This article is a simplified version, or aninterview version. It contains eight sections to make a brief analysis of China’s concert market. 7 of them are talking about respectively oversea artists in China, the current situation of Livehouses, the music festival market, the rise of ACGN, the concert market, the status of Tier 2/3/4/5 cities, the foreign situations.
China is a pretty huge and magical market!
Along with the rapid development of China’s economy, residents of Tier 2/3/4/5 cities have more spare money in the pockets than those in the Tier-1cities. Their entertainment demand for concerts is also fast growing. Over the past two years, an increasing number of middle-class and college students are willing to pay for various types of musical performances, including this year’s prosperous music festivals.
Data from China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) shows that: Music performance market in 2015 has obtained significant improvements. In 2015, the number of large-scale concerts and music festivals was 1,900, which was 35.71% higher than 2014’s 1,400. The box office revenue was 3.18 billion yuan in 2015, 23.78% over 2014’s 2.569 billion. According to Small Antlers, so far China’s music festivals have reached a number of 165 and become this year’s big hit on the live music market.
Foreign artists encounter a turning point?
On April 10, 1985, the band Wham!’s performance at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium attracted 15,000 audience, which created a huge stir. Thus was the first time that foreign artists entered the Chinese performing arts market.
The documentary of “Wham! Foreign Skies – Live In China1985″ showed rather than a commercial performance, itwas a kind of wonderful cultural communication between China and the West.
At that time, China’s performance market narrowed in Hong Kong and Taiwan Area. The vast majority of Chinese people didn’t listento English songs, and European or American artists cannot help the organizers make money in China.
Therefore, although foreign artists came toChina more and more frequently, we have to say only a few foreign bands in
China can achieve high box office records. In October 2013, Live Nation sponsored The Killers’ tour in Beijing, but with poor box office performance, they finally switched the venue from the MasterCard Center for more than 10,000 people to the Thinkpad Space for less than 2000 viewers.
However, thanks to the prosperity of the live performances and the growth of the younger generation, it is not surprising to see the tickets of foreign artists’ performances “sold out instantly”. A head of an oversea artists booking agency sighed to us after watching Jessie J’s live performance: “My deepest insight is that now children have improved English to understand even the singers’ cold jokes. The atmosphere is particularly great with applauds and laughs.”
We also can see great box office success of the metal band Metallica, the heavy metal rock band Scorpion and Taylor Swift. As an instance, the Scorpion’s show in Beijing Workers’ Stadium attracted a lot of fans under the stage following to sing the classic tracks “Wind of change”, “Still loving you” and “Rock You Like A Hurricane”.
Let’s analyze case by case: the 2016 Iron Maiden “the Book of Souls” World Tour in Beijing suffered poor attendance, even though this was their first trip in China. A fan in the concert said:“Originally we only got the cheapest tickets for the second floor, but later changed to the first floor easily.”
“We have analyzed some bands, which entered China in the 1980’s and 1990’s with tremendous impact, such as Scorpions,Metallica and Gun& Rose. Yet earlier the Iron Maiden could not reach Chinesemusic fans successfully. “Hua Wang (pseudonym), A 80 rock& rollfan who worked in a performing art company told us that in August 2013, he flightfrom Beijing to Shanghai for the Metallica Concert. The stage is extremely poor without videos and the director only cut for himself. He was particularly shocked when comparing to their tour video in the North America. “Beer was sold on site, quite enjoyable! The more than 8,000 tickets of their first concert in Shanghai were all booked up and only the second concert had some rest tickets. It was their first performance in China and I don’t want to regret for not meeting them once in my lifetime. Nevertheless, I may not by the tickets if they come again in the future.”
“To hold a concert of oversea artist is of high risk, along with troublesome approvals of lyrics, video, public utterances and various unpredictable factors.” Hua told CMBN that sponsors got loss frequently for compensation. For instance, Maroon 5’s Shanghai concert was supposed to be on September 12, 2015, but cancelled due to the keyboard’s celebration on Twitter for participating the Dalai Lama’s birthday party. Thus belongs to the unpredictable risks of the organizers.
From a positive perspective, driven by some top European and American artists, Chinese market is becoming synchronized with the global. For those foreign artists who have developed certain business in China, their influence has penetrated into the major social media platforms, and painstakingly attracted a group of domestic loyal fans.
For example, Taylor Swift opened her Weibo account in 2014 and has 5.11 million fans now. News about her romance appeared frequently on Weibo, Wechat and Baidu Post Bar with global synchronization. Furthermore, initially the contents she posted on Weibo were basically in a mixture of English and English translation into Chinese. But now Taylor began to send some localized messages and “opportune” emojies through Chinese social media to cater to the Chinese fans.
