A few months ago, we previewed Chengdu’s Big Love Music Festival. Originally scheduled for last summer and plagued with weather issues, Big Love 2011 was moved, postponed and though never officially cancelled, ultimately became Big Love 2012. This year, when we saw the poster and lineup announcement for the festival, we were understandably excited for the likes of Ash, Suede, Ellen Alien, Luo Dayou and even Extreme. From all reports up to and during the event, the festival seemed to go off without a hitch: the weather held, the crowds were enthusiastic, the bands well-received. And then. Well, we all know what happened then.
A frantic Weibo post on the morning of June 25 alerted festival staff, artists and attending media that all individuals associated with Big Love were being singled out and unable to leave the hotel. It was revealed soon enough that their rooms, ostensibly paid for by the organizers, had not been at all and no one was allowed to leave the premises until settling up. This was no Hanting-sized bill either – everyone was staying in 5-star hotels. In the end, it was revealed that the promoters of Big Love had lost RMB 50m on the festival overall. In the process, they had failed to pay RMB1.8m of hotel bills and stranded between 150-160 festival workers at the airport, having lied about paying their plane fares. Most galling (and frankly, shocking) were the faked SMS messages to staff members confirming their flights from Chengdu back to their home cities. One such fake SMS was rapidly posted on Sina Weibo and Douban, highlighting exactly how far the promoters were willing to extend the charade.
We understand that music festivals in China are still a hard business, with extremely high overhead costs and long-range payoffs. However, occurrences like Big Love are a black mark on all promoters working in China. The debacle will be held up as an example of how China isn’t ready to produce a festival on such a large scale. It’s pity because there are people working very hard here to produce international-caliber events. The spectre of Big Love will effect artists’ and production’s willingness to do business with any promoter, and thus the entire music festival industry in China itself.
For an excellent round-up and translation of all the microblog updates surrounding the tense aftermath of Big Love, we suggest starting with GoChengdoo’s exceptional coverage.