This might be the most expensively priced Chinese music festival, will the market accept or reject it?
The upcoming Echo Music Festival in Shanghai on August 13th and 14th has recently sparked a storm of controversy.
The reason is fairly simple: in July, the festival organizers announced early bird tickets that were originally discounted at 20% of the regular price (520 yuan for August 13th, 560 for August 14th, and 960 yuan for an ordinary pass). However, a week later, the organizers reset the tickets to 40% of the regular price on official and third-party sites, leaving the original buyers baffled and frustrated.
The company’s PR team’s response to the young, millennial fans was quick, and stated that the actual fare wasn’t reduced, but rather they opened User Member Benefits so that members could enjoy the annual music festival for a one day ticket price of 364 yuan, 416 yuan for a six month membership, and a monthly price of 494 yuan.
However, the membership price didn’t seem to tied the early bird ticket price online, and the organizers stated that this was because of a technical error that led to two separate pages being live at the same time; the product page also wasn’t updated quickly enough, giving users a lot of trouble. Echo also was in contact with the first ticket buyers to provide compensation plans for them.
The regular ticket prices for the Echo Music Festival were 650 yuan for the first day, 700 yuan for the second day, 1200 yuan for the two-day package, and 1500 yuan for the VIP package, making it the most expensively priced domestic music festival.
We asked a third party website and found that the actual fare was indeed adjusted; the early bird fare on Gewara was 390 yuan for August 13, 420 yuan for August 14, and 720 yuan for a two-day pass, and Yongle Ticketing showed the same pricing as Gewara.
This is the first time that the Echo app has organized a music festival, and they plan to hold the festival every summer. When the first lineup of musicians was announced, many people were excited by the popularity of the pop artists, such as Jessie J, Li Yuchun, Jacky Xue, Jolin Tsai, Stefanie Sun, and others.
It’s not important how high or low a festival’s ticket prices are; the results will be in the market’s answer
With regard to the fare, an Echo festival official said that although the price is much higher than other domestic music festivals, the festival lineup, stage design, and interactive experience make the price well worthwhile.
In addition to paying huge amounts to bring in acts like Li Yuchun, Jolin Tsai, and other popular musicians, Echo also presented a 3D interactive experience, with a 3D museum, VR experience hall, interactive games, art, and other festival additions that will attract young people.
So will the market pay for Echo Music Festival tickets?
Li Hongjie, founder of the Zhangbei Grassland Music Festival, told China Music Business News that music festival ticket prices are usually determined by three metrics. First, what is the value of the content, as in the individual musicians and the lineup? Second, does the target audience have the consumer capacity to match the ticket price? Third, what is the expected return on investment?
The investment cost of the Echo Music Festival is by no means small. According to leaks online, Yuchun Li’s price tag in 2014 was already up to 115 million RMB, and Echo also invited Jacky, Jessie J, the English singer of the 2011 hit “Price Tag”, Jolin Tsai, Stefanie Sun, and other big name artists. The price of all these headlining pop stars is inevitably higher than folk or rock musicians.
However, on the festival’s posters, the names that appear – Lisa Ono, Good Sister, Stefanie Sun, and Pu Shu – aren’t new; people don’t adore Lisa Ono like they used to. Good Sister is a festival regular, and Stefanie Sun appeared in the Yangtze International Music Festival, and Pu Shu just performed at the Zhangbei Grassland Music Festival.
Jolin Tsai and Coco Lee also arrived in Shanghai in August for the two-day Zebra Music Festival as the headliners, alongside new stars Huang Zitao (Tao of EXO-M) and Xu Weizhou. The organizers, Zebra Culture Communication Co. Ltd., also brought in a surprising co-organizer: the Internet giant, Tencent. They’re title sponsors alongside Tsingtao Brewery.
Also arriving in Shanghai in September this year is the Concrete & Grass Music Festival, selling tickets at 180-440 yuan, with 21 mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong artists, as well as 40 overseas artists. The festival was originally going to be called Echo Park Music Festival last year, but had to be renamed this year after a trademark conflict; the organizers for the opening function were Split Works and Damai Live. Next October, Shanghai can also look forward to the Simple Life Festival, with Jia Minshu as producer, Jonathan Lee as director, and Zhang Peirin as founder. Storm Music Festival will also be held in October in Shanghai.
Thus, as we can see, August, September, and October are months of fierce competition for the Shanghai market.
