I am not ranting, just as anyone else on Gokunming who voices opinions about the inequities they encounter in life are not ranting. They are speaking the truth to people who have the ability to comprehend it.
I'm constantly on Douban, Weibo and QQ speaking to Chinese musicians from all over China about the scene in Kunming. I've been doing it for years and I'm friends with many of the Chinese musicians in Kunming that you mention are playing the Chinese version of the monkey show in the Chinese bars. The controls put on them are beyond belief as they tell me the details of it all. From the bands that are not allowed to leave a club until midnight because the owner is afraid they will go to another club to play (to add a little more money to their pocket), to the solo guitar player who has to play rhythm to drunks as they sing "The Moon Represents My Love For You" and fall down drunk against him and his guitar, I've seen it...
Here's the reason why the Chinese monkey bar circuit is not a version of the Commercial monkey shows: PRICE. The musicians have to be in there 7 days a week either by contract or because if they don't, they won't have enought money to survive. The Commercial monkey shows are WAY WAY overpriced and to add to that...discriminate against their own country's musicians. Let's look at it even at a more common level. Just take 2 musicians of more or less equal ability, they have several hours of material under their belt and can entertain an audience. If the musician is Chinese, he probably plays 2-4 different bars every night after he/she gets off work, each club pays 50-200 yuan depending on the price he negotiates. I think it's rare for the bar singer to even get 200 unless exceptional, more like 150 and less in most of the little beer bars. TOUGH TOUGH work, it is HARD as you play for an hour straight then jump on your bike and run to the next bar, and you better not be late or your pay gets docked by that next bar. But if the musician is Western, the situation is entirely different. That musician maybe will opt to play the bar circuit for a period of time, but he/she also has the choice to play commercial gigs as well. His gig fee in Kunming as Rocket stated here is 600-700 for just 1-2 hours work. This is why Western musicians can be picky about what commercial gigs they take, but Chinese musicians, in this case anyway cannot. For sure they dump old gigs and pick-up new ones, but prices don't vary greatly. There are definetly exceptions to all of this. There's fair and unfair everywhere and just because it's unfair doesn't mean it will ever change, but...Can we justify to ourselves in our minds being ok to participate in this, especially for long periods of time? I don't know? I can't justify it, and I'm guessing there are others in Kunming who can't as well. We accept these gigs under their conditions and the inequities continues to exist. But, the opposite can also happen when we reject these gigs or insist on alternate methods to do the gigs. Boycott is an option, the other option is that the commercial show foreign bands include Chinese musicians and they negotiate accordingly with the commerical entertainment businesses.
It's a bit of a generalization to say that motivating Kunming people is tough. I think there's a little bit of everything going on and it spreads evenly among us all, regardless of who we are and where we come from.
The experience you had with your bass player is a great success story. There is both interest in his part and motivation on your part.
Unfortunately, Chinese musicians are not in a position to start open-mics for the reason they have not lived in the west and have never experienced it. So to start an effective open-mic would be tough for them because they wouldn't understand the ropes of how to manage it. They don't understand how open-mics and jams can stimulate a music scene by creating more opportunties for communication, or maybe they do, but still it would be tough without guidance. However, in bigger cities, such as Beijing they definetly get it, because it's happening there, and in fact all of the jammers are Chinese as I see it in the videos. It can happen in Kunming too and have a mixture of both foreign and Chinese players on stage. It's because of open-mics and jams as well as for other reasons that western cities have music scenes. People who have never met before can meet, play and then form new projects, natural law. Music develops, the scene naturally grows.
So the status-quo of the Kunming music scene right now, at least to my understanding from 2004 to the present is: Foreign commercial shows (tons), Chinese bar circuit (tons), Foreign and Chinese bands (several), Chinese and Western Contract bands (I don't know), but most important: ONE open-mic that provides a drum-kit and is sincerely trying to help Kunming without some notion of financial or gain in face: The Mask. The commercial show scene that has such a high demand for western faces on their stage is priced beyond any reasonable person's comprehension, is out-and-out discriminating against their own country's musicians, and still Kunming only has one open-mic.
Foreign musicians taking initiative either as a group (but should not as a union or a company), as individuals or as bands to start more public music events (ie. open-mics, jams, etc), making efforts to leveling out the current reimbursement pricing structure discrepancies and discrimination issues is absolutely necessary if this city is to ever have a strong and thriving music scene.