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K-pop festival Waterbomb splashes into new markets

Touring K-pop festival series Waterbomb Festival is expanding to several global markets this year, with new editions set for the US, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Taiwan, the UAE, Singapore, and China.

Set to kick off this May in Xiamen, China, the international series will take water-soaked stars to Hong Kong in June before touring South Korea and Japan in July and more cities across both, plus Singapore, in August. A Bangkok edition has been set for September, with stints in Los Angeles, Ho Chi Minh City, Taipei, and Dubai to be announced.

First held in 2015 in Seoul, South Korea, the festival series first expanded to new markets in 2023 with two editions in Japan and one in Bangkok. This year, the series will visit nine cities in South Korea, four in Japan, and one in Thailand, along with the new editions.

The event was launched by Hong Kong-based streaming platform Viu and Singapore-based Evergreen Group Holdings, with local promoters helping bring it to new territories.

The K-pop genre continues to soar to new hights and into new markets

As the name suggests, Waterbomb intertwines various water activities alongside local and international lineups of K-pop, hip-hop, and EDM performers. Though lineups vary by city, performers include K-pop supergroup TWICE’s Nayeon, American rapper Jay Park, and SHINEE’s Taemin, and South Korean singers Hwasa, Chung Ha, and Bibi, among a variety of others. Former performers include Blackpink, aespa, Simon Dominic, and Jessi.

The K-pop genre continues to soar to new heights and into new markets, with behemoth HYBE reporting its concert revenue skyrocketed by 40% in 2023, reaching KRW 359.1 billion (€253m) in the year. Last autumn, fellow agency SM Entertainment announced its Q3 revenue surged 40% year-on-year, partly attributed to their star’s expansive world tours.

KCON, the world’s biggest K-pop and culture convention, also expanded to a fifth region this year, adding Hong Kong to its 2024 lineup of Japan, Los Angeles, Saudia Arabia, and to-be-announced Europe.

The 2024 schedule is as follows:

May
18-18: Xiamen, China

June
1-2: Hong Kong

July
5-7: Seoul, South Korea
13: Jeju, South Korea
13: Fukuoka, Japan
20: Daegu, South Korea
27: Busan, South Korea
27-28: Tokyo, Japan

August
3: Incheon, South Korea
10: Daejeon, South Korea
10: Osaka, Japan
17: Sokcho, South Korea
17: Nagoya, Japan
24: Suwon, South Korea
24-25: Singapore, Singapore
31: Gwangju, South Korea

September
TBA: Bangkok

TBA
Los Angeles, United States
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Taipei, Taiwan
Dubai, United Arab Emirates

 


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El Salvador to build largest stadium in Central America

El Salvador has broken ground on a new 52,000-capacity stadium, set to be the largest in Central America.

The US$100 million venue, developed by the Chinese government, will host El Salvador’s national football team along with other events, such as concerts by international artists.

Located to the west of the capital city, San Salvador, the new Estadio Nacional stadium is being built in the municipality of Antiguo Cuscatlán on land currently occupied by the Capitán General Gerardo Barrios military school.

The new stadium, expected to be complete in early 2027, will replace Estadio Cuscatlán, which opened in July 1976 but is now limited to a capacity of 34,000 due to regulations from world football’s governing body, FIFA.

“We are laying the first stone of what will be the most modern stadium in Latin America”

Estadio Nacional will also offer parking space for 1,400 vehicles, with the wider complex to include two basketball courts and another football pitch.

“We are laying the first stone of what will be the most modern stadium in Latin America and the largest stadium in all of Central America,” El Salvador president Nayib Bukele told local newspaper El Mundo.

In January 2022, it was revealed that China would continue its ‘stadium diplomacy’ strategy by helping to develop a new national stadium for El Salvador.

Bukele called the partnership “a testament to the friendship between the governments of China and El Salvador”.

 


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Alibaba acquires Damai to expand live events biz

Alibaba Group’s movie division is paying US$167m to take a majority stake in Pony Media Holdings, the parent company of promoter Damai, which produces concerts, festivals, theatrical events, exhibitions, and sporting events across mainland China.

The South China Morning Post reports that Alibaba Pictures filed details of the deal with Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX). The news outlet is also owned by Alibaba.