On May 1, the Strawberry Music Festival kicked off in Shanghai and Beijing with a total of 13 stages and 100 acts, including The Prodigy, Disclosure, Zuoxiao Zuzhou, Xietian Xiao, Second Hand Rose, Omnipotent Youth Society, Dou Jingtong, and other musicians. The biggest artist at this year’s Strawberry Music Festival was without a doubt the electronic music and rock legends, The Prodigy, and the festival fulfilled all of their strict conditions in order to successfully bring them to China. Shen Lihui also clearly said that if they brought The Prodigy, the tickets would not
cover the cost. However, regardless of the cost or purpose, it put Strawberry Music Festival into the international spotlight of well-known first-rate music festivals.
The ticket prices for this year’s Strawberry Music Festival came out to 240 yuan for a one-day advance ticket, 519 yuan for a three day early bird pass, and 600 yuan for a advance three-day pass. The Yangtze River International Music Festival held on the same day also had an incredibly popular lineup, as the organizers invited Stefanie Sun, Sandy Lam, Cui Jian, Good Sister, and over 30 acts from Europe, the United States, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China, with ticket prices between 200 and 360 yuan.
Zang Keyi, Modern Sky’s Events Operation Director, told China Music Business News, “I think with the consistent improvement in the quality of domestic music festivals that the affordability of tickets for audiences is also increasing steadily. For instance, the Strawberry Music Festival in Beijing and Shanghai is now the country’s largest music festival in terms of how much the festival invests, but the ticket is set at a very reasonable price range, and people won’t be pressured out of buying the tickets because of the price. However, this is because the Strawberry Music Festival has a huge audience and the sponsors share the cost, so we can set prices at a fairly low level.”
For the Strawberry Music Festival, the main source of income is the box office, which accounts for the bulk of the income, and sponsorships. The local government gives significant support to the Yangtze River International Music Festival. Echo Music Festivals main sponsor is Qiwei Culture, which operates in audio-related social media and networking roducts. These represent the three different starting points of music festivals.
Among these, Echo Music Festival has become the main community and platform of 3D music, and its audience is largely young people between the ages of 18 and 25. The Echo app, established just two years ago, was reportedly valuated at $150 million at the beginning of this year, has accumulated over 20 million users, and has a payment rate of 10%.
From the Echo Musical Festival’s marketing perspective, the people it’s targeting are still the app users, but they also want to acquire new users for the app through the festival. Even though they’ve considered many factors in their pricing, there’s not much overlap between those who like outdoor music festivals, those who will pay for music festivals, those who listen to music through the app, and those who go to concerts to see idol groups. The fear is that the ticket’s lack of
affordability will turn away many people.
On the pricing strategies of music festivals, one music festival founder privately told China Music Business News, “Since these festivals constantly sell out, the second year, the festivals often artificially jack up the prices, even when there’s not any increase in the amount of consumers or concert goers.”
The 2016 MTA Tianmo Music Festival will be held this September in Zhangjiakou’s Tianmo Desert, with two day early bird passes going at 600 yuan, and regular two-day passes at 750 yuan. Li Hongjie, also responsible for the Hailun Music Festival, said, “As long as the price is reasonable, there shouldn’t be a problem. It’s not important how high or low a festival’s ticket prices are, rather, the organizers have to consider what’s reasonable and unreasonable, and the final result will be in the market’s answer.”
Overall, the pressure and competition for high prices will be huge, and they can affect target audiences, so will the market approve of these fares? Consumers will vote with their wallets.
As the quality and quantity of music festival increases, prices will obviously increase as well
Looking at international music festivals, what’s more important than the music and the individual’s experience is the culture and spirit of the music festival.
The world’s largest performing arts festival, Glastonbury Festival, was founded in 1970, and this year, it brought in national treasures of British music like Adele and Coldplay, but at the beginning, it was just a small music festival on a farm. Early on, since ticket prices were so low (one pound for the first festival), the Pyramid Stage was full of originality and pioneering artists, and it unified its content into a medieval-style presentation, allowing for rapid growth on top of its foundation.
By the 1980’s, the Glastonbury Festival took place every year, set up children’s charities in the region, and in 1981, after making a profit for the first time, donated to a variety of organizations. By the 1990’s, Glastonbury diversified into multiculturalism, and also established a dance tent as dance music became more popular. As the Cold War ended, the festival’s donations turned to Greenpeace and Oxfam. In 1995, the festival invited Oasis, Pulp, PJ Harvey, and artists from a variety of genres; in 1998, the number of participants exceeded 10 million for the first time.
As many other music festivals faded into history, the Glastonbury Festival remains strong. In the 1970’s, influenced by hippie culture, it brought David Bowie and Traffic to the festival. As it steadily developed in the 80’s and 90’s, it started to gain more and more cultural significance, and solidly established its status and importance.
