If you haunt live shows in the Northern Capital like our Beijing editor does, you’d be sure to recognize an American guy sporting varying degrees of scruff and extraordinarily ugly sandals holding a small video camera unobtrusively near the side of the stage. That gentleman (whose identity we shall not reveal) is the brains and editing suite behind Live Beijing Music, a site for his live videos of what seems to be every gig in Beijing. In the past year, he’s built up quite a following especially amongst the local musicians, who rarely film themselves and regular concert goers, who enjoy reliving the memories. He’s just posted his top tracks of 2012 – parts one and two – and it includes such Radar favourites such as Snapline, Dear Eloise and Residence A. Hilariously, the songs come in all forms: Soundcloud, Youku, Xiami, Bandcamp, the list goes on. But what the layout lacks in aesthetic value it makes up more than exponentially in the quality and scope of music released in Beijing over the past 12 months.
Following yesterday’s International Day Against Homophobia, we bring to you two inspiring stories about Chinese and Hong Kong musicians and their campaigns in support of gay rights in China.
In a stadium concert at Hong Kong Coliseum in late April, pop star Anthony Wong (黄耀明) saved the night’s biggest revelation for last: he came out as gay in front of thousands of fans, saying “…I’m gay. I’m a homosexual. G-A-Y.” Though the region is known for many flamboyant pop culture figures of both sexes, Wong is only the second major Hong Kong performer to come out publicly and first to do so in such dramatic fashion. However, no word on whether Wong’s newly out status was addressed by him or others at the MMAX Music Festival in Beijing a week later (anyone who was there want to chime in?)
A week later in Shanghai, local band and pot-stirrers Top Floor Circus unveiled their own support for gay rights in an equally large-scale fashion at the conclusion of their headlining set on the first night of the Strawberry Festival in Shanghai. For their encore, the group performed a song by the late Hong Kong pop star Leslie Cheung, the first performer of his status to come out publicly, and who committed suicide nine years ago. Afterwards, the band gestured to the members of Nvai, a Shanghai lesbian group, who passed them a giant rainbow banner emblazoned with the phrase “同志爱音乐节” or “gays love music festivals.” Onstage, lead singer Lu Chen announced to the cheering audience “There is diversity in love. I hope you all love your real selves.”
Here at the Radar, we are always heartened to see and report of such displays of inclusion and togetherness in the industry we love so much. Not everything has to be tales of intellectual property malfeasance or brand campaigns gone horribly, horribly wrong. To everyone out there in China music land, no matter who (or what) you love, we support you!
So, there were lots of Chinese bands at SxSW last week. Most seemed to think it somewhat of a pain
In general the festival was a shitshow, such a grind, more work than passion. The more successful American bands sit smug on their rotting thrones while we just keep our noses to the grindstone and do what we do.
BRAD FERGUSON (harder to pick up, but self deprecating in the extreme)
[DAY2] Reactions were good from the few people who showed up for our set — mostly other bands who would play later in the day… [DAY4] The stage was set up in the parking lot, and there were only a couple of people there, but the band played well and we had a nice mid-afternoon lunch…
Still, Josh from Pangbianr has subsequently said that there were some good potential opportunities that might come out of it for the Chinese bands, but it definitely rings true with most of the things we’ve read about this year’s Sx. Overbranded, overdone and overpriced.
If you have access to Youtube, here is a video of one of DFG’s showcases. Enjoy:
After a couple of reasonably low key incursions in 2010 and 2011, China is going balls to the wall for SxSW 2012. Re-TROS, Carsick Cars, Snapline, Rustic, Duck Fight Goose, Deadly Cradle Death and Soviet Pop are repping from a musical perspective, while newly launched Chinese Music Video platform Caoker are hosting a party. Finally, some of the great and good of China’s music scene are paneling it up: they will cover the fantastical topic of “Why the Global Music Industry Needs China”
Pangbianr has a great synopsis of everything. Find it HERE.
