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Modern Sky plans virtual version of China’s biggest festival

Chinese powerhouse Modern Sky Entertainment is planning to launch a virtual edition of its Strawberry Music Festival.

Launched in 2010, the annual event takes place across cities in China each spring. The Beijing edition is the largest music festival in the country.

The digital version of the festival will feature digital versions of real-life artists, as well as wholly virtual artists from Modern Sky’s new virtual artist label No Problem.

Virtual idols have been thriving in China over the years, with its market value reaching 3.46 billion yuan (US$540 million) in 2020, up 70.3% from the previous year, according to the consultancy group iiMedia. The metaverse hype was expected to push its market value to nearly 107.49 bn yuan ($16.8 bn) in 2021.

Modern Sky revealed that developing virtual artists will be a key part of its strategy for 2022 along with organising virtual music festivals and selling original digital works in the form of NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

Thc company, launched in 1997, already comprises a number of sub-labels, covering music publishing, artist management, live music, visual and product design, retail and performance venues, recording and production, media, design hotels and other sectors.

Tencent Music last month launched TMELAND – dubbed ‘China’s first interactive virtual music festival’

Modern Sky isn’t the only Chinese entertainment conglomerate making moves in the music metaverse. Tencent Music last month launched TMELAND – dubbed ‘China’s first interactive virtual music festival’.

The Chinese tech giant is also planning to acquire gaming smartphone manufacturer Black Shark in a move that could help the company build its own metaverse.

The company already owns a stake in video game company Epic Games – the maker of Fortnite which has hosted virtual concerts from the likes of  Travis ScottAriana GrandeMarshmello, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5, Easy Life and J. Balvin.

The company also entered into a strategic partnership with Roblox, in May 2019, in which Tencent holds a 49% stake. Last year, Tencent filed for two Metaverse-related trademarks.

Modern Sky and Tencent follow in the footsteps of Decentraland and Roblox which have helped pave the way for festivals in the metaverse.

Virtual blockchain-based world Decentraland hosted the ‘world’s first multi-day festival in the metaverse’ last October.

In that same month, Roblox and event promoter Insomniac, meanwhile, brought one of the largest electronic music festivals in the world – Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) – to the metaverse.


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Beijing’s music industry to be worth $17bn by 2025

The Beijing municipal government has unveiled plans to position the city as an “international music capital”, aiming for revenue from the Chinese capital’s music and related industries to reach ¥120 billion (US$17.2bn) by 2025.

The city, which generated ¥60bn, or $8.6bn, from its music industry in 2017 according to government officials, is to become the “global centre of Chinese music”.

The proposal calls for Beijing to build more small-sized live music venues, offer artists better copyright protections and increase development of its digital music industry.

The government guidelines also encourages innovation in music technology, including AI composition and “musical emotional recognition”. Separate plans will now be drawn up for the implementation of the policy.

According to a recent report by the China Music Industry Forum, the country’s music industry was worth more than ¥370bn ($53bn) in 2019, up 8% year-on-year.

“Interest in the local market has skyrocketed in recent years”

Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, has also been designated an “international music capital” by the government.

Kyle Bagley, owner of Chinese music industry marketing agency Groove Dynasty, told the South China Morning Post that government support could greatly benefit local musicians.

“Interest in the local market has skyrocketed in recent years, and with the success of the country’s home-grown music streaming platforms and growth in the live music sector, an initiative like this could help bring more money and stability to the budding industry, and increase interest from overseas in a major way,” says Bagley.

Dave Pichilingi, CEO of the UK and US division of Chinese entertainment company Modern Sky, is another to note the international potential for the Chinese music market. Speaking to IQ in July, Pichilingi said the level of opportunity is “especially huge” in China, although it currently remains “a relatively untapped marketplace” internationally.

Tencent, a leader in the Chinese entertainment and tech space, last week led a consortium in the acquisition of a 10% in Universal Music Group, in a deal which valued UMG at €30bn.


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Line-up finalised for inaugural Grammy Festival China

The final line-up has been announced for the inaugural Grammy Festival, set to debut in Beijing next month.

Taking the stage at Changyang Music Theme Park in Fangshan, Beijing, on 30 April will be Grammy Award-winners Phoenix, Daya and Macy Gray, as well as 11-time winner Pharrell Willians, along with Grammy nominees OneRepublic, James Bay and Carly Rae Jepsen.

The festival – a partnership between Grammys organiser the Recording Academy and local firms Bravo Entertainment and China Music Vision – was announced last August as a new “touring, world-class live music experience”, and follows the partners’ previous collaboration on China’s first Grammy Museum.

“The Grammy Festival in China will bring together Grammy-nominated and Grammy-winning artists with the extraordinary Chinese culture to provide audiences with a unique, unrivalled live music experience,” said Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow at the launch.

“China continues to expand and grow its role as a force in attracting and engaging more artists onto international stages, and we are excited to be a part of that.”