Here is what Glastonbury Festival participants get when they buy a ticket:
1. See great performances from over 3000 artists on over 100 different stages
2. Free Friday night camping
3. Free mini guide, cotton bag, mobile phone charging, apps, firewood, newspapers, and children’s playground (all entertainment and recreational facilities are free)
4. Donation to Oxfam, Greenpeace, water support organizations, and hundreds of other worthy
charities and organizations (over 2 million pounds in donation in 2014)
5. Improving the festival’s infrastructure and reducing its environmental impact
The above passage comes from the Glastonbury Festival’s official website. It’s clear what the consumer’s money goes towards, and a unique benefit is the donation to various organizations hat demonstrates the humanistic spirit of the festival.
In the article “Why are music festivals more popular than ever before?”, we discussed why music festivals haven’t declined in the Internet era; even with the popularity of the Internet making social media, exchange, and buying and selling of goods, more and more convenient, music festivals across the world continue to gain momentum as they grow.
China’s music festivals are also developing rapidly across genres, including not just rock, but also electronic music and folk music festivals. Veteran organizers are now joined by new organizers in real estate businesses, local governments, media companies, ticketing platforms, and internet companies.
About 30 million people in the United States and 20 million people in the United Kingdom go to outdoor music festivals every year. What about China? As the number of music festivalgoers increases from the millions to the tens of millions, we’ll likely see an increase in the rate of growth.
Ren Yuqing, founder of the JZ Music Festival in China, told China Music Business News, “Music festivals in China are at a breakout stage. Their entertainment value isn’t in the music anymore, but rather it’s been replaced by putting the same songs on stage, throwing a few pop stars in, and ending there. Now, many music festivals don’t have any unique culture or spirit, and are purely for entertainment to swindle people. They make music festivals out to be get-rich-quick schemes, and then you can’t even call them music festivals anymore.”
In 2015, the country had 125 music festivals, and their lineups, stages, restaurants, exhibitions, fairs, and forums were all well reproduced, but a few problems included the following: trash, terrible food, traffic, packed restrooms, washed up lineups, artists suddenly dropping out, and more.
Tang Xiaolei, CEO of Huajiang Beijing Culture Development Co. Ltd., and founder of Yangtze River International Music Festival, told China Music Business News “The Chinese music market has been developing rapidly, older music audiences are all going to theaters to see shows, but with the advent of the Internet era, music audiences have become younger and younger. The music festival industry is relatively new, and the festivals that will survive are the ones with fixed locations and status, and perfect operations and marketing. I think music festivals often fade away since the good ones are few and far between.”
From Zang Keyi’s (Modern Sky Events Operation Director) perspective, although the Chinese music festival market is developing quickly, there’s still a huge gap when compared with music festivals overseas. Right now, music festivals are the most complex performance medium, and the standard needs to be raised not by increasing prices, but by upgrading content through user experience and better promotion. Music festival organizers need to improve themselves before rising in the market.
Today’s music festivals have become a way of life. They’ve definitely become more than just a collection of artists singing for a few hours, but rather, they’ve become a culture and lifestyle in and of themselves. As young people promote the rapid increase in the number of music festivals, the quality of music festivals also needs improvement. When quality and quantity both increase, high ticket prices won’t scare away consumers, and festival organizers won’t face such strong commercial pressures.
The Echo Music Festival is a great experiment for the market. After all, ticket prices for Chinese music festivals have been low for the past ten years, and previous festivals have had to weather financial losses to cultivate a brand that might gradually turn a profit. They’ve always hoped that ticket prices could slowly increase, but once Hengda Starlight Music Festival started incorporating movie ticket sales models into music festivals, they angered a lot of other festival organizers.
Jiang Shuceng, CEO of Tree Music, told China Music Business News, “Hengda Music Festival’s slogan is “going to music festivals should be like going to the movies”, but this is a serious mistake. You can see a film for 30 to 60 yuan, but films are something you can copy, and movies can be screened for really long periods of time. However, music festivals accrue big costs in purchasing artists, choreography, construction, transportation, and more, so if you sell tickets for 60 yuan, you’ll find yourself at a dead end. The price of Chinese concert tickets is in line with the rest of the world. In fact, because of historical reasons, they began at a really low starting point. The trend is that ticket prices for music festivals are increasing annually, but the rising trend is certainly in accordance with the market. In fact, it’s the market and not organizers that decide ticket prices.”
Zang Keyi’s analysis then is as such: “We’ve seen concert prices remaining steady in the market, but on the other hand, music festival fares have increased every year. Now, music festivals across the world are steadily increasing, never mind that Chinese music festival fares are still a fraction of international music festivals. The gap is still huge.”
translated by Evan Yi
Copyright © 2015 China Music Business News