Shanghai’s international music scene hits the rocks
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.
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