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Market Report: Hong Kong

The annual guide to the global live entertainment ticketing business
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Hong Kong suffered for three long years due to political unrest and extended Covid restrictions, but since all restrictions were lifted in March 2023, its entertainment scene has seen an incredible bounce back with an unprecedented run of sold-out concerts and festivals.

The public’s concerns regarding the imposition of a new National Security Law have not materialised, and artists are freely touring throughout Hong Kong (where venue availability allows). Hong Kong’s biggest limiting factor has been its shortage of venues, but the opening of Kai Tak Sports Park next year will do much to alleviate this, as will other venues set to come online over the coming months.

Concerts remain popular and in demand, with a strong fanbase for most genres of music. “In March 2023, Clockenflap Festival (headlined by the Artic Monkeys) sold out for the first time in the festival’s 13-year history,” says Martin Haigh of Total Ticketing. “It showed that Clockenflap and Hong Kong can still attract the world’s biggest artists. And they’re doing it again in December 2023 – twice in one year is unprecedented.”

Hong Kong’s biggest limiting factor has been its shortage of venues.

Primary ticketing

With so much upheaval in the live entertainment sector, the ticketing landscape has been somewhat in flux – there are now four major ticketing companies. The most important operator remains URBTIX, the government-run ticketing company that services all Hong Kong government venues – such as the HK Coliseum – and is managed by the LCSD [Leisure & Cultural Services Department).

URBTIX is powered by a third-party supplier and much was made of their decision to switch from Cityline to Maoyan (a ticketing service provider from China), a transition that was due to be implemented in Q4 of 2022 – this transition remains delayed, and it’s unsure when it will actually happen.

The other three significant operators are Hong Kong Ticketing, Ticketflap, and Cityline. Ticketflap has been experimenting with dynamic pricing over the last year or so – something the rest of the B2C ticketing service providers don’t offer yet.

The most important operator remains URBTIX, the government-run ticketing company that services all Hong Kong government venues.

What will be interesting to note is who gets the Kai Tak Sports Park retail agreement. Due to open in early 2024, the major new complex features a 50,000-capacity stadium, 10,000-capacity arena, and a 5,000-capacity outdoor sports track.

Elsewhere, Haigh says Total Ticketing has a number of large venues and ticketing providers in Hong Kong and Macau switching to its system later this year.

Secondary ticketing

The reselling of tickets is a murky topic in Hong Kong – while the laws and definitions remain unclear, reselling is
popular yet often goes unpunished. “Technically, it’s illegal,” says Haigh, “but nothing much is done about it.” Anyone who sells, offers for sale, or solicits the purchase of tickets at a price exceeding the face value is liable to a fine of HKD2,000 (circa €236). But the law has remained unchanged since 1950 and is hardly a deterrent.

Some organisers have tried to combat reselling directly.

Some organisers have tried to combat reselling directly. Back in July 2022, the company putting on a show by MIRROR, the hugely popular Hong Kong Cantopop boy group, implemented a “Real Name Authentication” rule that required buyers to register with URBTIX and Hong Kong Ticketing with their real legal names, which were printed on the tickets – staff then crosschecked this name with people’s official Hong Kong ID card before entry.

But, says Haigh, this was a one-off and has not been repeated since, possibly due to 70% of the inventory being allocated to sponsors, fan-clubs, and a credit card presale, with only 30% sold with Real Name Authentication through general on sale.

Distribution of sales
Digital ticketing now accounts for about 70% of total sales, up 10% from last year’s figures, driven mainly by younger generations attending shows of the latest pop acts. Fan tickets bought as souvenirs remain very niche, and most sporting events – and the arenas and stadiums hosting them– have adapted to the new paperless reality.

Digital ticketing now accounts for about 70% of total sales.

International/domestic splits & genres

When it comes to shows, Canto/J-pop/K-pop is unsurprisingly hugely popular and influential, but international pop stars are also a big draw – alongside Clockenflap, The Strokes and Cigarettes After Sex have played huge shows recently, while autumn 2023 boasts Anna of the North, Charlie Puth, and Shi Fu Miz Festival.

Cultural analysis

While Hong Kong used to frequently top lists of must-see destinations in Asia and remains a vibrant, multicultural city, its international credentials have been weakened by the aforementioned social unrest, government protests, and Covid. Interestingly, Taylor Swift – just like Harry Styles and Coldplay – is skipping Hong Kong altogether for her Eras tour, preferring instead to play six shows in Singapore’s 55,000 capacity National Stadium.

The reasons for not touring Hong Kong are unclear – some have cited the new national security laws, while others have highlighted that the Taylor Swift, Coldplay, and Harry Styles concerts were all staged or will play in large-capacity stadiums, and the only stadium in Hong Kong is currently being decommissioned.

It’s highly likely that the new and centrally located national stadium at the Kai Tak Sports Park will be able to cater to arena and stadium tours and will be attractive to A-Listers.

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