The filing states that the acquisition will allow the expansion of the “upstream presence of the Damai brand in the live entertainment industry value chain, such as events production and promotion, venue operation and artist management.”

Damai has more than 100 million registered customers, paving the way for Alibaba Pictures to “further build brand awareness for its offline entertainment business.”

For the quarter ending June 2023, Pony Media sales totalled CNY4 billion (US$547m), surpassing the CNY3 billion (US$410m) achieved for the previous full financial year

The filing adds, “The target group is considered a strategically valuable asset to the company, diversifying [our] revenue structure into live entertainment and expanding IP monetisation channels.

“The acquisition will also strengthen the company’s competitive position by consolidating customer resources and industry expertise from the target company.”

Despite Pony Media reporting net losses over the last three financial years, Alibaba believes that the company has turned a corner post-pandemic, noting that “it has recently witnessed a material recovery in the business.”

Indeed, for the quarter ending June 2023, Pony Media sales totalled CNY4 billion (US$547m), surpassing the CNY3 billion (US$410m) achieved for the previous full financial year, which ended in March 2023.

Alibaba Pictures president, Jie Li, comments, “We believe this transaction heralds a new chapter for the new Alibaba Pictures. Before today’s announcement, we had already established a deep connection with Damai through our exclusive service agreement, and accumulated over 20 million Taomai VIP members to date.

“Following the transaction, we will strive to integrate our resources, expand a presence along the industry value chain, drive development through technology innovation, and ultimately create value to our customers and shareholders.”

In 2017, Alibaba acquired a stake in Damai.cn, thought to be China’s market-leading ticketing agency.

 


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International K-pop festival transported to China

International K-pop festival HallyuPopFest will be exported to China this October, following editions in Singapore, Sydney and London.

The China debut will take place on 21 and 22 October at Wynn Palace, a five-star hotel situated in Macau (informally known as the ‘Las Vegas of Asia’).

NCT Dream and SHINee – both South Korean boy bands formed by SM Entertainment – will headline the Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Hyolyn, Sam Kim, Omega X and Nine to Six will also perform on the first day, while Kard, Verivery, Cherry Bullet and H1-Key join Sunday’s lineup.

“This annual K-pop festival has rapidly become a global sensation”

Attendees can expect an on-site Hallyu Town, as well as red carpet and meet & greet events in addition to the concerts, according the festival’s website. At the time of publishing, HallyuPopFest has yet to release ticketing details.

“Music tourism is on the rise around the world, and this annual K-pop festival has rapidly become a global sensation,” says Linda Chen, president and vice chairman of the company behind Wynn Palace.

“By hosting major international music festivals such as these at Wynn Palace, our goal is to put Macau on the map as a top-tier destination for international events.”

HallyuPopFest first debuted in 2018 with a three-day event in Singapore, before returning to the city-state the following year.

The festival has since expanded beyond Asia, and held its first UK and Australian events in London and Sydney in 2022.

HallyuPopFest is the latest festival brand to be transplanted in China after 88rising recently revealed plans to launch Head in the Clouds festival in Guangzhou this September.

 


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Live Nation launches Chinese festival first

Live Nation has teamed up with Chinese entertainment company Twenty Eight Group to launch the world’s first multi-city contemporary Chinese music and arts festival.

CCURRENTT will take place in London, Los Angeles and Sydney this October and November to showcase top talent from genres such as C-pop, Chinese hip-hop and Chinese rock, including headliners Jolin Tsai, BEAUZ, Digi Ghetto (Mac Ova Seas, Mula Sakee, Thomeboydontkill), DXX, GALI and The Life Journey.

The festival is the brainchild of Twenty Eight Group and Live Nation Electronic Asia MD Jim Wong, and will stop at London’s OVO Arena Wembley (15 October), Los Angeles’ The Torch (28 October) and Sydney Showground in Olympic Park (26 November).

Wong was previously responsible for bringing Creamfields and international DJs to China, and is stepping up his efforts to drive the expansion of the Chinese music scene internationally.

“CCURRENTT is a chance for Chinese-music fans to immerse themselves in China’s trending music scene abroad”

“CCURRENTT is a chance for Chinese-music fans to immerse themselves in China’s trending music scene abroad in a world-first event spanning both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres,” he says. “As the global leader in live entertainment, no one is better positioned than Live Nation to drive the growth of Asian artists both domestically and on global stages.”