If you research “Taylor Swift” on Weibo, there are at least 13 accounts and each of them has more than 10 thousand fans. In 2014, the 18,000 tickets of her Shanghai concert were sold out within 1 minute, which created a new record on China’s music performance market. At the end of 2015, Taylor’s another two concerts in Shanghai were sought after by fans as well.
In 2016, China’s Music Festivals focused on inviting European and American artists in order to enhance their brand romotion.
Backstreet Boys joined the Yangtze International Music Festival and presented a special concert; Modern Sky spent huge sums of money to invite the super band The Prodigy; Jessie J took part into the Echo Carnival Music Festival; Alan Walker was invited to the MTA Festival; Concrete& Grass Music Festival once again brought in a group of oversea musicians with independent temperament…
As can be seen in recent years, more and more performance companies are penetrating in the market of oversea artists’ performance tours in China. Their participation has not only perfected Chinese market, but also brought in a lot of oversea performances with good reputation and accurate positioning. These segmented companies will help maintain a very good usiness balance in the market competition and development.
Split Works is a foreign music performance company based in Shanghai and Beijing. It has hosted China tours of several bands, like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, The Lumineers and Swans. In 2015, it launched a new brand of music festival together with Damai.
Additionally, some performance labels vertically focusing on overseas artists’ China tours have succeeded to some extent. An example is the New Noise, a post rock performance company established in Chengdu, which has hosted a variety of tours of oversea artists in these years. Though there are only 13 thousand fans on Weibo and 1000+ stable hits on WeChat, it has cultivated a group of high loyal post rock fans. That is why New Noise can have great box office records of tours, and make the majority of fans aware with just one or two articles on their own social media.
Now a domestic large-scale music festival without any foreign bands or artists to upgrade will be a joke.
Ran Zhang, the founder of the Sound of Xity has witnessed plenty of chaos and felt it complicated to invite foreign artists. Being dragged in to the blacklist happens often and they will not believe you if you ask through several channels for the same artist and the same project.
Ran explained, “Chinese people are keen to ask how much money they should pay. The counterparty usually provides a highest and safest price with unawareness of the situation of the other side, which led to random pricing of oversea artists. Once an artist receives a great offer, he would never agree with a lower price from China, which makes the price of foreign artists particularly high on domestic market.
“Many Chinese don’t know exactly the rules of booking oversea artists”, said Ran. “Oversea artists do not have a fixed price, which differs in various cities or performances. They would ask about the time, the city, the quantity of tickets, the price and whether another top singer will appear on the same day, etc. At the end, they will provide an appropriate offer after sufficient analysis. ”
Ran is also the international business director of Modern Sky and has travelled around the world for booking artists. The Prodigy’s concert this year was scheduled by him. Ran thought it is a super troublesome band and might not be able to cover the cost, but Lihui Shen, the founder of Modern Sky believed that deserves. Lihui said: “Indeed, European and American artists may not help increase the box office records, but artists from mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan can. Anyway, exploration is necessary, and so is market cultivation, as music festival organizers certainly know. “
Legend River Entertainment has invited Nile Rodgers, Demi lovato, the Scorpion and the Backstreet Boys, and signed contracts directly with the artists. The CEO Xiaolei Tang said, “Most performance companies would still work with the artist management intermediates. That leads to less control of artists because different channels bring different problems and large risks.”
“We should always mean what we say. Honesty is quite essential and the brand should be developed step by step”, said Xiaolei Tang. “It is a must to understand the related laws, rules, management models, operation models and domestic localization, and provide general control and comprehensive support.”
China’s earliest independent performance appeared in 1989 or so, when Jian Cui released his first personal rock& roll album “Rock& Roll on the New Long March”. Later it was improved with the efforts of Tang Dynasty, Yong He and other rock& roll musicians.
Large amount of reports would pay attention to the year of 1989, which was extraordinarily important to the independent development of China’s rock& roll music. Since that year, China’s rock& roll has at least attracted the concern of mainstream market.
Later in the 1990’s, campus folk music went popular and embraced a golden time in 1995, as the song of “My Deskmate” can be heard everywhere. Even so, it gradually began to decline at the beginning of this new century after a decade of brilliance. Then musicians overcame the long market downturns and welcomed the recovery in 2010. During that period, rock & roll revived, folk music grew up, and Livehouse as a base of independent performance also gradually developed.
At present, in addition to cultural centers like Beijing and Shanghai, independent performance market is also breeding in other cities. The most obvious are the provincial capitals like Guangzhou, Chengdu, Wuhan, Xi’an, Kunming and so on.
In 2015, MAO Livehouse, a Chinese live rock& roll music label active in Beijing and Shanghai began to enter Chongqing, Hangzhou, Kunming, etc., and radiated to more cities and regions, thanks to the capital. More and more niche or underground artists can enjoy better performance conditions, but many operating problems will come out in the next as well. The key to promote MAO’s expansion is not the “market capacity”, but the power of capital.
