UPDATE: Shanghai lo-fi punksters Pairs add some commentary around this (and other things) HERE
400 RMB to see Mojave 3 play in China.
220 RMB for a Peaches… DJ set.
As some learned the hard way last month, DJ sets are not the same as live gigs, and even then all artists can find new and different ways to disappoint audience members. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s €50 ($63) and €28 ($34.50) respectively. By comparison, a 1-day pass to Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival was a mere $45. Club shows in New York, LA and London generally top out at 25-30 pounds/dollars even for the likes of the Arcade Fire or Bon Iver. So what gives?
We have a couple of theories. 1) There are no service charges levied on the ticketbuyer in China. So no hidden “taxes” or “service fees” that plagued all of us Ticketmaster/Live Nation customers. However, those fees have to come from somewhere – so the charges are included in the list price. 2) Many promoters in China use third-party ticketing partners to reduce the pressure on their staff. To make money, the ticketing partners levy commission on each ticket sold, which is absorbed by the promoter. Thus, increased overall prices.
Let’s address theory #2: anyone who’s been to a big concert or music festival in China will be familiar with huangniu – ticket scalpers. The refrain of “tickets, tickets” becomes an incessant drone as audiences draw closer to venue entrances. And where do these huangniu get their tickets? We are not pointing fingers, but they have to be getting large numbers of tickets from somewhere. And even beyond the perpetual issue of scalpers, commissions eat a huge chunk out of ticket sales. In our experience, 3rd-party vendors ask for anything from 10-20% of the price as commission. If you do the math, a 400 RMB ticket is probably only 320 RMB, until the promoter has to make back that 20% commission levied on him by the vendor.
You can’t throw a drumstick these days without encountering an article or blog post about the rise of China’s wealthy and consumer classes. We’re not arguing that the Chinese public doesn’t have spending power. We are arguing, through years of experience promoting independent music in China, that Chinese music lovers do not have the same purchasing power as the rest of the rising middle class. Promoters in China have to recognise the relative purchasing power of their audience while setting ticket prices. Students and young graduates (and expats) making up the bulk of the independent music community in China. We have firsthand experience with the costs of bringing a foreign artist to China. However, if ticket prices are too high, the core fans cannot afford to come and all that’s left is an empty room and disappointed performer.