Soma take over The Dream Factory

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Further update: read Jake Newby's take over at Shanghaiist: here

Update: I mentioned the news came by way of Splitworks and I can now link their take via China Music Radar: here

There's been a fair amount of blogging and events around Soma Art Management and their label, Indietop. In fact, it was my story of 2008 so I suggest you first read this summary with vids and links:

Please, read it, it's the best piece on the whole blog - in my un-humble opinion.

As regulars know, the scene has been growing. The smaller venues are now busy each week and rammed for better bands. At the end of last year and early this year we started to see a smattering of shows move up to the Dream Factory venue (5-800 capacity) with some successes. Most recently, Split Works packed it out for Battles and AV Okubo. And this is where the news comes from.

Soma have now done a deal with the venue that gives them exclusive use from Wednesday to Sunday. If a different promoter wants to use the venue they will now have to either split the ticket sales 50-50 or pay 15 000 rmb up front. This essentially cuts out the majority of other music promoters and makes the venue their own.

What the f*ck are they thinking? Are they really going to put on three events of their own each week? I don't think so. That venue was dying a death and now most of the people who were getting it going will be priced out. Why do they need to basically double the overheads for other promoters?

I honestly hope they can put on their own weekly affordable shows and fill them, but lets look at the track record. Since forming the label proper and signing the three Jiao Ban bands (after the July 2008 show), they have yet to release a single CD from any of them. They had one showcase gig based around a compilation that was mainly filled with guest tracks from non-Soma bands. The Indietop website is still advertising that show from January, by the way. The best shows by Momo and The Mushrooms have been regular slots at YYT on 0093 nights and in support slots. No 'Indietop' in sight.

This is a small scene based around city wide support and DIY culture. If people like Soma use money to aggressively compete with smaller venues and hijack bands for the pop market, it will screw it up. At this point, it just reminds me of Boonna Cafe 2. The landlord saw that cafe doing good business then upped the rent to drive them out, finally opening his own shanzhai cafe Bohxa in the same spot, but tacky and overpriced. An old school dick move.

Say it aint so.

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In their defense, Soma have been doing some university shows with their bands that haven't made the mainstream or English-language radar. In theory, it could be a very good thing to have this venue become a regular live house rather than the theater for occasional hire that it has been.

The delay in the albums is because Lao Yao is rather a perfectionist. I haven't talked to him or Pangpang, or Rongrong at Zhijiang, in depth about the plans. But if they really turn it into a live house with gigs every Weds-Sunday: Awesome.

Shanghai has long been in need of a large, regular, professional live house a la U-Like, Ark and 4-Live gone before. Love the dives like YYT, 021, Live Bar, but they have their limitations. This could be it. A lot depends on who they bring in to manage it, none of them have bar management experience, but they know loads of people who do.

Forgive me if I'm wrong, but I hadn't heard of anyone else offering to take Zhijiang on and make it a permanent, regular live house. Barring that, this is a bit like whinging that the chick you hook up with sometimes went and got herself a serious boyfriend.

Shanghai has long been in need of a large, regular, professional live house a la U-Like, Ark and 4-Live gone before. Love the dives like YYT, 021, Live Bar, but they have their limitations.

I'm going to ignore the absurdity of mentioning 021 in any live music related context.

The three "professional" venues you mentioned all have one thing in common: they all operated at a loss throughout their entire existences. They couldn't fill the seats on off nights and the occasional big show couldn't cover their expenses. The three "dives" are able to scrape by -- and possibly even turn a profit -- partially because their expenses are low, but moreso because they are of approximately the right size for local acts. Sure, Hedgehog (or Hard Queen, ahem) can pack YYT to the point where it looks like a good idea to expand, but if YYT was twice the size it is now, the shows with attendance under 200 (still the majority in Shanghai) would feel dead. The Shanghai scene can't yet support enough big shows to justify the expense of a 500+ capacity venue with proper sound and lighting. But that's Soma's problem ...

Shanghai needs more small live music clubs, not yet another big empty live house. We also need a couple of 500-1000 capacity venues that can occasionally be used to host concerts, and Soma's just taken the only one away.


