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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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