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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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Tencent makes moves to build metaverse

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

If the acquisition goes ahead, Black Shark will shift its business focus from gaming mobile phones to virtual reality hardware, according to a report from news outlet 36kr.

Black Shark, which has a presence in China, Europe and south Asia, is currently majority-owned by technology giant Xiaomi.

As noted by Bloomberg in November, making a play for the metaverse is a logical step for Tencent.

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.

Tencent Holdings invested $330 million in Epic Games in 2012 (around five years before Fortnite was released) in return for a 40% stake.

“We felt that we have a lot of tech and capability building blocks that will allow us to approach the Metaverse opportunities”

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.

Tencent president Martin Lau spoke about the company’s positioning to build a metaverse during the company’s Q3 earnings call in November: “In terms of our capabilities and our positioning, we felt we actually have a lot of the technology and know-how building blocks for us to explore and develop for the Metaverse opportunity”.

He continued: “For example, we have a lot of gaming experiences. We also have very strong social networking experience. In addition to that, in terms of technology building blocks, we have engine capability, we have AI capability, we have the capability to build large server architecture that can serve a huge number of concurrent users.”

Tencent has stiff competition from other tech giants in a race to build the metaverse – namely from Meta (formerly known as Facebook).

The company announced plans in October 2021 to hire 10,000 people to accelerate its development of a metaverse but it has promised to collaborate, adding, “it won’t be built overnight by a single company”.

 


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Omicron live music restrictions: World update

As the new Omicron variant of coronavirus takes hold, IQ has updated the latest restrictions affecting major international touring markets. This update complements our European list which can be read here

Below you’ll find the latest information on certification schemes, social distancing requirements, mask mandates, capacity restrictions and lockdowns affecting key live music markets around the globe.

Please note that we will aim to keep this article as up-to-date as possible but all information is subject to change. 

To submit an update to this, please get in touch. This article was last updated on Thursday 16 December.

To read about the Omicron restrictions affecting European markets, please click here


Abu Dhabi
As of 27 November, the operating capacity of indoor events has increased to 80%. Entry to indoor events requires attendees to show their green pass and a negative PCR test result received within 96 hours.

Attendees at indoor events must also undertake an EDE scan at public entry points and wear a mask.

Argentina
As of 16 November, mass events in outdoor spaces can take place at 100% capacity. Attendees over 18 years of age must provide proof of at least one dose of the vaccine, and wear a face mask during the event.

Australia
In New South Wales, face masks, proof of vaccination and Covid-19 Safe Check-in are not required. Retail and businesses are no longer required to have a Safety Plan.

In Victoria (and from 17 December, Queensland too) many leisure and entertainment facilities, such as live music venues, can only open for attendees and staff who are fully vaccinated or exempted. Capacity limits and social distancing will not apply.

South Australia is currently operating under Level 1 restrictions which means venues are limited to 75% capacity for seated events and 50% for standing events. Covid Management Plans required for events of more than 1,000 people. Masks are required for shared indoor public spaces.

Though Western Australia remains in a ‘state of emergency’, events and concerts are permitted to go ahead at full capacity. However, businesses must provide a Covid Safety Plan and maintain a contact register. Events with more than 500 patrons are required to complete a Covid Event Checklist or Plan.

For information on restrictions in Northern Territory click here, Tasmania here and Australia Capital Territory here.

Brazil
In November, the Brazilian government increased the capacity limit for music venues from 70% to 100% with proof of vaccination.

Canada
In Ontario, Canada’s capital city and its biggest live music market, new restrictions came into effect on Sunday 19 December.

Under the new rules, music venues and many other indoor public settings will be limited to 50% capacity. Event spaces are required to close by 23:00.

Canada’s live music restrictions vary from province to province.

See the latest guidelines for each of the regions here: AlbertaBritish Columbia, Manitoba, New BrunswickNewfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nova ScotiaNunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon.

Chile
Restrictions vary across the country but the majority of regions are on step 3 (preparation) or step 4 (initial opening) of the national five-step reopening plan.

