Shanghai Expo – what’s it doing for China’s music industry?

Discussing the effect that the Expo has had on China's music scene

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This is something that we’ve been mulling for the last month or so, brought to a head with slightly disappointing turnouts for both the TransmitCHINA tour that our partner company Split Works put together in the first week of June and also nearly all the shows that we’ve attended over the last couple of months.

The backstory: we are just 6 weeks into Shanghai’s World Exposition 2010, and while according to most, the turnouts to the National Pavilions and the Expo site proper have been massive (although we have heard a couple of contrarian reports saying the numbers are WAY down on pre-event predictions), the volume of acts coming through China’s major live houses, theaters and clubs as a result of said Expo are somewhat traumatizing what was/ is still a shallow and immature market for foreign entertainment.  Take this coming weekend for example: alongside the STD 3rd Birthday extravaganza and Wonky Kong’s Drop the Lime, there is the French “Fete de la Musique”. A kaleidoscopic weekend featuring over 20 shows, all for FREE.

French Fete de la Musique program, Shanghai

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We have to say, this is one of the more creative uses of taxpayer money to embed national culture into the Chinese psyche (Finland’s Hel weekender being another), but ultimately, is this mass infusion of artists with often debatable long terms aims and strategies actually beneficial to China’s emerging music market? Could any Chinese music lover claim to remember any of the artists involved in Germany’s Reeperbahn festival, the Polish or others? How is the Dutch Cultural Centre doing? They are bringing all kinds of artists to their permanent base every single week of this 6 month jamboree.
We have certainly felt a certain amount of gig fatigue already (and we are only 6 weeks into Expo) and that’s not just in Shanghai, but also Beijing, Wuhan and the other major live music centres around China. Has it affected the domestic music market? Honestly, if Expo doesn’t, then the number of festivals out there certainly will (more on that in the next post).
Anyway, this is more of a discussion piece. What have you noticed? What do you think? Again, happy holiday. Back to work for a 2 day week tomorrow!
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