Ni Bing is a big success. He first established himself in China’s nascent underground club scene as a promoter and DJ through Future Mix, a radio show he started in 1996. He was living in Shenzhen at the time, and made a fortuitous connection with the Hong Kong-based label Technasia, which would give him access to world-class producers such as Richie Hawtin and Jeff Mills.
Ni Bing relocated to Beijing in 2000 for a marketing job, and immediately got to work investing his savings into side businesses and passion projects. He co-founded Orange, a now defunct club near the Workers’ Stadium popular for its rejection of mainstream club music in favour of underground techno. Though Orange was ahead of its time musically, Ni Bing had limited resources with which to work. ‘It was just DJ, DJ, DJ, another DJ. No one was making their own music.’
Feeling the business limitations of working as a promoter, Ni Bing soon launched another company, now his most lucrative: Martial Artists Management. His business model, evolved over two decades, hinges on getting his artists gigs ‘composing music for Chinese films, writing for TV commercials, remixing big pop artists’ and securing DJ bookings at commercial dance clubs. Ni Bing’s highest-profile signee, U2 producer Howie B, has been a regular on Beijing’s commercial club circuit since 2003.
The idea for Drum Rider came soon after Ni Bing met Shen Lijia, whose duo Dumb Plants (Ben Zhiwu, 笨植物) he saw perform at an industry event in 2014. ‘We need a hero, we need someone who can jump out in front of the local scene and go international,’ Ni Bing recalls thinking after seeing Dumb Plants perform. He credits Shen – now a partner in the label – and Beijing producer Howie Lee for starting a trend in this direction, and is putting his weight behind Dumb Plants via Drum Rider.
In the meantime, he’s content to let Drum Rider grow organically. He spent a year and a half setting up the label before launching, and the 20-year veteran has no reason to rush his latest passion project out the gate. ‘I like to build things up slowly, it’s good for promotion. You have to keep on making noise.’