Elsewhere, Live Nation and its Queensland-based joint venture partner Secret Sounds have secured a new partnership with Vodafone to give customers presale access to select live music shows in Australia.

First up, Vodafone customers will get exclusive presale access for tickets to see The Weeknd touring Australia in November 2023, with more local and international superstar artists to be announced. Live Nation and Secret Sounds have recently toured artists including Harry Styles, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dua Lipa, Billie Eilish, Gorillaz, The 1975 and Kendrick Lamar.

“It’s a great time for Vodafone to establish a major partnership in music with the demand for concerts and festivals at record levels”

Vodafone customers will also have the chance to win curated live music experiences, such as a backstage pass, “rockstar treatment” or meeting their favourite artists.

“Our research tells us that music is the leading passion point for many Australians,” says Greg Segal, president brand & marketing partnerships ANZ, Live Nation. “Through our partnership, Vodafone will provide unrivalled experiences for its customers by offering them exclusive access to Australia’s most anticipated live acts. It’s a great time for Vodafone to establish a major partnership in music with the demand for concerts and festivals at record levels.”

As part of the new partnership, Vodafone will also support the next generation of Australian musicians as the presenting partner of Ones to Watch, Live Nation’s discovery platform for emerging artists, which has played a role in the careers of Dua Lipa, Halsey, LANY, and LÉON, among others.

“We’re thrilled to partner with Live Nation and bring our customers closer to the music acts they love,” adds Kieren Cooney, group executive, TPG Telecom. “With live events and experiences in huge demand, and fans eager to see their favourite artists more than ever before, we’re offering Vodafone customers first access to tickets and unforgettable experiences with the musicians that they love.”

 


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Head in the Clouds festival to launch in China

Asian-American music powerhouse 88rising is launching Head in the Clouds festival in China this September.

The expansion follows successful editions in Los Angeles (US), Jakarta (Indonesia), Manila (Philippines) and most recently, New York (US).

88rising today (24 July) confirmed that the China debut will take place in Guangzhou, a sprawling port city northwest of Hong Kong, on 23 and 24 September.

88rising todayconfirmed that the China debut will take place Guangzhou on 23 and 24 September

The venue and line-up are yet to be announced but as always, the festival will spotlight Asian acts. The likes of NIKI, Rich Brian, Warren Hue, Jackson Wang, eaJ, Joji, BIBI and Itzy have graced previous iterations of the festival.

88rising also announced that Head in the Clouds will return to Jakarta on 9 September for a second edition. Following that, 88rising will host a special showcase as part of the Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix on 15 September. Confirmed to perform so far are Jackson Wang, NIKI, Rich Brian, Warren Hue, XG, BIBI, MILLI and Atarashii Gakko!.

Meanwhile, the original LA event will return on 4 and 5 August at Brookside at The Rose Bowl with Rina Sawayama, DPR LIVE + DPR IAN, XG, YOASOBI and more.

 


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China’s live music market set for explosive growth

China’s live music business is set for explosive growth in 2023, even as the market grapples with a myriad of prevailing challenges.

Following extensive pandemic restrictions, the business is now seeing a major uptick in ticket sales, new events and fan demand.

In a recent report, the China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) predicted that the concert market’s box office will reach three billion yuan in the first half of 2023.

Damai, the largest entertainment ticketing website in China, revealed that, in February and March, its box office for concerts was up 127% compared to the same period in 2019.

Also in February and March, ticket buyers on the platform were up 87% and the volume of events on the platform tripled compared to the same period in 2019.

CAPA expects the number of concerts and music festivals to surpass those held in 2019 and predicts “explosive growth” in large-scale performance activities this year.

China’s festival market is also booming, with Damai selling tickets to 106 music festivals in February and March. The box office scale increased by 11 times compared with the same period in 2019.

Among the festivals selling well are Changzhou Taihu Bay Music Festival, Nanjing Midou Music Festival, Qingdao Phoenix Music Festival, Dalian LMF Music Festival and Guangzhou Ocean Wave Universe Music Festival.

Demand for music festivals is perhaps best evidenced by this year’s Labour Day celebrations, which took place across five days in early May and saw a whopping 40 music festivals take place across 19 providences.

