Editor’s Note: This is a long one, but (to our knowledge) the first full English-language account of the Xoundforce/Rock Empire dust-up that first hit the Chinese blogs a week ago. Hat tips to RockinChina and Weibo for alerting us to the original blog posts and our intrepid new Radar intern, Patrick Keefe, for doing the research and writing this piece. We welcome your comments!
Words: Patrick Keefe
For hundreds of Chinese heavy metal fans, the cancelling of Dream Theater’s April 25th Beijing performance came as an emotionally devastating blow in what has become yet another mishandling by local organizers. To vent their frustrations, Chinese fans took to Dream Theater’s online message board to vent their anger and sorrow. Begging for the band to pity their Chinese fans with a rescheduling of shows some users posted things such as “Please !!please don’t cancel the Beijing show!!All the fans in China are looking forward to this show!!! they have strong passion on real metal. and it’s nearly a miracle for China to have DT on stage.” Others used this forum to display their irritation with one user positing: “FUCK YOU ALL!you guy look down upon chinese fans!you just add another show in Japan but cancel BeiJing without reasons!Fuck off!China will never welcome you again…..”.
The collective outrage by Chinese fans towards their music idols soon pored over to the concerts’ organizers Xoundforce and Guitar China. In their press release, Dream Theater stated that both Xoundforce and Guitar China were unable to produce visas for the band to enter the country. Since this statement appeared, well known rock promoter Chen Xi (陈曦) (CEO of Mort productions) has come out publically via blog post detailing accounts of ruthless swindling of company funds and gross mismanagement by both Xoundforce and Guitar China. In an attempt to expose the shadiness of these two companies, Chen Xi has also (unbeknownst to him) provided new revelations into the riskiness involved with doing business with uncouth music promoters in China.
Chen Xi, founder and former president of Xoundforce, lists in his blog post numerous past abuses by who he believes is at fault concerning the Dream Theater show. His suspects: Nike Pan (current Xoundforce president) and Chen Zheng (陈征) (Rock Empire CEO). In his post, Chen Xi takes the opportunity to produce a comprehensive look at two men who have over time consistently mishandled deals with venues and bands as well as downright stolen money from different music promoters across the country. It is they who Chen Xi lays blame on for (among other things) the fiasco that was the infamous Mr.Big absence at Midi festival last year. These claims are further backed up by a blog post from Chinese heavy metal singer and current music promoter Song Yang (宋洋) who writes in his own blog post his grievances with both Nike Pan and Chen Zheng. In his posts Song Yang divulges past dealings with Xoundforce and Rock Empire that concluded with broken promises and suspicious disappearances of venue/artist deposit money.
These damning accounts of shady business dealings concerning Xoundforce and Rock Empire has given rock fans across the country a look into the very complicated and close knit world that is music promotion in China. While it is true that one can point to Xoundforce and Rock Empire for their inefficiency and unreliableness in organizing shows across China, one most also look at the accusers and their own motivation in their criticisms of Nike Pan and Chen Zheng. Neither Chen Xi nor Song Yang have unblemished records with both men also having engaged in their fair share of controversy and failure. During both men’s tenure at their respective companies, they each oversaw botched contracts and unsuccessful deals. Our inner conspiracy theorist hypothesizes that perhaps in order to rebuild their own image as well as soiling the image of their competitors, both Song Yang and Chen Xi have used this Dream Theater incident as a convenient opportunity to distance themselves from their past failures by blaming them on the publically disgraced Xoundforce and Rock Empire. By attributing their aforementioned business failures on Cheng Zheng and Nike Pan, they not only have further ruined both men’s reputations but also helped save face for themselves. The music scene in China is admittedly small so reputation counts for a lot. In addition, Song Yang and Chen Xi now have an obvious market advantage when dealing with venue owners and bands themselves.
Of course, this is all conjecture and by no way should be used as fact. Perhaps, Song Yang and Chen Xi truly did want to expose what has become a long history of misdealing’s with these two men in an attempt to warn future business partners. Regardless, the main thing to be taken out of this is the need to understand and know the music business in China. Undeniably the music industry is still developing in China and with that comes dicey business deals and sketchy personnel. The bottom line is, know who you are dealing with and know their history or else you are simply going to be cheated.