ModernSky Lab of Modern Sky, which has been operated for one year in Beijing, signed a contract with the “Moon Bay” of Ruihong Xintiandi in Shanghai for an area of 2,000 square meters and its music space in Kunming is also about to open up. The Post Mountain and Tango have generated their own business models. The crowdfunding platform Musikid has just established its offline music space and made some performances. Similarly in Nanjing, indie musician Zhi Li’s Ola Livehouse and 13-Month’s music space have started in the Sun Palace.
In China, many performance venues are often subject to strict requirements and control from the official. The government will take different supervision regulations to different departments or administrative regions. This year the livehouses in Dongcheng District have undergone a round
Besides, the increasing cost has become a kind of pressure for small performance venues and Livehouse operators. The first problem of operating an offline venue in Beijing and Shanghai, is the high rent.
Mako Livehouse announced to close in August 2015, after operating for 5 years and 8 months. Later it restarted in a new place around Beijing Workers’ Stadium but the characteristics have changed. In 2016, Chi Li, the founder of Mao Livehouse, known as the “No.1 rock& roll livehouse in China”, posted on Weibo that Mao in Beijing has “no much time and no other ways”, causing a fierce debate then. However, Mao did not really close up, so that “endless farewell after 800 farewell performances” became a hot topic in Wechat circle a few days ago.
Yugong Yishan moved to the Mansion of Qirui uan to have more than 700 square meters for more audience, yet with a doubled rent. According to Zhiqiang Lv, the founder of Yugong Yishan Livehouse, the revenue obtained from tickets, rent, drinks has just covered the cost. Some performances can be blockbusters but some may result in loss occasionally. He told CMBN, “Livehouses in Beijing stayed mild without explosive growth. In fact, we are the winner as long as we can stay alive.”
However, Zhiqiang learned gradually that the fans of this kind of niche music are becoming more and more. Originally they only had stable several hundreds of audience. The number went to 10,000 in 2010, and now certainly much larger.
The founder of Shanghai Lezi Entertainment and the manager of Zhulu Hefeng, Lezi Gugu, who has closed his own livehouse, said to us, “Livehouse is a slow business with a long bottleneck. A Livehouse has a yield ceiling because of the limit on the venue and schedules.”
He analyzed that firstly the land price in China is particularly high, which leads to a slow return if you should pay for the rent. Secondly, good content is a must. Many bands are settled down in Beijing and it is pretty hard for them to travel to Shanghai often. That’s why Shanghai needs to rely more on its own artists. But in fact, only 20+ of the 50 bands in Shanghai are active. So no enough supporting content is the key problem to establish a new livehouse. Thirdly, the audience of rock& roll performance are different from the ones in the nightclub and merely pay for drinks, which results in low revenues as well.
Many industry insiders also believe that without governmental support or cooperation with commercial real estate companies, live houses cannot come into being a good business with bearing the rent by themselves.
A livehouse owner in Changsha told us 100+ performances were there in a year, and averagely 10+ per month. Earnings from drinks and tickets are certainly not enough. “The closed relationship between a musician and a livehouse is just like that of the lip and the teeth. Musicians need master pieces and good performance planning. Along with the city’s expansion and population increase, I wish more musicians can join to make more contribution to the development of the music and culture industry in Changsha.
“Well, the livehouses in Beijing are quite OK, but those in other cities cannot survive without good contents. Many venues contacted us and hoped us bring them some musicians.” According to Yu Zeng, the founder of Pilot Music& Technology, for 90% of the live performances, in average less than 1 show has been arranged per week since 2007.
This year, Pilot launched the “YAO Music Program” road tour with more than 30 bands and 12 routes. On the base of meeting the needs of performance platforms, advertisers, fans and others, he hopes to bring in more good contents for the livehouses, more offline performance opportunities for original musicians, and more chances for more people to enjoy the charm of live music.
Music Festival market “breaks in fullfury”, verticalized and diversified
2000, there wasn’t a real large-scale outdoor music festival in China. The arriving 2000 witnessed the first Midi Music Festival in Beijing, which started a new era of Chinese music festivals.
In 2009, people were shocked by the long queue ahead of the Strawberry Music Festival in Beijing Tongzhou Park. The influence of music festivals on young people seemed to be out of control since
then. The market also began a crazy expansion with plenty of various music festivals. As a result, more domestic music festivals with low quality, together with the good ones have been competing on the entire market.
In addition, the approval and security always cause troubles to the festival hosts. In the early years, for most organizers, the biggest obstacle to hold a music festival in China is to get the approval from the government, and of course, now is the same. In many cases, the government would not like to negotiate for such a kind of mass gathering.
The stampede tragedy happened at the Bund of Shanghai on the New Year’s Eve of 2015, had not only rang the alarm of the government, but also brought a negative impact on the music festivals in 2015. On the issue of security, major music festival organizers would have to take more prudent ways to deal with governmental censoring.