CAPA expects the number of concerts and music festivals to surpass those held in 2019

This year saw the May Day festivals expand beyond major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Chengdu to smaller regions, from Changzhou in the eastern Jiangsu province to Guiyang in the southwestern Guizhou province.

However, the quality of the increased offering has come under fire from fans who have taken to social media to complain about inflated ticket prices, long lines for food and toilets, and a lack of diversity in lineups.

The median ticket price for a single-day performance during Labour Day celebrations was between 300 and 400 yuan ($43-$58). Among the highest-priced music festivals on the list was the Cactus Music Festival in the southwestern city of Chengdu, which cost 1,380 yuan for one-day VIP tickets and 1,800 yuan for two days.

On Xianyu, a second-hand platform, scalped tickets to the festival sold for nearly 2,000 yuan.

Aside from increased ticket prices, there has been an unusual spate of sudden cancellations or shutdowns across the country, according to Japan Times.

Last week, What the Folkstival outdoor concert was due to kick off in the early afternoon in a Beijing suburb near the airport, with 10 live acts, including foreign performers.

Before live music started, organisers announced that the police had ordered them to vacate the premises.

Organisers of the scrapped events issued apologies that are thin on detail, citing a variation of “unforeseen circumstances” or “force majeure” – a legal term to waive liability in the event of circumstances outside a supplier’s control.

In the Chinese context, it’s considered a euphemism for higher powers — police or other government bodies that enforce rules or apply pressure to stop activities deemed harmful to the state or society.

 


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China lifts some Covid restrictions on concerts

Mainland China is set to welcome back artists from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan – but restrictions remain on international acts will remain.

The Chinese ministry of culture and tourism says provincial departments can resume vetting and approving performance applications by entertainers from the regions from 16 February after the country lifted its “Zero-Covid” policy.

However, the South China Morning Post reports that the curbs will only be relaxed for foreign acts already on the mainland, with the ministry reminding departments to ensure effective pandemic control measures are implemented by event organisers.

Concerts have effectively been halted in China since the onset of Covid-19

Concerts have effectively been halted in China since the onset of Covid-19, with audiences required to abide by rules limiting interaction at the few performances permitted.

The ministry of culture and tourism previously implemented a centralised ticketing system for the country’s live performance sector in 2021.

All domestic ticketing systems for live performances — including music, dance, comedy, and plays — were linked to a national ticketing information management platform with unified standards for sales, distribution, and refunds.

The China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA), an industry body under the ministry that led the creation of the standards, said that their implementation would effectively curb scalpers as well as help monitor ticket sales and analyse the performance industry.

The platform was launched following criticism of some local and national vendors and event operators for setting aside tickets for “speculation and scalping”.

In an effort to curb such practices, the ministry of culture and tourism in 2017 introduced a new measure that required event operators to sell at least 70% of tickets for commercial performances directly to the public.

 


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Backstreet Boys livestream pulls in 45m viewers

A free livestream performance by the Backstreet Boys attracted a record-breaking 45 million viewers in China via Tencent’s WeChat app.

Broadcast last Friday (24 June), the two-hour show was recorded at Rock Lititz Studio, Pennsylvania, US. Sponsored by Lincoln and produced by 24/7 Productions, it reached 10m viewers within its first half hour and was the highest-attended livestream concert on the platform by an international artist.

The show incorporated a special guest appearance from Westlife, broadcast from Smock Alley in Dublin. Directed by Chris Howe and produced by online event promoter Driift, it enabled the two bands to duet on the Backstreet Boys’ hit I Want It That Way and Westlife’s My Love.

“Achieving this level of engagement in China is unprecedented for international artists”

It marked the second time Howe and Driift have collaborated with Westlife and their management for a WeChat livestream. The Irish group’s previous show, which took place in December 2021, attracted 28m viewers. On both occasions, the performances were filmed specifically for viewing and consumption on mobile devices.

“It’s been a real joy to work with Westlife again as part of such an extraordinarily successful collaboration,” says Sasha Duncan, Driift’s head of production. “Achieving this level of engagement in China is unprecedented for international artists, and also highlights the versatility of the livestream format.

“Whether it’s a high-end cinematic production or a performance like this, tailored for viewing on mobile devices, we’re proving it’s possible to forge a genuine connection with online audiences.”

 


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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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