During step 3, seated concerts in closed spaces (such as music venues) can take place at 50% capacity if all attendees show a Mobility Pass verifying full vaccination. If there is food consumption, it is reduced to 30% capacity.

Seated concerts in open spaces (such as open-air venues) can take place at 60% capacity with a Mobility Pass. If there is food consumption, it is reduced to 40% capacity.

In non-seated closed spaces, events can take place with up to 100 people (sans Mobility Pass) or 500 people (with Mobility Pass). In non-seated open spaces, events can take place with up to 200 (sans Mobility Pass) or 1,000 (with Mobility Pass).

Attendees at all non-seated venues must be able to maintain social distancing (1m without food consumption, 1.5m with).

Masks are required in all public spaces.

China

Life is largely back to normal but regional lockdowns have been imposed every time there are new outbreaks of the virus.

Dubai
Mask-wearing is compulsory, as is keeping a two-meter social distance, except in restaurants, cafes, offices, workplaces, gyms, shopping centres, beaches and public and entertainment parks, where a one-meter rule applies.

Outside, you must wear a mask unless exercising, eating or drinking, at a barbershop or salon, in a car with people from the same household, or if you’re alone.

Live entertainment and activities are permitted in restaurants, cafés and shopping malls. Events with free movement – such as standing concerts – are now allowed again, with a maximum of 5,000 people. Vaccination is required for these events.

Japan
At the beginning of November, the Japanese government eased its 10,000-capacity limit on mass gatherings such as concerts following a steady decline in coronavirus cases.

Events across the country can now admit 5,000 people, or 50% of capacity – whichever is larger – while large-scale spaces are permitted to welcome more than 10,000 spectators in Tokyo and other regions previously under a state or quasi-state of emergency. However, events that will involve fans shouting and cheering will be capped at 50% of capacity.

See more information on event restrictions here.

Mexico
Mexico is currently following a colour-coded system (red, orange, yellow, green) which is updated every two weeks.

Currently, all states are coded yellow (resuming limited activities but with precaution) or green (resuming normal activities but with precaution).

Concerts can only take place in green-coded states. See the colour codes for states here.

New Zealand
Since the beginning of this month, New Zealand has been operating with a traffic light system, under which each region has been assigned a colour (green, orange or red) based on vaccination rates and the spread of Covid-19 in the community.

A region’s colour determines the set of restrictions by which it has to abide.

In regions assigned ‘red’, venues using vaccine certificates are limited to 100 people with one-metre social distancing. In ‘orange’ regions, these venues face no limits on gatherings at events, retail, hospitality. Venues that don’t use vaccine certificates are not permitted indoor or outdoor events under red or orange.

Every region aside from Northland will move to orange at 23:59 NZST on 30 December.  These settings will stay in place until 17 January when the cabinet will review. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she expected many areas would move to green at that point.

South Africa
As of 1 October 2021, South Africa is operating under an adjusted Alert Level 1 which indicates a “low Covid-19 spread with a high health system readiness”.

Under Alert Level 1, leisure and entertainment facilities, whether indoors or outdoors, must close at 23:00. Nightclubs are closed to the public.

Face masks are mandatory for every person when in a public place and 1.5 metres social distancing must be maintained.

Entertainment facilities are limited to a maximum capacity of 750 people for indoor venues and 2,000 people or less for outdoor venues – with social distancing. Smaller venues are limited to 50% capacity.

South Korea
It was announced on 16 December that South Korea will reimpose curfews on businesses for an initial two weeks from Saturday 18 December.

Public places such as concert halls and cinemas will be permitted to operate until 22:00, while restaurants, cafes and other nightlife venues will have to close at 21:00.

The measures, announced on Thursday (16 December), come a month and a half after the government initiated a phased reopening plan. Amid record highs of Covid-19 infections, the cabinet has gradually rolled back the policy.

United States
Restrictions may vary from state to state – check the US government website for the latest guidance.

New York City
On 13 December, governor Kathy Hochul announced that masks will be required to be worn in all indoor public places unless businesses or venues implement a vaccine requirement. This measure is effective until 15 January 2022, after which the state will re-evaluate based on current conditions.

