In March commercial shows from abroad resumed and the amount of offline live concerts grew rapidly. The online concerts popularized during the pandemic are here to stay, but “real” live performances are something that cannot be replaced. People are craving for a connection with artists and sharing space with other fans.
In the first half this year, there were more than 193,300 concerts, a 400% increase year-on-year, collecting $2.12 billion USD at the box office, a 670% increase year-on-year, and the size of audiences were more than tenfold.
This spring showed and increase in all kinds of live performances (music, theater, etc.). In addition to the substantial increase of audience attendees, the ticket revenues from the first quarter of the year were about 111 percent higher than a year ago, reaching nearly $700 million USD.
According to Damai, the largest online entertainment ticketing service in China, there was a 127% rise in box office sales in February and March compared to the same period in 2019. Also during the same period, the volume of ticket buyers rose by 87% and the number of events tripled..
During the five-day May Day holiday alone there were 31,100 commercial shows organized across the country with a total audience of 8.65 million people and $220 million USD ticket revenue. The large number of events also created around $167 million USD from other services like transportation, accommodation and dining.
The China Association of Performing Arts (CAPA) expects the number of music concerts and festivals in 2023 to surpass the pre-pandemic levels of 2019. So far the rise has been more than promising.
As a side note about live-performances: The city of Shijiazhuang is rebranding itself as the Chinese capital of rock 'n' roll and is arranging a three-month long citywide music festival from July to October as a part of this campaign. There will be nearly 20 rock music performances happening on any given weekend during the festival in the city. This once-thriving textile and manufacturing city is hoping to make itself more attractive and boost its economy with the image makeover.
The growth in the live performance market has been fast and the future looks promising, however this has caused a shift in ticket sales and has pushed venue capabilities as the market catches up to the demand.
Already seen early this summer, large-scale concerts have diminished the attention of the smaller live house venues. The audiences end up spending their money on the bigger, more attractive concerts, leaving live house concerts with fewer ticket sales than originally estimated. Since many live houses have a hard enough time selling tickets, the costs of touring (transportation, food, accommodation) for smaller artists have become too much to handle, which has led to cancellations of performances and tours. This has caused the smaller venues to lose money. The rising cost of tickets and the slow of income growth in China means that the consumers have to be more choosy when buying tickets, essentially taking away even more sales from the smaller venues.
Despite the increase in ticket cost, the venues still need to catch up to the quality of service with the sudden increase of ticket sales and mass amount of concert goers. There have been complaints about the lack of supporting services at many big concerts: The air conditioners don't work, the queues for food and toilets are too long and the lineups lack diversity. So there is lots of room for improvement such as for foreign artists to fill the lineup to create a more attractive lineup.
The “imbalance” of large and small concerts is not confined to China, this is happening in other markets globally and will probably continue throughout the year. So unfortunately smaller and medium-sized artists will likely need to reconsider their gigs and touring schedules. To adjust to the current situation, smaller venues are starting to focus on expanding their audiences by booking more popular artists to support the smaller ones, as well as, upping their services and lineups to provide a more high-quality experience to their audiences.
For the time being smaller artists can focus on releasing awesome music (obviously), promoting it and actively building a network of bigger artists with whom they could do joint gigs. Promote their digital presence in China so that when the time comes to tour their fans will be waiting for them with open arms.
The big picture: The live performance market in China is growing. This is a good thing as the music markets settle back into a constant rhythm after the disruption of the covid lockdown, new opportunities are just around the corner for independent artists to tour and travel in China. This shows the demand by listeners to get out of their social distancing and mingle.
Large venues and festivals will set the scene, creating space for smaller artists to enter the scene. As the market stabilizes audiences will be less likely blinded by the lights of the big performers and look locally for more cultural experiences. Also the prices of the tickets cannot keep rising endlessly, if people can't afford the tickets there wouldn't be any live performances.
The example of the city Shijiazhuang (the capital of rock 'n' roll) rebranding itself with a musical genre and arranging a ton of concerts gives hope to various rock artists. Rockers can feel that they are being supported by a higher facet. Hopefully we will see this trend happening in more cities and towns for other genres as well!
Good news for foreign artists wanting to perform in China is that there is a big demand for international artists and many music festivals are diversifying their line-ups so that both domestic and other artists are more equally represented. A similar diversification can also happen among the smaller venues.
During these short-term difficulties both smaller venues and artists need to remain calm and move forward steadily by doing the things they can do. The industry will continue to grow and evolve. If you are an artist interested in expanding your audience in China and start laying the foundation for playing there live one day, check out our distribution, promotion and music synchronization services at https://musicinfo.io/ or contact us for a tailor-made package.
Shijiazhuang rebrands itself as the Chinese capital of rock 'n' roll – The China Project
Live performances set the stage for full recovery - Chinadaily.com.cn
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