A few days ago in an interview with a head of a music festival sponsor, regarding to current situation of domestic music festivals he asked me: “Among so many music festivals in China, which one do you think can be a ‘must-attend’? “I searched for all the music festivals I knew but was dumb.
If you’re reading this article, perhaps you can ask yourself as well. I believe the vast majority of you may only be able to think of no more than 3 names of the festivals. Since the first Midi Music Festival in 2000, over the decade China’s music festivals have jumped out from the scope of minority culture, and gradually evolved into national carnivals and current mainstream entertainment products.
In 2008, China only had less than 10 music festivals, but the number soared to more than 60 in 2010, which has become music festivals’ fastest growing year. According to Small Antlers, from 2010 to 2014 the number of music festivals increased year by year and reached 2014’s 148, which was more than two times of that in 2010. The number of festivals, the size of box office and the quantity of audience arrived at a historical peak then.
Although affected in 2015 by income sources, site approvals and other factors, the number of music festivals reduced compared with that in 2014, it may burst again this year with over 200 performances after one year’s precipitation.
October is coming and if we look back at the music calendar of the Golden Week, 22 music festivals within 7 days made this year’s National Day Holiday’s music festival market much busier than ever, even without taking into account the “aborted” three……
This year’s music festivals during National Day’s Holiday mainly presented the following five characteristics:
Area: Festivals were held more in the southern areas, and expanded to the Tier 3, 4 or 5 cities;
Type: integrated music festival accounted for the largest part and festivals were subdivided more variously such as electronic music and anime music;
Cast: most music festivals had “a lot of small casts and few supporting big casts”;
Venue: tourist attractions and outdoor leisure venues have become the preferred places for most music festivals;
Tickets: Apart from the free performances, average pre-sale price at the box office was 137 yuan per day.
In fact, music festivals in the National Day Holiday’s Golden Week had the same features as those in other time of this year. However, it is worth noting that the south held far more music festivals over the north during the Golden Week clearly.
The south has never been lack of musical atmosphere, especially the Pearl River Delta region, which was the earliest “distribution center” of the songs from HK and Taiwan area. But due to the problems of production inputs, operation quality and advertisement, etc., the south’s music festival market has never developed into a larger scale. Someone has assessed the organizers of music festivals in the south, “People here are very practical and not as artistic as those in Beijing. Their only interest is to make money.”
The Midi Music Festival held in Shenzhen in 2013 accepted pretty good feedbacks although the final profitability was unknown. Thus to some extent inspired the southern music festival organizers. Together with the policy approval process in the recent 2 years and other reasons, music festivals which were originally concentrated in the north began to expand to the south.
In 2014 after the implementation of the high-speed railways of Guiyang-Guangzhou and Nanning-Guangzhou, artistic and rock &roll young people of Guangdong’s neighboring provinces are able to participate into a variety of music activities in Guangzhou easily. Musical activities can also be simply spread to the surrounding areas of Guangdong. Centering on Guangzhou and Shenzhen, a new music life consumption area has came into being and the traffic problems of music festivals have been greatly eased. According to Small Antlers, this year music festivals were held more in the south than in the north by 18 percentage points.
Thus was also reflected in the Golden Week. The music festivals during the National Day Holiday were across 11 provinces, 8 of which were in the south. 18 of 22 festivals were held in the southern cities, including 5 in Shanghai, 4 in Sichuan, 3 in Guangdong, 2 in Jiangsu and 3 others in Guangxi, Guizhou and Hunan. Well, the reason that the south had more music festivals than the north during the Golden Week is related to its still mild climate in October.
It is clear that currently the music festivals have gradually given away the “northern gene”, and moreover expanded from Tier 1 or 2 cities to Tier 3, 4 and 5, such as the upcoming Ballad Festival of the Ancient City in Jimo, Shandong and the Western Music Festival in Dujiangyan, Sichuan. Many of the music festivals held in non-Tier 1 or 2 cities have received support from the governments who hope to boost the cities’ popularity and influence, and introduce more consumption to the local tourism industry.
At the same time, the growing number of music festivals has prompted many organizers to seek for differentiated operations and take advantages of the long tail effect to attract more viewers. The concentrated booming of various electronic music festivals, ballad music festivals, anime music festivals was a great proof of that.
Music Festivals’ embarrassments in China
Being still in the cultivation stage, Chinese music festivals would always show a lot of “maladaptation”. We all know that to make a music festival, a very small loophole in the serial process of capital, site, approval or security, would make a serious impact on the final quality interlockedly. Coupled with the occasional “bad weathers”, temporary extension or cancellation is also frequent.In fact, for most of people the embarrassments the festival suffered were not surprising.