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Esports giant trying its hand at concert promotion

Riot Games, the developer of esports mainstay League of Legends (LoL), is to stage a concert featuring music from the game ahead of next month’s League of Legends World Championship 2017 final.

Dubbed League of Legends Live: A Concert Experience, the show will include performances from both international artists and amateur “League of Legends community musicians”, with headliners including Norwegian producer Alan Walker (whose song ‘Faded’ features in the game), metal band Pentakill and DJ duo Mako.

The concert will take place at Beijing National Aquatics Center (17,000-cap.) on 3 November, on the eve of the Championship final, which will pit either SK Telecom T1 (South Korea) or Royal Never Give Up (China) against Samsung Galaxy (S. Korea) or World Elite (China). Prize money currently stands at more than US$5m, with $2.13m pledged by Riot and more than $3m by fans.

League of Legends Live will be streamed live at watch.na.lolesports.com and on the game’s Facebook page.

Esports, or competitive videogaming, is becoming an increasingly hot property in live entertainment for its ability to fill stadia with thousands of fans who have little interest in concerts. Madison Square Garden Company and AEG in the US, TEG in Australia and France’s Vivendi all have business interests in esports, as a growing number of promoters and other music businesses seek to claim a slice of the pie.

The global esports market is predicted to be worth US$1.1bn by 2019.


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Venue, vidi, vici

… But with expectations among the ticket-buying public now higher than ever, it’s perhaps not surprising that the venues that host concerts and events now have to be as eye-catching as the shows themselves. Eamonn Forde highlights ten of the most innovative building designs


National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing

It took six years and ¥2.7bn (€365m) to build this 5,452-capacity venue (split across three rooms, the biggest of which holds 2,416 people) and it opened for business in December 2007. Unsurprisingly, it is known locally as the ‘Giant Egg’, as if an enormous robot chicken marched across China and laid it there. It is constructed from titanium-accented glass and is surrounded by an artificial lake (the reflection from the water giving the building – which really looks like a computer mouse – its ovum shape).

Given its nickname, it’s the perfect place for rock bands to play their new albumen (sorry).



Harpa Concert Hall, Reykjavik
Sitting on the very lip of Europe and staring across the desperately cold waters of the North Atlantic, Harpa opened for business in 2011 and cost €164m to build – which is probably about the same price as a round of drinks in the Icelandic capital today. As it was nearing completion, the Icelandic financial crisis was unspooling in the background, so it’s incredible that it was actually completed.

It holds up to 1,800 people in the main hall, as well as being a focal point of Iceland Airwaves. In stark contrast to the genteel and low-rise feel of most of central Reykjavik, it looks like Escher let loose with glass Lego.


Read the rest of this feature in issue 70 of IQ Magazine

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Risqué performance sparks Beijing venue crackdown

Beijing’s grassroots music scene is under siege as authorities crack down on its live venues following a performance by controversial, frequently topless poet Lin Ce.

Dusk Dawn Club (DDC), the venue which hosted Lin (whose NFSW art tackles issues around body image and body-shaming), was temporarily shuttered by police and its owner, known only as ’69’, detained. It has since reopened, reports Reuters.

New venue Modernsky Lab is also reportedly under investigation, although it was allowed to remain open.

Those working in China’s live music scene frequently come into conflict with the communist state’s censors, which target references to nudity, sex, drugs and religion in addition to political content

Elsewhere, the MAO Livehouse – which has been forced to close by Beijing’s ever-increasing rents – was ordered to postpone its farewell gigs, while those planning to attend showcase festival and conference Sound of the Xity were refunded the cost of their tickets without explanation, and a number of shows (some planned for DDC) were rescheduled and moved to another club, Tango.

Those working in China’s live music scene frequently come into conflict with the communist state’s censors, which target references to nudity, sex, drugs and religion in addition to political content.

Lamenting the loss of many of Beijing’s venues, Lai Jinrong, a guitarist with heavy metal band Logic Out of Control, tells Reuters: “I think that rock and roll and metal in China began to die before they reached maturity.”

Rising rents force MAO Livehouse out of business

Beijing venue the MAO Livehouse (no connection to this chap) is to close later this month.

Qian ‘Jide’ Zhiyuan, the Beijing Livehouse’s booker, tells The Beijinger that its last gig be on 24 April and feature three local acts: The Voice of China star Li Wenqi, indie rock group Escape Plan and post-punk band Residence A.

Li Chi, the founder of the MAO group, which also operates music venues in Shanghai, Kunming and Chongqing, revealed in December that the 800-capacity venue was threatened by rising rents in Beijing.

Another Beijing bar, nightclub and venue, The Den, was forced to close in December by its landlord, the People’s Armed Police gendarmery, which objected to the property being used for commercial purposes.

International artists who have played the MAO Livehouse include Frank Turner, PiL, Massive Attack, The Lumineers, Friendly Fires, Battles, !!! and Nouvelle Vague.