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A long road to recovery: Promoters in Asia talk Covid-19

As some residents in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease now known as Covid-19 originated in November, leave their houses for the first time in months, IQ turns to promoters in China and the wider Asia-Pacific region to find out if this means a return to business as usual any time soon.

“People are cautiously optimistic,” Archie Hamilton, managing director of Shanghai-based promoter Split Works tells IQ, noting that some clubs – but no live venues – in Shanghai opened their doors for the first time in months last weekend. “We have a while longer until things open up properly.”

Although Split Works has projects ongoing in its brand business, which has been active in China for around 15 years, and is looking into moving into the livestreaming sector, Hamilton states that the core part of his business – live events – “is not coming back any time soon”.

Zhang Ran, director of international business at Modern Sky, echoes this sentiment, saying that “nothing has changed here yet for the music industry” and adding that “some venues likely won’t survive”.

Although the situation “is getting better” with regards to the virus, Zhang believes it will be a month or two until Modern Sky will be able to hold shows again and “probably longer for [shows by] international bands, given the virus situation elsewhere.”

Zhang says that Modern Sky is currently looking to book shows for November.

Elsewhere in Asia, Tommy Jinho Yoon, president of Korea’s International Creative Agency (ICA), says that everything “is calming down” in comparison to a lot of places around the world.

“We just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time”

Yesterday (23 March), South Korea reported the lowest number of new coronavirus cases since infection rates hit their peak four weeks ago. Although the virus has led to the shuttering of many events and venues in Korea, some popular musical theatre productions have continued to enjoy successful runs over the past few months.

“The Covid-19 madness is not completely over yet, but we are anticipating and hoping that the majority of this gets settled down by May or June,” Jinho Yoon tells IQ.

Matthew Lazarus-Hall, senior vice-president for AEG Presents’ Asia-Pacific division, states that, although China and other countries in Asia appear to be over the curve of the pandemic, the situation in many other parts of the world continues to put the brakes on international touring.

“The challenge is that a lot of artists can’t tour due to quarantine measures,” says Lazarus-Hall. “I anticipate that this situation will continue for many months, with everyone rescheduling tours until the back half of the year, and then maybe longer.”

With government restrictions on events and other public gatherings still in place across much of Asia, domestic touring remains difficult too.

China still has a complete event ban in place, whereas a surge in new cases of the virus led to a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people over the weekend in Singapore and a resumption of social distancing measures in Hong Kong.

“At AEG Presents, the plan is evolving every day based on government regulations, the industry and doing the right thing by our artists and staff, and we are reacting, and modifying our plans in real time,” says Lazarus-Hall.

“There’s no rulebook here, we just need to band together as an industry and try to make things work, and be good humans at the same time.”


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Concerts cancelled over coronavirus concerns

A number of live shows in China, Hong Kong and Singapore have been called off or postponed in recent weeks over fears related to the spread of the coronavirus.

Over 7,700 cases of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have been confirmed in China, with the death toll now standing at 170. The virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, is believed to have spread to 22 countries, including Thailand, Japan, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, France and the United States.

“There have been a couple of cancellations already, and I’m sure there will be more to come,” Archie Hamilton of Shanghai-based promoter Split Works tells IQ, explaining that mass gatherings were cancelled over the Chinese New Year and schools and businesses closed in an attempt to contain the virus.

“I imagine this will continue into March,” says Hamilton, who notes that Split Works is “monitoring the situation closely” due to upcoming tour dates by Stereolab and Mika in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hangzhou.

Zhang Ran, director of international business at Modern Sky, tells IQ that the promoter cancelled a number of shows in February “to avoid both artists and audiences getting affected by this virus”, adding that all fans received full refunds.

“We have updated artists that are coming for tours in March with the virus situation,” continues Zhang. “We will see how it goes for the next few weeks and see if we still can do these shows.

“From the artists’ side, most totally understand the situation – some of them agree to postpone the tour and for those who find it difficult to postpone, they are willing to refund the show fee.”

“From the artists’ side, most totally understand the situation”

Shows by US rock band X Ambassadors in the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Chengdu, as well as concerts by Japanese rock group Suchmos, are among those to have fallen foul to the virus.

Acts playing outside of China have also called off shows. Canto-pop star Andy Lau recently pulled 12 concerts at the 12,500-capacity Hong Kong Coliseum, with organisers citing health and safety concerns. Lau is currently scheduled to perform in the city of Wuhan in April. It is unclear if the show will go ahead as planned.

Upcoming shows by K-pop acts Taeyon and NCT Dream have also been postponed due to “coronavirus proliferation concerns”. Promoter One Production, which was last year acquired by Live Nation, states that it “will continue to act on advice from the authorities on the coronavirus and take precautionary measures in line with prevention efforts.”

Live Nation have also cancelled a show in Singapore, by singer Miriam Yeung, “due to the current freight and travel conditions in China”.

Although the virus was discovered at an early stage and could be “fully under control very soon”, Modern Sky’s Zhang predicts it may take “at least six months to get the whole industry back on track,” adding that some artists that have shows scheduled for as far ahead as April are looking to postpone the whole Asian leg of their tour.

“This is a fight between humans and a virus,” says Zhang, “and I don’t think we have any other option.”

Photo: Huandy618/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) (cropped)


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Split Works agrees long-term Arcadia deal for China

Shanghai-based promoter Split Works has agreed a long-term deal to represent British performance art collective Arcadia in China, with the iconic fire-breathing ‘Spider’ installation set to make its debut in China this new year.

Kicking off the ten-year agreement, Split Works has inked a three-year deal which will see Arcadia’s monumental Spider stage at the ISY Music Festival in Sanya on the island of Hainan over 30–31 December.

“The Arcadia Spider is an extraordinary, otherworldly experience – and the perfect fit for ISY, China’s most revolutionary EDM festival,” says Fay Wang, vice-president of China Minsheng Cultural Media Sanya, one of the backers of the festival, in a statement. “We love to push the boundaries of programming and talent, and the Spider is another (50-tonne) feather in our cap.”

Since making its first appearance at Glastonbury Festival over a decade ago, Arcadia’s Spider has travelled the globe, thrilling music fans at the likes of Ultra Miami, as well as in Thailand, Taiwan and in Australia.

“We can’t wait to bring more of Arcadia’s extraordinary shows to the China market”

The potential for growth in China is immense, and Split Works managing director Archie Hamilton predicts big things for Arcadia in the world’s most populous country.

“Arcadia pushes the boundaries of what live music can achieve,” she says. “It’s sheer magic, and we can’t wait to bring more of Arcadia’s extraordinary shows to the China market.”

With Hamilton and his team enabling, licensing and executing Arcadia’s immersive installations for events all over the Chinese mainland, he believes all of the group’s assets will quickly be put to use at Chinese festivals and events. As of 2018, Arcadia owns four stages, each with its own unique performance stage: the Spider, the Afterburner, the Reactor and the Bug.

Arcadia hosted its first standalone festival earlier this summer, coinciding with Glastonbury’s traditional fallow year.


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