Shang­hai’s in­ter­na­tional mu­sic scene hits the rocks

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE ARTS - MU QIAN

Two months ago, when Shang­hai was set to host Metallica, Korn, Limp Bizkit and Aero­smith in Au­gust, it seemed the city was set to be­come a world-class city for rock mu­sic. Es­pe­cially when the Metallica con­cert sold out within 10 min­utes. The tick­ets, which ranged from 480 yuan to 1,680 yuan ($77-$271), were later scalped for prices as high as 8,000 yuan.

En­cour­aged by the pas­sion of Chi­nese au­di­ences, the lo­cal pro­moter per­suaded Metallica to add a sec­ond show. How­ever, the sec­ond con­cert did not sell as well as the first. Be­fore the two con­certs on Aug 13 and 14, there were on­line posts dis­cussing trad­ing tick­ets, but now you could buy tick­ets for prices lower than for what they orig­i­nally sold for.

It was ru­mored that af­ter the con­certs opened, pun­ters could buy tick­ets from scalpers for 50 yuan — a sharp con­trast to the ear­lier sit­u­a­tion.

While this may be good news for fans who en­joyed cheap tick­ets and the scalpers who got in early and made a profit, the dis­or­der in tick­ets man­age­ment has long ar­rested the healthy de­vel­op­ment of show busi­ness in China and will likely con­tinue to do so.

The Mercedes-Benz Arena where Metallica per­formed has 18,000 seats, but the ac­tual num­ber of tick­ets avail­able was sub­stan­tially less. It is an open se­cret in China that con­cert pro­mot­ers have to give a large num­ber of tick­ets to govern­ment de­part­ments, es­pe­cially those who deal with cul­tural af­fairs, pub­lic se­cu­rity, and fire con­trol.

It is not dif­fi­cult to guess where those 50-yuan tick­ets come from. On the one hand, the limited num­ber of tick­ets for sale made the pro­moter set higher prices. On the other hand, com­pli­men­tary tick­ets that flow into the black mar­ket dis­turb the nor­mal mar­ket­ing of events.

Imag­ine how you would feel if you paid 1,680 yuan for a ticket but later dis­cover you could get in for 50 yuan. If this hap­pened to me, I prob­a­bly would not buy a ticket through le­gal chan­nels the next time, but in­stead wait out­side the venue at the last minute.

This was prob­a­bly what hap­pened to the Aero­smith con­cert. The band was sup­posed to per­form in Shang­hai on Aug 21. Two days be­fore, fans who had pur­chased tick­ets were in­formed that the show would be can­celed. No ex­pla­na­tion was given, ex­cept “due to emer­gency rea­son”.

Aero­smith an­nounced on their of­fi­cial web­site that they were forced to can­cel the con­cert be­cause the lo­cal pro­moter was “un­able to meet con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions”.

The show was sup­posed to hap­pen at the 24,000-seat Hongkou Soc­cer Sta­dium, but only 5,000 tick­ets had been sold, ac­cord­ing to Shang­hai mu­sic critic Sun Mengjin. He as­sumes this to be the rea­son why the pro­moter de­cided to can­cel the con­cert at the last minute to avoid a box-of­fice smashup.

But who will com­pen­sate the fans who bought the tick­ets, many of whom don’t live in Shang­hai but had asked for leave and booked their air or train tick­ets and ho­tels?

Some an­a­lysts say that given the two Metallica con­certs on Aug 13 and 14, and the two-day Sonic Shang­hai fes­ti­val (which pre­sented Korn and Limp Bizkit) on 17 and 18, the Shang­hai mar­ket of in­ter­na­tional rock mu­sic couldn’t af­ford the Aero­smith con­cert. Sonic Shang­hai was largely a fail­ure, as the sta­dium was mostly empty.

“It is prob­a­bly a good thing for Shang­hai that the Aero­smith con­cert got can­celed, so that Shang­hai won’t be­come a Water­loo for in­ter­na­tional stars,” a pro­moter friend of mine wrote on her weibo mi­croblog.

The most in­ter­na­tion­al­ized Chi­nese city, Shang­hai is the best choice for tour­ing mu­si­cians if they plan to have a show in China. How­ever, with­out im­prove­ment in China’s arts pol­icy and man­age­ment, it is un­likely acts will flock to Shang­hai.

Con­tact the writer at muqian@chi­

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