California
California is fully open for business with no capacity limits or physical distancing requirements.

For indoor events with 1,000 or more or outdoor events with 10,000 or more, attendees age 3 and older must provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or have received a negative Covid-19 test.

Unvaccinated persons are required to wear masks in all indoor public settings. It is recommended that fully vaccinated people also wear masks in these settings.

 


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TikTok introduces direct tipping for artists

TikTok has unveiled a hub of new and existing tools that will enable creators to monetise their short-form videos.

The new toolset, dubbed Creator Next, includes the first direct-tipping function on the platform, allowing creators to receive tips directly from followers while keeping 100% of the money.

Payments are processed by Stripe, which allows creators to sign up and manage their earnings in a simple dashboard.

To be eligible for TikTok Creator Next, creators must be 18 years of age or older, meet minimum follower requirements (which can differ depending on region), have at least 1,000 video views in the last 30 days, have at least three posts in the last 30 days.

Creator Next also includes the new function Video Gifts – which allows creators to receive tips based on engagement with their non-live videos – and the existing tool Live Gifts which works in the same way for live streams.

TikTok’s new tipping features comes months after the viral short-form video app hit the one billion user mark

The package also includes TikTok Creator Marketplace, the official place on TikTok for brands and creators to collaborate, and the previously-introduced Creator Fund, which pays creators for their conten based on a number of factors.

Over the course of the global Covid-19 shutdown, virtual tipping – which is said to have originated in China – has been introduced on platforms including Spotify, SoundCloud and Encore Musicians as a means of helping artists and other creators make more money.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter also offer tipping features to remunerate creators for their content on the platforms.

TikTok’s new tipping features comes months after the viral short-form video app hit the one billion user mark in late September. Prominent artists such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Dolly Parton and U2 have joined the platform in recent months.

Earlier this year, Ed Sheeran delivered a record-breaking live music performance on TikTok, garnering more than 5.5 million unique viewers.

 


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China’s live sector gets centralised ticketing system

China’s ministry of culture and tourism has implemented a new centralised ticketing system for the country’s live performance sector.

All domestic ticketing systems for live performances — including music, dance, comedy, and plays — will be 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, says that their implementation will effectively curb scalpers as well as help monitor ticket sales and analyse the performance industry.

“With the support of this standard, future performance ticketing information collection and services are oriented to both the industry and the government,” says the CAPA.

“[Now] future performance ticketing information collection and services are oriented to both the industry and the government”

“Only by using real market data to reflect the real market conditions can we strive for more and more accurate policy support for the performance industry. The unified ticket management platform will enable the industry to more intuitively observe the performance industry and market operation status, and provide a data basis for market analysis.”

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.

The ministry launched the new Performance Ticketing Service and Technical Specification system yesterday (19 August).

 


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10,000 people attend arena show in Shanghai

Chinese post-punk band Re-Tros made history on Saturday 22 May with the biggest rock show in China since the beginning of 2020.

The sold-out concert, promoted by Live Nation, saw Re-Tros (Rebuilding the Rights of Statues) performing to 10,000 people at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai. The production centred on a unique triangular stage that reflected the band’s logo, with the two-hour show also divided into three parts or ‘chapters’.

The band, who formed during the Chinese indie-rock renaissance of the mid-2000s, played some of their biggest hits, including ‘Momentarily Out of Mind’, ‘Pigs in the River’, ‘Billy Cannot Stop’ and ‘My Great Location’, closing with ‘Sounds for Celebration’.

“The show tonight was just a beginning for … all of us who are here for the return to live”

Edward Liu, managing director of Live Nation China, says: “Like the closing song itself, the show was a momentous celebration of sound, and there is no greater joy than that of live music and seeing fans connect with their favourite artists.

“It’s been four years since the last time we saw Re-Tros on stage for a headline show and tonight was and unprecedented, ingenious and a spectacular display of Chinese rock music that will go down in history. The show tonight was just a beginning for Re-Tros and all of us who are here for the return to live.”

As of 31 May, China – where Covid-19 originated – had just 14 new cases of the coronavirus.

