Andrew Ballen

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Andrew Ballen
Andrew Ballen China Daily Photo.jpg
Andrew Ballen Shanghai, 2008.
Born Andrew Craig Ballen
(1973-04-27) April 27, 1973 (age 42)
Manhattan, New York, United States
Nationality American
Education The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Occupation CEO/Founder of AVD Digital Media,
A&R Executive,
Interactive-media Content Developer,
TV Personality
Years active 2001-present
Religion Episcopal

Andrew Craig Ballen (born April 27, 1973) is an American television producer and entrepreneur. He is the founder and CEO of AVD Digital Media,[1] headquartered in Shanghai, China.[2]

More often known as Da Long (大龙), or Big Dragon, Ballen is a familiar foreign-face on Chinese TV.[3] Ballen is known for his role as host of China's nationally aired bi-lingual travel series, Getaway.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Ballen was born in New York.[1] He is the son of Belizean and Jamaican parents and was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.[1][3] Ballen left home aged 14 to attend Hargrave Military Academy, in Chatham, Va.[4] During Ballen's final year at Hargrave in 1991, he became the first person of colour in school history to become Battalion Commander thus achieving the Academy's highest cadet rank, Cadet Colonel.[4][5] Ballen majored in Political Science and International Affairs at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.[1] He later attended Duke University Law School, in Durham, North Carolina. Ballen left Duke after two years, unsatisfied with the constraints of a legal education.[1][6]

Andrew Ballen, September 2011

Early career[edit]

Ballen arrived in China in August 2001.[7]

At first unable to speak a single word of Mandarin, Ballen first found work teaching English at the Wall Street Institute.[3] He made several guest appearances on Shanghai Media Group entertainment programming and a regular guest slot on the Shanghai talk show “Live It Up Shanghai”.[8][9]

While frequenting Shanghai night spots, Ballen and Adam Wilkes[10] observed China's lack of a hip-hop and urban club scene.[11] This led to the idea of Hip Hop Thursday's, held at night club, Pegasus,[3] targeting the younger international student crowd. Ballen and Pegasus were featured in the fly-on-the-wall documentary No Sleep Til Shanghai.[12][13] The weekly events became highly successful, leading Ballen to bring to China for the first time the likes of Ice-T,[14] Asian-American hip-hop artists Far East Movement[15] and MC Jin.[16][17] serving as the benchmark formula for other club venues in Shanghai and Beijing.[18] Ballen's unorthodox entertainment-driven success was covered in a book by Darren J. Perkins entitled Business is War: The Unfinished Business of Black America.[19]

Ballen was also the first A&R Exec. to have Chinese mega-star Leehom Wang perform in a club setting,.[20] when he presented the MC Jin/Leehom Wang collaboration to promote Leehom's single and studio album "Heroes of the Earth".[21]

In 2002, by quoting reporter Michelle Zhang from Shanghai Daily

Charmed by his silky-smooth voice and perfect pronunciation, one of his students at the Wall Street Institute recommended him to a local radio show "Live It Up Shanghai.[3]

No sponsors or advertising existed for the show[7] – the same being true later for his TV show Getaway.[22] Ballen seized on this gap in the market, starting his own company (BallenWest Events Media, later AVD Digital Media) targeting sponsors seeking China's youth market and bi-lingual white collar college graduates.[3]


Ballen went on to host China's nationally aired bi-lingual travel adventure series, Getaway from 2003 until 2007.[3][23] On Getaway, Ballen toured China by car, conversing with locals and exploring local culture and cuisine, starring in hundreds of episodes.[22] Getaway appeared on Dragon TV and Channel Young and later aired nationally on CCTV News, and currently airs on ICS.[3]

Several brands have used Ballen's voice based on its distinctive gravelly bass sound, including China Bank of Communications, McDonald's, Motorola and Toshiba.[7]

Ballen also served as co-host and co-producer of China's first nationally broadcast Western Pop Music radio show I-music.[9]

2008 Beijing Summer Olympics[edit]

In 2008, as China hosted the Beijing Summer Olympics, Ballen was responsible for handling Jamaica's media, event production and public relations activities, including all event programming related to Jamaican track and field sensation Usain Bolt.[24] His company and partners were permitted to bring foreign artists into Beijing (for non-IOC sanctioned event programming) hosting the likes of Paolo Nutini and Bob Marley's son Julian Marley for Beijing Olympic concert appearances.[25]