Great news for one of Shanghai’s most hardworking and talented bands. Duck Fight Goose have been invited to represent China at SxSW 2012. Of course, the deal is the usual one – you cover flights and related costs, we give you a small stipend per show. Still, great opportunity to kick things off in the US for DFG. Go represent Shanghai boys and girls………
We are on holiday. It is lovely. However, there are a couple of things to do. First, to round up all the various bits and pieces around the web on Chinese music, the second, to write an editorial about why we think the Beijing music scene is suffering. The editorial will come next week, but in the meantime, here’s some reading for the October national holiday.
- Shanghai Bands getting their dues: Dan Shapiro, columnist and band member extraordinaire, is potentially departing Middle Kingdom shores fairly soon. In a long and detailed article, he highlights the profusion of Shanghai based bands that, long ignored, are starting to populate October holiday festival week. It’s a measure of the increasing strength of Shanghai’s music scene that there are so many bands making so many journeys to play big stages around the country.
- China Festivals run wild: a pretty basic article at the pretty basic Global Times (Chinese English language mouthpiece anyone?). Not much to see here
- Zebra Festivals: the Global Times (again) run a quickie on the launching of Zebra Festival in Hangzhou. Forbes also runs a profile with Zebra founder Scarlett Li, talking about her experiences with the festival and her plans for the future. Zebra does seem to have their house in order, but we cannot stomach this oft repeated (and perpetuated by the festival itself) attendance figure of 150,000 year one and 200,000 year two. We were at Zebra #1 and would estimate the numbers at 10,000 max per day. Once again, inflating the numbers does nothing for any of the festivals with regard to sponsors or attendees. Glastonbury festival has a capacity of 177,000 people and is by far and away the biggest music festival in the world. How Zebra can claim to be larger is beyond us.
- Beijing Today with a well researched and realistic article, Music Festivals and the Illusion of Success. We like this article of course, number one because it quotes us, and number two because they agree with our prognostications.
Happy holidays everyone. We will have some festival reviews upcoming. Until then…
Apparel brands seem to work in seasons. In January, we pointed you towards the fact that three sneaker brands were all doing similar things in the same month in the same venue. HERE.
American workwear brand Dickies has been active in the music space for a couple of years now. We first saw the brand activate at the 2009 Modern Sky Festival in Beijing, providing t-shirts to the staff and having some stall/ shop presence.
Now they are going a little bigger, working on a short tour with Modern Sky bands Queen Sea Big Shark and Life Journey.
Sep 10 Nanjing 61 house
Sep 11 Shanghai MAO
Sep 12 Hangzhou Code-space
There isn’t too much original about this – QSBS have been heavily associated with other bands, Converse particularly. The timing is also somewhat unfortunate as it runs almost parallel with another very similar activation by Puma, who are touring Mavis and her 100% band, to the same venue in Shanghai the day before.
9/10 Shanghai Mao: Mavis, Bigger Bang, Sonnet, etc
9/18 Beijing Star Live Mavis, Bigger Bang, Steely Heart, Dude
One pair of Puma shoes plus T-shirt gets 2 free tickets. No tickets at the door.
There is lots of potential in this space, but consumers need new and creative concepts, rather than retreads and remakes…
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
Usually, it’s Beijing’s bands and venues that get the international headlines. The Guardian, BBC, PRS, New York Times, Wall Street Journal have all got in on the act of calling Beijing the new “(insert name here)”.
Perhaps it is a sign of the times and the bands and venues that are now taking up the mantle in China’s financial hub, but the Miami Herald have just written a surprisingly well researched two pager into Shanghai’s underground. Of course, prompted by Expo, but hey, Shanghai’s musicians deserve some loving.
You can read all about it HERE.
UPDATE: a great little review of the actual showcase (which we missed) at our friends Layabozi HERE.
As reported HERE, Beijing based label Maybe Mars have been in Austin for the last week at the biggest festival for emerging artists, SXSW. Label stars PK14, Carsick Cars and AV Okubo played a bunch of day shows which culminated in a showcase at the Speakeasy on Saturday night, which attracted in excess of 300 people. We caught tour manager, publicist and label jack-of-all-trades Nevin Domer very briefly after the Houston show last night (which was unfortunately less well attended at around 30 pax). We will try and precis our scattered conversation and give you an insight to the tour so far: