The Problem with China’s Music Festivals

The downfall of the majority of music festivals in China is made obvious by one short quote from Suzhou International Music Festival’s Chief Coordinator, Yu Hui.

Yu Hui, chief coordinator of Suzhou Int’l Music Festival was quoted in a CNTV post earlier this week, saying, “To stage a successful event, I think you have to accomplish four things. Number one, you must have good quality music. Number two, you must invite good quality artists. Number three, conduct a good marketing campaign, and number four, satisfy your audience.”

I’ve given Yu the benefit of doubt and annotated his four points, clarify what makes a successful music festival:

1. Good quality music [sound] –which means allocating a budget for decent PAs and sound techs that know what they’re doing.

2. Invite good quality artists [line-up] –interpreted as acts that can at least replicate their sound in a live environment (the rest is fairly subjective).

3. Conduct a good marketing campaign –being a foreigner, I’m not part of the core target market, but to my knowledge there’s been very little creative strategy and creative application of social media by China’s major music festivals.

4. Satisfy your audience –deliver on your promises for a start. But if there are only 4 main elements needed to accomplish a successful music festival “satisfying your audience” should be 3 of them.

The four points above might get you by for a gig. But an outdoor festival is a entirely different beast.

Watch the video below posted last year by Wired on How to Throw a Three-Day Music Festival. And read on for a brief explanation. Perhaps this should be required viewing for China’s wannabe festival producers.

Compare Yu’s points to the four of the points outlined (below) by Superfly Productions co-founder Rick Farman, who produces Frisco’s huge Outside Lands festival. The difference in focus between the two lists is disparate.

1. Secure location and official approvals –enough said when it comes to China.

2. Production –staging, sound and everything to do with the performance of the artist.

3. Site operations –everything that’s going on during the festival, including layout of systems like sanitation, electical, security etc.

4. Concession stands –Outside Lands is renowned for incredible food stalls and other local, onsite vendors who contribute to the entire festival experience.

After writing this article and trying to hunt down my bookmarked examples, I cam across this post on China Music Radar (CMR) also posted today…and aptly titled ‘We think the same thing, at the same time‘. While this post is intended as a brief and very broad response to the CNTV & Yu Hui, the problems with China’s music festivals are numerous and run a lot deeper. The CMR article, guest written by Pet Conspiracy front-woman, Helen Feng, outlines many of these in more detail and from an artists point of view.

The bottom line…in-experience. And a penny for your thoughts…