The 1st embarrassment: postponement and cancellation
The number of Golden Week music festivals this year should have been 25 – if the Spark Festival, the Music Rhododendron Festival and the Prairie International Music Festival could also be “alive”.
“I do not want refund, I want my music festival!” This is the common response of a lot of fans when they got to know Guizhou Zunyi Spark Festival’s postponement. Actually on the previously announced repertoire, famous indie-musicians such as Tianxiao Xie, Omnipotent Youth Society, NAMO Band, Erbai, etc. were supposed to appear.
On September 27 when there were only 3 days left, the Spark Music Festival announced to postpone on its official WeChat account. The official explanation is: “The construction of the Airport Expressway of Zunyi made all major arteries to the Spark Music Festival semi-closed. Thus cannot meet the traffic demand of large-scale activities within the peak traffic session during the National Day holiday.”
The Spark Music Festival also released an official letter of apology and attached some pictures of the final preparation phases of the festival, which has brought back some understandings and sympathies.
However, for the other audience of the cancelled music festivals, the organizers’ abrupt vanishment brought only the sadness, disappointment and anger.Similarly, the Monsoon Festival (Mountain and Sea) in Yantai, Shandong, which was scheduled to be held on September 23-25 and invited Miserable Faith, Twisted Machine, Csun Yuk Chang and Xiaoli Wan, was also cancelled with an incredible reason. The informed party-Yantai Gongtao Sports & Fitness Co., Ltd. wrote in their public announcement:” On September 18, the person in charge of XX Culture Media Co., Ltd. Qixia branch disappeared with carrying company documents, information, seals and other materials, resulting in the stop of the activity.”
As for the other two “aborted” music festivals during the Golden Week, Bougainvillea Music Festival had no updates after the press conference; the Anshangcaoyuan (a grassland in Hefei, Anhui) International Music Festival, which originally invited Weiwei Tan(Sitar), Jordan Chan, Jike Junyi (Summer) and other artists, provided the official explanation of “force majeure”.
The 2nd embarrassment: “one-off”
Many music festivals were born in this year, but cannot survive till the next year.
Pick a public holiday, attract as many as possible sponsors, gather a bunch of famous or unknown artists and bands, maximize the audience size…… Those are probably most common models and routines of many music festival organizers, especially in non-Tier 1 or 2 cities. The purpose is purely to create a sensation to raise money easily. Some music festivals are even free for outsiders in order to attract more attention.
For many local governments, a civilized music festival can undoubtedly be a great advertisement of the place, catching more eyes with less investment. Yet once the government has personnel changes, music festivals will be inevitably in high uncertainty. Thus also applies to some music festival sponsors. For example, the real estate companies will no longer need music festivals to attract buyers after the houses are completed and sold out, resulting in the lost of performance venues.
In addition, in the context of rising market prices of the artists, short of high sponsorship fees, lack of government supporting funds, publicity failure, pricing missteps and not-well-controlled ticketing process, all will flush the investment down the drain. Now people are impetuous, not to mention the needs of financial returns, so those “one-off” music festivals came into being naturally.
The 3rd Embarrassment: Bug and user experience
In the booming 2016 Music Festival market, the positive audience feedbacks are mostly regarding to the live musical atmosphere and the cast.
Gossips still exist on the social media. Traffic, food, toilets, on-site security, performances’ compression, fans’ clean-up……every small inappropriate detail would lead to fans’ dissatisfaction.
The reasons are closely related to the music festival’s rapid expansion, singers’ rush, or the organizers’ lack of deep understanding of the site, climate and audience.
As a cultural event, music festival naturally expresses a certain kind of emotion of young people. Music festival’s audience are mainly college students, whose abilities to pay have yet to be developed but consumption and entertainment habits have been near to the mainstream. Today, even the undergraduate students are 95ers who are born with “internet sense” and the habit of “gossips”. If the organizers ignore controlling of the details now, gossips will be pretty much more than in the 80er’s Douban times, not to mention those “mass of gossips” on Douban.
“User experience” is almost the common key word during the development of all Internet products. It means essentially how great the user can feel after experiencing all the phases. To internet products, Bug is not terrible and the most important thing is to constantly upgrade to kill the Bugs.
How I hope the upcoming 22 music festival can go through without those embarrassments! Music Festival is young in China. No matter for spirits, for money or for the both, the festival organizers should seriously think again before starting a music festival: “On end what is the user experience of a music festival?”
Copyright © 2015 China Music Business News