A Quick Recap of Mesh Hub Day 2
The big event on the schedule was Diplo at The Mixing Room on Saturday night. But somehow we couldn’t be convinced to schlep over to Pudong for that one. The next day we headed over to KIN to check out Day 2 of the “MESH HUB” talks.
We arrived to find that the sessions were running two hours behind schedule. Perhaps some of the planned speakers were a bit worse-for-the-wear after Diplo the previous night.
We caught most of the Demo Listening Session, in which we got to listen to some fresh new tracks from six or seven Shanghai-based artists, followed by feedback from a panel of four industry folks: Conrank (DJ/Producer), Gaz Williams (Co-owner/promoter at Shelter), Jake Newby (Music Editor at Time Out Shanghai and Kungfuology.com), and Sondra Chaikin (CEO of Premiere Artists Group). Fred Hu from Acupuncture Records (who popped up on a different panel later in the day) and someone named Chunqi were also scheduled to be on the panel, but apparently didn’t make it.
First of all, big ups to all the artists who had the balls to put your demos on display for a room of 30-odd people. That must have been intimidating.
We like the concept of a listening/feedback session, and some of the panelists (most notably Conrank due to his production experience) were able to offer excellent, insightful feedback on a technical level. But the session would have been improved if the panelists had been able to listen to the tracks a few days in advance, instead of listening for the first time and trying to critique on the fly.
In the next session, “Hostess with the Mostess,” MESH organizer Jane Siesta interviewed a group of five promoters: Nikki Li (S.T.D.), Gaz Williams (Shelter/Uprooted Sunshine), Mark Elliot (JZ Music), and Elvis T. and Fred Hu, both of Acupuncture; both down from Beijing). Here’s some key takeaways:
- JZ’s Mark Elliot said that organizers of music festivals in China need to take the long view if they want their events to be profitable. Organisers can’t expect to make money from ticket sales alone; sponsorship is a necessary piece of the puzzle. And Mark pointed out that attracting sponsors takes time: Shanghai’s JZ Festival has been running for 7 years and has taken this long to solidify its reputation and start attracting some serious attention from brands. As Mark says: “The first year of running a festival, you need to proive to yourself that you’re able to pull it off. Then you need to prove this to artists. Ten to the government. And then finally to sponsors.”
- Shelter’s Gaz Williams has the luxury of actually owning the venue where he promotes his events. Meaning that he can take a risk on booking lesser known acts, because he’s relying on the entire venue/bar for his income, not promotion alone
- The panelists agreed that online promotion is trickier in China than in the West. Whereas in the West, Facebook is the clear dominant social platform, in China social media is more segmented, so promoters ignore Sina Weibo / Douban / Kaixin / Renren / etc. at their peril. Must spend time canvassing all the various online forums. Acupuncture’s Elvis T. emphasized that hosting regular events and keeping the content flowing online is an essential part of keeping a promoter top-of-mind for consumers.
- Panelists also agreed that, compared to more developed music scenes, messaging to promote to a Shanghai audience doesn’t need to be so sophisticated. Most people care about being at the hot party of the weekend, regardless of what the music is like.
- In a way, this means that promoters in Shanghai actually have quite a bit of freedom to get people excited about a relatively unknown artists. The lack of caring about who the artist is means that it may actually be easier in Shanghai (compared to, say, London) to get a swarm of people to turn out for an unknown artist, because here a promoter can “sell” punters on a sexy message/flyer design, instead of relying on the artist’s name alone.
So, MESH. In summation, it was a laudable, ambitious, and generally awesome undertaking, and one that could have had a bit more structure, but it’s a music industry conference and you know how we slobs are. We give the organizers a round of applause for starting the panels a mere two hours late, instead of four or five. Also, we got a cute little MESH tote bag with the price of admission! Looking forward to more meshiness in the future…