However, in 2016, many local governments turned their attitude towards music festivals relaxed. Some governments would also give financial support to the festivals in order to boost the popularity.
“A lot approvals which delayed in 2015 due to the tightened policy, have been released this year. In our point of view, many music festivals are not viable and will be eliminated,” said Lihui to us, “The appearance and elimination will happen as well in the next year, just like the situation three years ago. Anyway, everybody is working on cultivating the market, and the biggest ones may not be challenged triumphantly.”
Even during this year’s National Day Holiday, 22 music festivals in 7 days appeared in front of us. It can be said that this year’s Golden Week music festivals were much more crowded than ever, not to mention the 3 aborted ones…… Fans are too busy to choose. On the music festival market, which is a relatively new performance market, has supply greatly already exceed the demand?
“China’s music festival market is really developing dramatically, especially in the Yangtze River Delta. The competitiveness and improvement are quite significant so that in the next three years, 500 music festivals a year can also be possible.” Lihui noticed the trend of differentiation of music festivals, even the integrated ones.” Well yes, an integrated music festival will have overlapping sections, but basing on the characteristics it may focus more in literary music, indie music or pop music.”
“The number of Chinese music festival is far from enough!” Hongjie Li, the founder of YemaLive APP and the MTA Festival answered us that to tens of thousands of Chinese young people who wanna distincted and segmented music activities, 100+ music festivals a year are certainly insufficient. “If we use food as a metaphor of the music festival, then currently we are eating too less and too monotonous. The future music festivals will be more and more subdivided, just like the different food types in China.
This year the number of electronic music festivals has reached 34. In front of the abrupt flare-up rivals, the CEO Eric Zhou said, “We’re analyzing whether they can be a threat to us, but actually they are not. The more people are involved in this market, the more they will promote its growth.” As the largest outdoor electronic music festival in China, Budweiser Storm has never stopped and expanded to 5 cities in 2016. The activities of its host A2LiVE have a 5-times increase in quantity compared to those in last year.
Due to the overall limited consumption capacity and concepts, the average price per day of domestic large-scale music festivals is between 100 to 200 yuan. That is much more cost-friendly than the well-known foreign festivals, while the artists’ appearance fees are rising continuously at the same time.
In order to offset the rising costs, most organizers and performance companies would like to draw the sponsorship from some big brands. That’s why some music festivals can invite top artists and meanwhile remain low ticket prices. Relying on sponsors to keep running cannot go on for long.
Generally speaking, a large-scale music festival will become mature and generate a sustainable business model after three to five years of operation and development. Despite the great support provided by brand sponsors, music festival organizers still fell enormously stressful on the expansion of the scale of activities and the return of inputs, especially in the case of sponsors’ instability.
Organizers hope to penetrate into the 2nd or 3rd tier cities and host various performances to enhance their brands, popularity and influence, just like Modern Sky’s expansion of the Strawberry Music Festival to many cities in mainland China.
Most of the current festivals are losing money, but some can get funds from real estate companies or tourist attractions. So for the organizers, whether to make a loss depends on how to define the profit. “The market is not sufficiently marketized due to various reasons. Most music festivals in Europe and America are almost purely marketized. Governmental investment exists but not much,” said Lihui.
The over-reliance of Chinese music festivals to brand sponsors, real estate companies and government will strengthen the instability of the music festival market, and even hurt the interests of market competitors in a short time. The most important determinant whether the market can develop healthily is the sales at box office.
How to control the cost without a loss? A manager of local music festival undertaking company said, “The first step to do a festival is to account for the box office backwards. If I can sell 30 thousand tickets in 2 days and each ticket has a price of 400 yuan, I will have a maximized income of 12 million. Then what will be the total revenue of my sponsor? If I’m able to get 10 million from the sponsors with a total income of 22 million, then I should control the total cost (artist/production) less than it especially on booking artists, in order not to suffer a big loss.
“We are spending other people’s money to do the music festival. Now it’s a little bit early to talk about the harvest. The market and consuming habits still need to be nurtured.” He thought music festival is quite popular on the current capital market, but actually it should be a long-term and slow business. It looks like there are copious strong competitors but actually not.
Furthermore, Split Culture has encountered a problem of trademark this year, so that it had no other ways but to change the name of its music festival partnered with Damai from “Echo Park” to ”Concrete Grass”. This was also an alarm to the organizers. To cultivate a music festival brand is not a easy case and it is not cost-efficient to give up for a new music festival brand due to trademark problems after huge investment.
The ACGN (2 Dimension) Year: the rise of animation, comics, games and antientry music
The Internet is re-shaping the way of emotional cultivation and aesthetic judgments of the young generation. A round of deep transformation from product and service to experience will happen in the traditional performing art industry.
In April, Star48, the operator of a large-scale women’s idol group SNH 48 welcomed a new strategic shareholder—the CMC Holdings Group and China Media Capital led by Ruigang Li. According to the press, SNH48 currently have more than 170 members and provide 300+ performances per year.