In 2011, Ballen's Company launched China's first bi-lingual reality series, REMIX,[26] a talent series for amateur young Chinese performers.[1] With auditions via online micro-videos, winners are pitched against Chinese and Western stars to see whose version of global hits is best.[26] REMIX is shown across China and Asia on TV and online.[26]


On April 23, 2015, Shanghai, Ballen was awarded recognition as a member of China’s Digital A-List.[27] The Campaign Asia Digital A-List aims to recognize China’s top digital entrepreneurs, those who are fomenting disruptive change in China’s booming digital and new media space. Awardees from top brands, agencies and media came together to debate trends in China's digital marketing industry, Jack Ma , the founder of Alibaba also received this year’s A-List award.


  1. ^ a b c d e f "China – The Hip-Hop Culture,Tavis Smiley, 13 July 2011". Andrew Ballen's Tavis Smiley interview on PBS 13 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "从"旁观者"变成"参与者" 视频链接技术让广告动起来, 1st July 2013". Andrew Ballen's IT Times Magazine interview 1st July 2013. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Big Dragon finds his China niche and success, Cultural China, Source: Shanghai Daily,9 March 2009". Interview by 2009-03-09. 
  4. ^ a b Hargrave Military Academy,Hargrave Military Academy.
  5. ^ Tallent, Mary (2004). Years of Change; Years of Growth: A History of Hargrave Military Academy 1970-2003. Chatam: Hargrave Military Academy. Andrew Ballen of Greensboro, North Carolina, became the first African-American to serve as Corps commander at Hargrave Military Academy. 
  6. ^ "Big Dragon finds his China niche and success, 9th March 2009". Shanghai Daily 9th March 2009. Retrieved 9 March 2009. 
  7. ^ a b c "Make it in China CNNMoney, 1 August 2005". By G. Pascal Zachary (2005-08-01). Interview by CNN Money Magazine. 
  8. ^ American black New Yorker speak Chinese.Episode of CCTV Travel Show "Getaway" hosted by Andrew Ballen
  9. ^ a b "From law school dropout to Shanghai and champagne,Jamaica Observer News, 4 June 2006". Interview by 2006-06-04. 
  10. ^ "Adam Wilkes Interview Ask Men Interview". Interviewed by Ask Men. 
  11. ^ "主持、教书、玩嘻哈 看大龙的三头四面,". 
  12. ^ "No Sleep Til Shanghai,IMDB, 2006". IMDB. 2006. 
  13. ^ No Sleep Til Shanghai,No Sleep Til Shanghai.
  14. ^ " Newsletter, 8th March 2008". 8th March 2008. Retrieved 8 March 2008. 
  15. ^ "Far East Movement Biographoy". 
  16. ^ "MC Jin in Shanghai". Article on MC Jin in Shanghai. 
  17. ^ "No Sleep Til Shanghai Variety Reviews, 28 March 2006". Article on by Harvey, Dennis 2006-03-28. 
  18. ^ "English Eastday". Bringing it on back home. Article on Shanghai Daily News 2006-02-18. 
  19. ^ Business is War:The Unfinished Business of Black America by Darren J. Perkins, Referencing Page:P247-P249 ISBN 0-9754594-0-6. The Book Business is War is written by Darren J. Perkins. 
  20. ^ "Leehom and Andrew Ballen". Article on Andrew's event starring Leehom Wang, Original source from Sohu, 2006-02-13. 
  21. ^ "Leehom Wang Heroes of the Earth MV Featuring MC Jin". Lee Hom Wang "Heroes of the earth" Featuring MC Jin. 2012-02-06. 
  22. ^ a b "Getaway Episode Hosted by Andrew Ballen". CCTV show "Getaway" hosted by Andrew Ballen. 
  23. ^ "China’s Top 5 Famous Foreigner". The Peking Order. Retrieved 22 September 2008. 
  24. ^ "Celebrating Jamaicas Spirit in Beijing Travel News and Local Information,5 September 2011". Beijing 2008 Olympics Game Puma Event. 
  25. ^ Celebrating Jamaica's Spirit in Beijing 2008 Beijing Olympics Game Puma Event
  26. ^ a b c "众星启动REMIX真人秀 土豆网独家支持在线即唱即录功能, Source:,19 May 2011". News article on 2011-05-19. 
  27. ^