," says Zhu.

Focus 5 is sometimes called the "next May Day of China," referring to the hugely popular band May Day from Taiwan.

The band is winning fans. Within a month in September their music blog received 110,000 views. They became mini-celebrities.

To woo "Battle of the Bands" judges, Focus 5 played original works that have been praised by May Day, rockers Zheng Jun and Cui Jian, the undisputed "Godfather of Chinese Rock."

Their original song "GPM" was released in early 2009 and quickly became a hit because of its catchy melody.

Their first album is in the works, four new songs have been composed. The album will feature rap, and rock and roll.

On December 20, Focus 5 took the Best Newcomer Award at the Asian Music Charts "Turnaround" Music Festival held in Changping, Beijing.

The Asian Music Charts is the most comprehensive radio music ranking in the Asia-Pacific region; rankings are voted by professional DJs covering more than 200 domestic and overseas radio stations.

The group traveled to Los Angeles last October after winning the "Battle of the Bands" show and recorded their new song "Shoulder" with the help of two-time Grammy nominated music producer Howard Benson.

In the 10-day trip, the band received tips from drummer Kenny Arnoff and Michael Jackson's guitarist Orianthi. They met "American Idol" winner Adam Lambert and learned about stage presence and etiquette.

"We were so lucky to get this precious opportunity to meet those heavyweight musicians in the United States," says Ye. "The most important thing I learned was confidence on the stage."

What the critics say about Focus 5

Tony Yepp

CEO of QMusic (Pepsi's recording label) Focus 5 is a young and very talented band. Their music is energetic, dynamic, and represents the voice of the new generation. ?

We see the potential in Focus 5. Apart from playing as a band, they are also very good composers and lyricists individually.

However, if you ask me how the band can improve, I think it will be (and will always be) about their songs and performances. If you look at the bands from Western countries these days, the most successful and long-lasting are the ones that had many, many hit songs. Their fans will buy their music and buy tickets to their concerts for 10 or 20 years.

Howard Benson

Two-time Grammy-nominated music producer aThey can play very well. They are exactly where they need to be right now.

I see it all - from the great session players to the worst guys in the world, and Focus 5 is almost in the middle right now.

The drummer showed me he knew what he was doing, and the guitarists showed me they knew what they were doing. So far so good.

Harry Hui

CMO of PepsiCo China, former president of Universal Music Southeast Asia We are very excited about the emerging new sound of China. It has been a little quiet after Cui Jian, Dou Wei and Tang Dynasty made waves in the 1980s. But right now, we're experiencing a new music genre development not seen before.

The energy of their live show was contagious and Focus 5 undoubtedly has momentum on their side as they launch their career as China's next music superstars.

I am very proud of how far Focus 5 have come since joining the "Battle of the Bands" last year. I believe given more international exposure and experience performing in front of a live audience, Focus 5 has the potential to become an outstanding group.


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