Yuetian Chen, an early investor of SNH48 and the investment director of Innovation Works, told CMBN, “There are 2 points of SNH48’s development direction. At first, having concerts only in Shanghai is not wise and the business model should be expanded to the whole country; In the second, the content creating capability should be improved with original creation of music &performance systems, and business lines of film, television and entertainment.
SNH48 has penetrated to Beijing and Guangzhou, established its own theaters to provide shows to the fans. The success of SNH48 has also promoted the debuts of other “idol groups”. By the end of 2015, an operating VP of an idol group learned after deep researches that “at least 50 idol groups are preparing to debut in 2016.” Exactly yes some groups even debuted through Weibo and Wechat. As a result, 2016 is called the first year of idol groups.
Performance has also become a standard activity of many idol groups, in order to attract fans and increase box office revenue mainly. A men’s idol group announced to have their first concert in Shanghai QSW Culture Center and have reached a cross-border cooperation with the domestic mobile phone game “Ragnarok: revival”.
At the end of last year, an ACNG music label called AGM held 2 offline concerts in Beijing and Taipei, and another one in Shanghai in May. The concerts started from the games and drew the players out of the internet through cooperation with the original musicians. Its manager Qian Zhou still remembered, “50% of our players came from other cities and the box office record is far beyond our expectations. Tango sold 800+ tickets but more than 1,000 people have come then. A member in Tango told our colleagues, ‘Please do not let more people come in!’ “
AGM (Animation Game Music) is a music label created by Sony/ATV and Hi-Five. Focusing on ACGN, it currently includes the following businesses: music IP management, derivatives development of the animation& game IPs and new live entertainment. Hi-Five’s parent company Long Mobile was established in July 2013 focusing on games.
“By doing live music, we’ve found interestingly the audience of many traditional music companies such as the record companies, were born in the 1970s or 1980s. What we have to do is to make the suitable music for the new generation born after the year of 2000.” Qian believes there are only two capital realization ways in the current music industry. One is the song, which is lack of realization capability and relies on offline performances. Naturally the other is to get the authorizations of a lot of animation IPs for a concert.
In this November, AGM will have a “Ragnarok” concert. Wen, who is responsible for the offline performance in the team, mentioned that to do music in the game industry should meet the demands of the changing audience. “We hope to develop or bring in some newer music styles to get closer to the 90s and 00s.”
Wangcheng, a virtual idol management start-up in Shanghai, has obtained an investment of tens of millions from Songcheng Group. Why did Songcheng to do so? The most fundamental reason is to attract young users. The founder Li Ren said, “We will apply hologram technology into live performances to provide virtual idol holographic shows, pioneeringly.”
In December 2015, ACG Union got its A-round financing. Cornerstone Capital and Realize Investment are the major investors, with the angel investor A8 New Media Group following. The founder Xiaojian Zeng has said ACG Union is the “Modern Sky” in ACGN area and hopes to create a “Strawberry Music Festival” there. It has organized several activities in a number of places, including its Asia tour starting from April.
Known as the “domestic ACGN”, ancientry music has boosted into prosperity in these years.
Ancientry music is defined by Baidu Baike as: a new style of music in the 21st century, with classical elegant lyrics, neat phrases, poetic words and aesthetic tunes, with melodically applying various musical instruments. Different from rock& roll’s metal attribute and classical music’s historical complex, ancientry music has its unique Sinicism aesthetic.
Xiaoxu Music (Game Music) has just completed a new round of financing. As a game music service provider, it seeks for transformation and ancientry music is one direction. “We began to do ancientry ACG music live performances in 2014 and made 7 concerts in 2015 with 800-1000 audiences. We’ll continue but the business model is still under consideration,” said the founder Xiaoxu Lu. “The fans of ACG music are fanatic with high loyalty. Though ACG music market is not that big now, it will certainly welcome a boost in 3-5 years.
Miman Culture Media, a representative company of ancientry music, has completed it A-round financing of 63 million yuan from Legend Capital, Bilibili and Huaxi Investment. Miman has great implementation capacity, as the CEO Zhenyu Gui sighed to us, “We are developing dramatically with nearly 100 staffs and a good financing system. Under considerable pressure, we are trying to improve overall business processes and build up our own industry barriers. ”
Miman Culture Media was established in 2016 by the former My MMQM team (Moming Qimiao), for making and releasing songs basing on interests. In 2014, they had the first concert in Mako Livehouse in Beijing. The tickets were sold out online instantaneously and more than 1,000 people came finally. That was their first time to go out of the internet to the real world.
“After the performance in Mako, we have grown up gradually. At that time I thought it possible to commercialize and began to make tours all around the world constantly.” Zhengyu recalled that in 2014, the anime music festival called TOMO in Nanjing attracted more than 30,000 fans to congest on the square of the National Exhibition Hall. In August 2014, we organized the Dami Anime Music Festival in Guangzhou with 50,000+ audiences, 12,000 among whom joined into the evening concert.
