The Year of the Music Festival: China 2010

Check out this review of the many music festivals that have been recently held in China

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Sorry for the lack of activity since we returned. Email/ catchup hell have played havoc with our posting.

As we have regularly discussed on this site, 2010 has turned into year of the Music Festival here in China. There are an INCREDIBLE amount of events all across the country this year, and using a completely arbitrary number based on gut feel, it’s our estimate that there will be around 70 large scale multi day music festivals this year, with many hosting near identical lineups.

With this in mind, we came across an article (in Chinese) referring to this phenomenon. The ever excellent JG has summarized the key points with our viewpoints on each. You can find the full article HERE. This article was written post this weekend just gone, which featured the Suzhou and Guangzhou festivals.

  • Suzhou festival and Niu Yu Zui festival both suffered from bad weather, which obviously compromised both attendances and enjoyment.
  • this is a hazard of outdoor festivals. Glastonbury is buried in mud at least once every three years. The problem is that festival goers outside of the UK tend not to be as hardy as the British. Most normal human beings don’t love music enough to spend three days caked in dirt. Unfortunately, much of the East Coast of China (where a lot of these festivals take place) is wet and humid, particularly over the summer months. Typhoons and rainy season in the South make for difficulties in planning.
  • Suzhou spent a huge sum of money on the production for their festival. They included a huge LED screen and stage relative to other domestic festivals and they was the first to use a revolving stage, which saved time on soundcheck and stage setup between bands. But according to the chief editor of myspace.cn, “there were only 1000-2000 ppl at the festival. The promotion was ineffective. The site is part of a new developing area, and even a lot of Suzhou’s taxi drivers had no idea where it was. Plus local residents near the site knew nothing about the festival”.
  • Promotion is the most important part of any event. Production and execution can be exemplary, but if nobody comes, then the event is a failure. It helps of course if money isn’t the key driver, but these cultural events are hugely important for the development of music in China, and if would-be promoters lose too much money on single events, they will be less likely to return, even if they are government.
  • The Suzhou festival provided fountains for people in an effort to protect puntersfrom the hot weather. They also gave away raincoats for audience when it rained.
  • Nice touches
  • You can see practically the exact same lineup at every single Chinese festival.
  • People are (obviously) starting to get jaded by seeing the same group of acts on different stages, and this apathy is bad for fledgling Chinese festivals. Festival organizers need to realize that variety is the spice of life and that the internet allows people to see all the lineups across all festivals. If your local festival is the same exactly as the one up the road, then the “specialness” of that festival is diminished. Of course, this problem is exacerbated by a relative lack of the (affordable) domestic acts that can actually draw.
  • The ticket price for the Suzhou festival was expensive. 200 RMB/day and 500 RMB/3 days. This is definitely a stretch for the Chinese consumer, especially since they are unused to the concept of a music festival to begin with.
  • More and more festivals are being planned and this is a positive trend for the Chinese music industry.
  • However, you must have a good reason to run your festival and you do need the help of experienced festival organizers – festivals are a tough beast and many of the “newbies” in charge of music festivals this year are giving the very image of this type of event a bad name, both to consumers and bands.
  • You must also have funding. Traditional logic is that music festivals take 3-4 years to break even (if indeed they ever do). You MUST expect to lose money, but you should still believe it, and as long as you stick to your beliefs, you may win after few years. The problem is, many organizers think a music festival is an easy and sexy way to make money, lots of it, and immediately. Many of them, including the governments, will not move ahead with another festival once they have been burned the first time. As an example of the naivity involved here, we met with the China arm of one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world in search of a strategic partner for our YUE Festival. They told us they would be interested in participating, but that we HAD TO GUARANTEE that the festival would not make a loss.

Funnily enough, since the Suzhou festival, we read another article on Sina with exactly the opposite comments about the Vitality Festival. Sina reported that there were more than 10,000 ppl on the first day and more than 50,000 ppl on the last day. The festival was a great success and the organizer has signed a 10-year contract with local government.

Finally, the article includes a list of domestic festivals from May to Oct, but in our opinion, this list is nowhere near complete.

5.1-5.3 Strawberry festivals

5.1-5.4 Midi festival

5.15-5.16 Strawberry festival in Xi’an

6.5-6.6 Hangzhou Xi Hu festival

7.14-7.18 Guangzhou Niu Yu Zui festival

7.16-7.18 Suzhou festival

7.30-8.1 Inmusic festival

8.13-8.15 Hangzhou Love festival

8.14-8.15 Mongolian Grassland festival

8.16-8.22 Max Star festival @ Beijing Di Tan

8.27-8.29 Great Wall Festival

8.27-8.29 Jing Lang music festival @ Beijing Men Tou Gou

In the middle of Sep, Orange Isle music festival @ Changsha, TBA

9.22-9.24 Zhang Guan Li Dai festival @ Xi’An, TBA

9.22-9.24 Hangzhou Xi Hu Festival, TBA

10.3-10.6 Snow Mountain Festival @ Yunnan Lijiang, TBA

10.1-10.4 Zhengjiang Midi festival, TBA

10.1-10.3 Modern Sky festival in beijing, TBA

10.15-16 Jz Festival @ Shanghai Century Park, TBA

  • zebra music festival in May?

  • Clearly an incomplete list because there’s no Show of Peace!

    Good analysis though. It’s definitely a hard balance between putting on a festival that is economically successful and one with artistic integrity.

  • Don’t forget:

    Sep 3-5: Qingdao 2nd Golden Beach Festival

    Cheers
    Max

  • Pete

    Last year’s Golden Beach Festival was pretty good, particularly for being the first inception.

    It’s on a beach! It was free! What else do you need?

    The only pain the ass was the lack of concessions on the beach itself — primarily beer — but whatever: that’s what coolers are for.

    I can’t speak for the bands and their experience with the organizers, the sound system and other stuff like that, but it was cool.

  • Pingback: We think the same thing, at the same time | China Music Radar()

  • Jenny

    I really like the niu yu zui festival although it’s in poor organization, but atmosphere is really good. The organizer just dont have enough experience to run such as event. He should actually hire a pr company to help him promote.

    The good thing is that he gave chances to many new bands. Some of them are pretty good bands such as boys&girl with benben as the vocal. And it’s a pity that they didn’t make the main stage work which is due to short of money.

    The Suzhou festival was put in a place that even many local residents dont know about. That’s actually a new real estate project. i think they work with the real estate company trying to promote the place and sell those apartments. And they invited some famous mainstrem singers to attract more fans but actually it didnt work well. Anyway there’s not a very satisfied rock n roll music scene in Suzhou. When i arrived there, I heard many agents complaining to me about the bad organization. And the Sina report is actually so ridiculous. I will never ever believe so many people attending the festival. I think the reporter might get bribed.

  • admin

    Thanks for coming on and sharing Jenny. Yeah, we heard that the organizer sold his car DURING the festival to pay some of the bands. The venue sounded beautiful. It’s a shame they were so ambitious first year.

    Interesting to hear your viewpoint on the Sina article. It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened 🙂

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  • When I lived in Nanning, Guangxi in 1994 we went to lots of music festivals, including a huge folk music festival that was held in Nanning that year. Lots of Zhuang, Miao, Li, Dong, and Han music. It was the highlight of living there.

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