 


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China to act on fake live stream viewer figures

Authorities in China plan to legislate to prevent organisers of livestream events from falsifying viewer figures, according to local media.

The move, spearheaded by the snappily named Office of Central Cyberspace Affairs Commission, is intended to regulate the growing livestreaming ecommerce sector, reports the state-owned China Global Television Network (CGTN).

CGTN describes livestreaming ecommerce as a “new business model combin[ing] entertainment with consumption” which is becoming increasingly popular in China. Like the teleshopping of old, the sector relies on big retail promotions to shift products en masse, such as the recent Double 11 shopping extravaganza, which generated a mind-boggling US$56 billion in sales.

“On such a shopping spree, popular livestreaming influencers” – young celebrities and models hired to be the faces of the shopping channels – “would normally hit their new record scores in viewers and sales,” the site explains.

“The number of viewers, comment interactions, and even sales can be falsified”

“But to which extent the [final] results are valid” is now in question, “as the industry gets competitive and mature.”

The commission’s proposals are open for public consultation until 28 November.

The drive for regulation comes after a Tencent News article revealed that the practice of buying traffic to inflate viewing figures is widespread among influencers.

“The number of viewers, comment interactions, and even sales can be falsified,” a source told Tencent.

The audience for live streams of all kinds has exploded in China this year, with Chinese consumers, like their counterparts elsewhere, consuming more concerts, video game streams and other events as the coronavirus hit. As of March, 150 million people had viewed a livestreamed concert, and more than half a billion any kind of live stream (a number likely to be even higher nearly eight months later).

 


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Virtual K-pop band inaugurate new Shanghai stadium

K/DA, a virtual girl group composed of four League of Legends characters, performed during the opening ceremony for the League of Legends World Championship grand final at the new Pudong Football Stadium in Shanghai on 31 October.

The competition, one of the biggest dates in the esports calendar, was the first event at the 33,765-capacity venue, constructed ahead of the AFC Asian Cup in 2023.

K/DA, created by League of Legends developer Riot Games, performed via augmented reality (AR), appearing on a physical stage in front of a crowd of 6,312 fans, according to tournament operator TJ Sports. The event was watched by an addition 3.8 million people online.

In addition to the virtual performers, the opening ceremony featured a number of real-world artists and dancers, including Chinese pop star Lexie Liu.

K/DA made their debut during a similar AR concert at the 2018 World Championships, which were held in Incheon, South Korea.

 


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Montreux Jazz Festival to launch China edition

Renowned Swiss event Montreux Jazz Festival (MJF) is set to launch a new edition in China next year with a programme that’ll explore the theme of ‘when west meets east’.

The schedule will combine Chinese and Asian music as well as jazz, which has been enjoying a new lease of life in the country in recent years.

The new edition is due to take place between 5–8 October 2021 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and will be the Swiss event’s third international partner alongside Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo.

“The Montreux Jazz Festival is a legendary event, revered by music lovers from all over the world. I played there for the first time in 1982 and today, 40 years later, I have the honour of being the musical director of the festival in China,” says Ted Lo, musical director of the MJF China.

“After Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, we are pursuing our journey of mutual cultural and musical exchange in China”

“We are delighted to welcome Hangzhou and the passionate team of MJF China into the great MJF family,” added CEO of the MFJ Mathieu Jaton. “After Tokyo and Rio de Janeiro, we are pursuing our journey of mutual cultural and musical exchange, values which have always been dear to MJF.”

The original festival in Montreux, Switzerland was founded by Claude Nobs in 1967 and has played host to artists including Etta James, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ms Lauren Hill, Aretha Franklin and David Bowie.

This year, in light of the pandemic, MJF held a 16-day virtual music festival showcasing iconic Montreux performances from festivals past to mark what would have been its 54th edition.

MJF is due to hold four editions of the renowned festival in 2021: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil at the end of spring; the flagship festival in Montreux, Switzerland (2–17 July); Tokyo, Japan in the autumn; and finally Hangzhou, China.

Read IQ‘s feature on how MJF has softened the impact of Covid-19 by diversifying into digital content and live programming for its partners here.

 


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