At the end of 2014, leading by Yuetian Chen, Innovation Works invested 10 million for angel -round financing to Miman. With this money, Zhenyu picked his team to offer a concert in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing that April. On September 16, 2016, Miman took its ancientry music concert to the Bird’s Nest Stadium and brimmed the venue with plenty of fans, most of whom were born after 1995s and dressed in ancient costumes. The performances of Hetu, Audio Monster, Zhen Dong(CC), Qiran (Qiran Liya), 5N (Wuen), _CcccEs (Ershen), CloudのTears, Smile_Xiaoqian, Xuanshang, Yinlin (Rachel), etc., made the fans crazy and delirious.
“Now we are trying to apply the 3D business models (compare to the 2-dimention) as well. Current rivals are among different companies but not the communities as before.” Zhenyu has noticed that the rapidly arrived capital will give new market entrants an opportunity to waste money. “I particularly hope we can keep a virtuous cycle without waste of money, as all in all we have been important and respectable in this area with the accumulation of many years.
Zhenyu said that Miman is creating an industry chain containing the platform, singers, contents and song production. And then they would expand to offline concerts, shows, anime and comic music festivals or the ACGN music festivals. “At present, our revenue relies majorly on the music activities, but albums and artist management are also going on well. Anyway, the greatest music IPs in ancientry music area belong to us, such as “Giving Up All of The World ” (Qingjin Tianxia). Basing on those we’ll try to enter the areas of novel, game or film.”
In July this year, BML Concert of Bilibil in Mercedes-Benz Stadium of Shanghai was full of fans. And in fact, the concert covered 12,000 viewers and the number would reach around 20,000 plus the ones in the UPers’ (video online posters) fan meetings outside, 3 times than that of last year. Three years ago, the number was only around 800 when Bilibili held its first BML Meeting in the B1 floor of the same place.
Furthermore, 12,000 tickets of this year’s BML were sold out within less than 2 hours, and all of the most expensive tickets with a price of 1280 yuan were “in open plunder” within 4 minutes. The price of the cheapest ticket has risen from 380 yuan last year to 580 yuan.
Li Ren thought ACGN is only a label of the young generation. In Japan, even old people are watching animation and that is a culture and lifestyle. However, in China animation is just a kind of interest, which may open a narrow door if we only focus on deep ACGN (second dimension) “This group is very huge, but how to realize revenues still needs to wait and see.”
Concert market full of chaos, new sponsors are emerging
The concert market was occupied by artists from HK and Taiwan in the past. Although mainland singers’ had masterpieces and high popularity, most concerts of them were money-losing. The sales of top singers might be great in the first one or two shows but worse in the concerts after.
The Korean Wave was still very hot in the first 3 quarters. Top Korean stars can easily have a concert in China with a lot of investors. Suddenly on September 1 of this year, the Government introduced the limit policy for “Korean entertainment” to make a large number of Korean stars lose opportunities to make money in China and cool the market.
Behind the great booming of the first three quarters, Korean stars’ concerts have generated many chaos. The price of Bigbang’s mainland concert this year has been scrambled by the scalpers to more than 10,000 yuan and lots of cheats have happened. According to reports, on the Bigbang’s Guangzhou concert on July 6 this year, many fans were reported to be swindled by the scalpers and their consumer advocacy group contained more than 80 victims. That also happened in Bigbang’s concert in Zhengzhou this March.
The fans are majorly young students, who are lack of social experience and easier to get inpatient without proper judgment. In this case, fans cheated by top idol concerts can be seen everywhere easily. Scalpers are the chronic disease with unfortunately no efficient treatments so far of the Chinese performance market, and we would not discuss about them too much.
The problems of hosts are also frequently exposed. For instance, early in this year, after the increasingly serious fulmination of fans towards EXO’s “stars concert” (artists performance together with other stars), Shanghai Municipal Administration of Culture, Film, Radio and TV gave their disposal measure: this kind of performance organizers without fulfilling their obligation will be added onto the Shanghai cultural market blacklist.
The concert tickets of Jacky Cheung, Eason Chan, Jay Chou and Mayday will be sold out shortly. With the rising star, such as Han Lu, Yifeng Li and TFBOYS, mainland artists may have a chance to overtake. Han Lu’s concert this year was repeatedly topped on the headlines and its tickets became exhausted within seconds. The online shelve of a concert’s “Special Package” with a highest price of 7777 yuan was also cleared out by fans within 15 seconds.
From a positive point of view, driven by several mainland idol artists with many fans, the performance market in China is accelerating to prosperity. And therefore, the independence of artists is increasing, so is the price.
