So You Wanna Make Money in Shanghai: Business Lessons from Shanghai, Hip-Hop Style

Posted on October 6, 2012


The Car and the Crane. foto@me

In the City That Rains Champagne, admittedly for an exalted few, business opportunities abound and barriers to entry are low. But you know what they say, getting in there is easy, it’s the squalling little brat popping out after nine months that’s tough to handle.

This post will be one in a series of business lessons I have gained from my Shanghai stint.

For the past 2 + years, I have had the opportunity/ challenge/ misfortune/ absolute privilege to be part of a self-run, self-sustaining business enterprise. It’s a rather unusual one. Basically we are an art collective making art in an on-site production studio while running and maintaining two show spaces.

The job has been eye-opening, to say the least. It runs the gamut from pitching proposals to directors of luxury retail corporations to fretting over the correct type of stainless steel cleaner to use on the possibly two hundred stainless steel frames that lie around being assholes to us. At any given point, any of us could be trying to sell big-ass 65kg art pieces to moustachoied European gentlemen or running about on the streets trying to ambush potential customers with flyers and a shit-eating grin. My to-do list for the past couple of days has included entries such as “CALL LPV-45 POWER SUPPLIER M^*&^*^(KERS” and “do we SRSLY need captions for ALL 853 photos on website wtf”. (It’s not so much a to-do list as a do-I-really-have-to-do list.)

“Formulating curatorial direction for the next solo exhibition”? Hit me.

“Drafting a press release for local and international media”? This way, honey.

“Networking with potential gallerists as collaborators and investors”? In about fifteen minutes.

“Making ‘Courtesy Calls’ on said-collaborators because they screwed us over and we want our $$ back”? Pull on the black gloves, kid. (They leave no traces.)

“Refilling the paper napkins in the toilets because the ayi has been eating crawfish in the kitchen for the past two hours and her breath is so stinky you can’t even bear to tell her so you’d rather just do it yourself, goddammit”? Sorry, sir. Right away.

And so, Lesson One of The Pop Pony’s Art of Business in Shanghai:

Pad Your Groin. Pad It. Pad It With F1-Driver-Style Industrial-Grade Padding.

The challenges and rewards of being part of a small team running its own business are equally awesome and daunting. It’s no shits and giggles; Shy Guys to the left. In a city where a million other people are all trying to make money – usually off each other – self-promotion is no loco notion, babe.



Don’t be afraid of what other people are saying about you. In fact, do not give two flying spittle-sized turds. When you have a huge effin’ mansion like the Gorillaz, you can be the weirdo in a gas mask in your living room. You can have really bad underwear or communte around your own house in a wonky chair or even have a bowlful of severed ears in your kitchen. You’re just doin’ Your Thang. Next:



This goes without saying, right? Always tell everyone what you want them to do (my thing), and when (my time), and how (my way). Skip the ‘whys’. Justification is for losers. Everyone’s in the same cesspit, but if you have the right attitude, your shit don’t stink. Thanks, Kelis!



And what happens when people cross you? You have the pink hair. You have the sweet abs in the tiny striped bikini. You have the doggy paw prints on your boobs. So when some old fart nudges you just a few too many millimeters too much, U R D Bitchez who bust into a black-tie event and kick up a stink. Be sweet, be friendly and be helpful, but also be aware that if anyone crosses you once, they will do it again. Take no prisoners.



We end Lesson One with De La Soul, telling us the bizness like no-one else can. So yeah, yeah, now you know the bizness – or don’t you?

For the sado-masochists amongst you who still relish the prospect of bizness-ing in the ‘Hai aka banging your face repeatedly against the wall, Lesson Two is coming right round the corner.