We have just seen the semi triumphant return of super rock/ metal/ rap/ electronica act Linkin Park at Shanghai Stadium. You can read our review of it HERE. Sure enough, Linkin Park have sold more concert tickets in China than any other international artist, and many people will put that down to marketing efforts by the promoters since 2007, and in part this is true. But in reality, the push for this band started 6 years ago. We spoke to the man who made it his mission to get Linkin Park to China. Huang Feng (黄烽) who was Warner’s marketing guy way back in 2003.
the RADAR: Tell us the story of the origins of the “Bring Linkin Park to China” campaign
HF: We chose Linkin Park because they were Warner Music’s global priority back in 2003.
We had an idea that Linkin Park was very popular with Chinese kids, and never had a big international band of their stature come to China for a live show.
When we decided to release and promote the album Meteora in China, it had already been released in the States for more than a year and pirated versions were available in the black market. We knew that Linkin Park fans had certainly already downloaded the album from internet or bought a pirated CD. So our problem was how to attract others to buy a non-pirated legal copy, while also keeping in consideration the difference in price. After all, these fans are mainly young kids who are very price sensitive. So we arrived at a good concept for the campaign, which basically was to ask Linkin Park fans the question:
“If you like Linkin Park and already have the [pirated] album, you are not our enemy. But do you want to see their live show? As a record label, we will not be able to convince bands to tour a market if there are no legal sales of their album.”
This is the reasoning that tied whole campaign together.
Secondly, we created a card insert for the CD on which fans could write about why they like Linkin Park and send back to the label. We would report on the number of cards we received to the label and the band in the U.S. We promoted this campaign in all media specifically radio shows.
None of what we did had ever been tried before with an international band release in China. Additionally, we organized some events at record stores for Linkin Park fans to come and buy the CDs and then record short video messages for the band. We recorded what the fans said and took the video footage to the Warner regional marketing team. They all loved it, and decided to support the campaign further. The video messages were shown to the band, who were surprised and loved what we were doing for them. After that, everything for the campaign was smooth. This sort of thing must have the support of the band [if it is to work].
After we received the band’s support, we continued with a normal marketing plan for the album. Unusual at that time was for the China office of a record label to have direct contact with an international band. So I decided to upgrade the campaign. Our work had really only just begun – we had a long way to go before we could even think about the band actually coming to China. So we offered a lucky draw – anyone who bought an original album and filled out the comment card and sent to us had a chance to win a trip to see Linkin Park play in Korea. In the end we sent 3 lucky draw winners to Korea for the show and to meet the band.
the RADAR: What was the actual benefit to the label?
HF: The whole campaign connected “Bring Linkin Park to China” with record sales directly. We sold 100,000 copies of the Meteora album during that period. This was unprecedented for an international album in China. The fans who went to meet the band in Korea brought them a gift: a huge banner (4×6 meters) filled with signatures from fans in China. The band was shocked and this left a lasting impression with them. Linkin Park signed their own names on the banner and then took a photo of it. The photo is included in the album artwork for worldwide release of the Live in Texas CD/DVD.
Our campaign was across the release of these two albums. Normally a live CD would never sell as well as a regular album. But the live album in this case also sold 100,000 copies. We continued the campaign and although the band still hadn’t come to China, after we sent the fans to Korea to meet them they expressed their interest in coming.
Even though several years have passed since the campaign and a lot of other international bands have been to China in the interim, Chinese music fans still haven’t had the chance to see a great live show by an international band (ED: I’m sure Beyonce fans would disagree!). Really there are so few good chances. So I think promoters and record labels should work closely together to develop the market. I think our biggest aim should be to bring more good live shows to China.
As I think back over it, I feel very happy. When Linkin Park finally made it to China in 2007, most of the fans at the show had never actually experienced any real live rock show. And Linkin Park performed for 140 minutes and the fans stood and danced from the moment they entered the stadium until the very end.