Compass Culture is a private performing art company which hosted Feng Wang’s tours for three years, Jian Cui’s 30th anniversary concert in Beijing Workers’ Stadium and the 2 upcoming concerts of Eason Chan in the Bird’s Nest Stadium. By the end of 2015, its CEO Liping Xue told CMBN that there is a long-tale rule in concert market, i.e, 20% of the top concerts can account for 80% of the box office. Competition is extremely fierce.
Liping Xue said, “Along with the increasing prices of artists, the traditional intermediate performance organizers become more and more passive, with less profit and bigger risk. I am terribly worried whether this industry can have the capacity of sustainable development.”
The new organizers emerge continuously and internet platform begin to sink, such as LeTV.
In 2016, LeTV and YL Entertainment jointly hosted Yuchun Li’s five concert tours. In the first half of this year, Liang Yin, CEO of LeTV Music talked to CMBN, “We would make super IPs for offline performances and generate great measures in traditional concerts and music festivals. Other than that, we would transfer our offline performance to the users through VR.”
Just now, QQ Music told CMBN Soda Green’s last tour before taking rest, sponsored by QQ, is about to begin and will provide 9 shows in 5 cities during November to December.
Having a concert in the Bird’s Nest Stadium is a must if a singer wants to challenge the box office records.
This year, Mayday and Eason Chan had performances in the Bird’s Nest Stadium. According to industry insiders, the first and second concerts of Mayday were selling quite well. Whether to have a third one depends on the sponsor’s risk appetite and estimation. Getting rid of the free ones, the Bird’s Nest currently can provide more than 50,000 tickets, which may bring 20 million yuan at the box office. Not every concert can sell so many tickets successfully, not to mention if there are three. Therefore, Eason only had 2 Concerts in the Bird’s Nest finally.
Private performance companies are worried about the market. Jialiang Liu, the general manager of Bates Chi& Methinks, was often deep drunk because of pressure. He said, “The performance companies are basically using this year’s turnover to cover the cost of next year’s projects. I’m always thinking about the transformation.”
“Damai, YL Entertaiment and LeTV are doing, so will Alibaba in the future. Our capacity to bargain in front of those giants is low. What I can only say is our implementation capacity is great but you know, things can be changed by the capital,” said the propaganda director of Compass Culture.
So far, Jacky Cheung, Eason Chan and Jay Chou have been the best selling artists on the concert market. These great IPs are captured by old players in the old network, but the future is hard to say. Now Damai, YL Entertainment, Weipiao, LeTV, Alibaba and QQ are hosting concerts, and fighting for artists on the market. For the traditional players, the transformation is inevitable.
Tier 2/3/4/5 cities have great potential
The Chinese performance market is undergoing drastic changes internally.
Apart from central cities like Beijing and Shanghai, more and more organizers are expanding their maps and spending a lot of time and capital in order to enter the Tier 2 or 3 cities.
On the one hand, as the market tends to saturation, audience in Beijing, Shanghai and other first-tier cities are getting less curious, more sophisticated and much stricter with the artists’ tours. On the other hand, in the past many years, Tier 2/3/4/5 cities and counties are the strongholds of ordinary stars, niche artists and singers on internet or through talent shows.
Yet things have changed dramatically in recent years. Lots of top artists have entered the Tier 2 or 3 cities and begun to carve up the new market. The second-tier cities with a large size of population, such as Chengdu, Chongqing and Wuhan, have great market potential and prosperity.
Currently, the parties we have contacted have quite positive attitude to the local market. Especially along with the opening policies of some local governments, the industry has found a new growth engine.
In recent years, classical music performances are expanding from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou towards other cities. The first reason is the fierce competition in Tier 1 cities which push worldwide famous performance groups going out. Secondly, due to the hit of “Eight Rules” and other policies, the past “congregational” performances with governmental funding have been reduced. Many symphony orchestras suffered financial strain and had no other ways but to increase the frequency of performances in other places.
It is reported that the Beijing Symphony Orchestra has paid more attention to its national performance tours in the past two years, cooperating with the Poly-line. In the second half of this year only, they arranged for the tours in Changshu, Yixing, Kunshan, Wuhan, Changsha, Ningbo, Lishui, Zhoushan, Taizhou, Chongqing, Weifang, Weihai, Hohhot and Tangshan.
Many classical musicians have also entered Tier 2 or 3 cities thoroughly. Yundi Li, the well-known pianist has transferred his focus into the 2nd and 3rd tier cities since 2013. In addition to the big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Wuhan, Shenzhen and Shenyang, he provided performance in Huizhou, Weihai, Weifang, Zhoushan and Kunshan as well.
In the view of Yundi, although classical music in China is not a mass culture, it has developed rapidly in domestic market, no matter for the venue facilities or the popularity in the recent years. Yundi said to CMBN, “Glad there are very professional groups in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. In the Tier 2 or 3 cities, people’s ability to appreciate would be improved progressively, as classical music concerts become more and more and the classical music culture become more accepted.
Local governments strengthen their attention on the music industry
This August witnessed the introduction of “Opinions of the People’s Government of Chengdu on Supporting the Development of Music Industry”. It clearly set the development goals till 2025 – to cultivate a number of nationally leading music industry parks and enterprises; to achieve an annual output value over 100 billion yuan; to become a countrywide leading center of music production, musical instruments/equipments/facilities distribution, copyright trading and performance gathering; to become a worldwide influential and leading capital of the modern music industry.
Regarding to music brand creating, Chengdu will hold its “International Poetry Music Festival”, large outdoor concerts and other public welfare music theme activities. To this end, Chengdu will plan and construct several high standard venues, such as the Urban Concert Hall, Chengdu Music Village, City Music Park and the Open-air Music Square, support the theaters and domestic or abroad music tours, hold music industry expos, and cultivate professional markets for musical instruments, facilities and equipment.
In addition to Chengdu, other local governments are also enhancing the attention and support to the cultural area. Whether by action or just by the press, more and more cities have put the music industry into their development plan, and even clearly pointed out to create China’s capital of music.” Tibet has established a music industry base; Harbin has launched a tourism and music season; Xiamen has input 500 million yuan for supporting service facilities of music and cultural development; Ningbo has signed a cooperation agreement with Beida Jade Bird Cultural Industry Group, for their music industry base ……
In recent years, more and more domestic performances went out to overcome oversea markets, such as European countries and the United States.
In general, China’s top singers would choose a Chinese concentrated city in America as a stop of their world tours, mainly due to the majority position of English songs and the weakness of Chinese music. Thus, the tour cities are generally focused in the following: Los Angeles, Chicago, Silicon Valley, London, Toronto and Vancouver, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Japan, etc.
The world tour seems “international”, but there are almost no Chinese singers who really have international appeal. This encourages the so called “stars concert”. A musician who has helped to organize a stars concert in Los Angele sighed to CMBN about the difficulties. As a foreign student, he still lost a lot of money for the concert after careful planning, fighting for auspices and reducing site cost.
In addition, Gloria Tang Tsz-Kei’s US concert once topped on Weibo’s hotlist. In November, 2015, she made a concert in Newark, New Jersey, but she said it was in New York. Thus, “pretending to be in New York” became a hot word.
The international exchange of independent music with the west is becoming more and more frequent.
More and more domestic indie-musicians and bands embarked to enter oversea markets. Di Ma has just completed his tour in North America, through 10 cities in 7 states: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Bloomington, Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
In recent years, Inner Mongolia folk band Hanggai has been busy on their world tours. Nova Heart also has accumulated good feedbacks from their abroad shows. At the beginning of this year, Twisted Machine made a performance tour to the North American, and so did the independent band Escape Plan and Tan Peng’s cooperation performance coinstantaneously.
This year Pilot and Fake Music went to Tech Open Air (TOA), an all-city science & culture & art exhibition in Berlin, Germany, where an exclusive NEU CHINA arena was established. Yu Zeng sai frankly, “It is not appropriate to talk about whether China can counterattack oversea market, for Chinese music industry still has a long way from the international level. Yet this would not prevent talented musicians enjoying success abroad. There are many domestic indie musicians and electronic musicians who can achieve international levels and be accepted by the foreign oversea market. However, I think the success in the areas other than indie music or electronic music may be not easily realized.
In October 2014, as the first Chinese domestic music festival to hold performances abroad, Modern Sky jumped out of the country to the New York Central Park in America. After that the band Second Hand Rose also made 3 “Useless Rock& Roll” shows in Washington, Philadelphia, and New York. In August 2015, Modern Sky Music Festival went to Helsinki, Finland. On December 15, 2015, Modern Sky announced the completion of its multinational investment to Liverpool Sound City, who has won the “British Best City Showcase Award”.
Zhenyu Gui hopes to bring China’s ACGN to the world. He said to CMBN, “My dream is growing up consistently. After the concerts in the Bird’s Nest, the next is to go abroad. Just like Japan’s exports of ACGN to us, we should enter other countries to export our culture and let others know the beauty of Chinese music.”
Summary: The future is promising
In the past few years, China’s live music market has developed surprisingly fast.
On the one hand, the numbers of tours, music festivals and tickets buyers are up growing to a large scale. Meanwhile,major companies are spending a lot to build market barriers, operate core usergroups, seize the new growing-up generation of fans, to ensure the sustainable development of their brands. Lots of newly established performing art companies and music festivals have entered the live music market under chaos, resulting in commercially unjustifiable dangerous issues in a short time.
Furthermore, stricter market requests for performance organizers can promote them to improve internal capability and to think more about how to achieve sustainable success in a more competitive marketplace.
Even though live music market contains a lot of chaos, generally we believe China’s performance market has great prospect!
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