I'm happy if someone wants to make it a regular live house, but why cut out everyone else by doubling prices?

These charges are basically an attack on smaller venues and promoters which will stifle the only larger venue we have for the scene.

It's more like your girlfriend sells your family business to a corporate raider and then he fires you all. And it's not whinging, it's a serious issue. This post-sars local scene exists because of DIY struggling by the likes of YYT and 0093 et al, not because of 'creative branding' companies.

It's not opening a new venue, it's raiding an existing one.

No, not awsome Lisa. Granted that the guys from Soma have not been able to explain their story ; however, from the description of what has happened so far, I think they're doing a very cut throat thing here, it's basically a semi attempt at forcing the other promoters out of business, this is fine if it is a competitive market but since that everyone's really doing their best to help out with art in Shanghai and they all have good intentions, it doesn't look like that anyone is really ready for such a cut throat thing done to them by "one of their own"...So yeah ok, stab the other promoters in the back but stand up and admit it, but don't give me the speech like "oh no it's for the good of the scene..." because the other promoters are doing it for the good of the scene also, and by theory, they should be looking out of each other.

As for perfectionist, I have yet to hear one artist on that indie top CD that can compete with the best of International indie artists, a lot of them have potentials but what really ruined it for me is the glaze of over-production on the CD. So you know what, maybe they're going the wrong direction here; if they want to pile on the production and market their music to the pop oriented college crowd, that's fine; but don't stick up a flag going "oh we're indie" like it is something trendy, because no, if other indie artists in US/Canada hear the production work nobody over there will think it is indie; it's obviously this is an attempt at making the music of some potentially talented artists, well, pop (for mass appeal)

[quote]if other indie artists in US/Canada hear the production work nobody over there will think it is indie; it's obviously this is an attempt at making the music of some potentially talented artists, well, pop (for mass appeal)[/quote]

i.e. happy strings to moma sudden mutation. indietop oviously was aiming for indiepop

so anybody got in touch yet with soma to see what they wanted to do there? come on lisa, there's a big itv article waiting here ;o)

oh nono, I happen to be a die hard follower of indie pop. There's a culture and a specific use for the term "indie pop" It's a style of music, like electro-clash or prog rock.....

see here
indie pop (twee pop) started with the C86 tape in 1986 and have fixed influences/guideline.

What is on the indietop CD definately didn't sound like they got their influence from the C86 tape, I can only call it "pop", or "an attempt to make rock/folk/metal/electronica a more mass appeal"

Hey Louis, lets not get off topic into that one.

The term indiepop does not have the same meaning here as in North America because of the term 'indie'. An American independent film or band can have huge funding and be very much part of the market, like MTV.

Here it's more 'underground' and not a style connotation. Fabi is right.

Somebody has got in touch with Dream Factory today, someone who doesn't like to comment and so will remain anonymous. The deal is not 100% done and signed but the details are correct and it is 'very much on'.

All of this is turning into a massive rush to judgement based on little and limited information.

Soma informs me that they're talking to a lot of European, Japanese and domestic promotors and bands, and hoping to work with other people with ideas.

They welcome collaboration with other promoters and organizers, and say conditions will be about the same as previously with Zhijiang's owners.

Their first show will be Muma, playing May 8.

An opening rate is, in China, just a hypothetical; especially when dealing with new management. What gives with the eager nastiness? It's rather out of place in a such a small, interdependent scene, where goodwill, communication and cooperation is very much needed. A lot of this has potential to be self-fulfulling prophecy, counting and courting imaginary villians.

Lisa. The deal wont be about the same as before.

Both Split and my other source have talked to them directly and got the info I quoted. China Music Radar (Splitworks) say it works out to 150% more for them and the quoted new rates work out to double the Control show, for example. That's fact.

I hope they backtrack on that. And I hope they do put on regular affordable shows. Everyone of us who has blogged this said they hope Soma do make it good or whatever. But that new pricing info is certainly newsworthy.

As it happens those new rates price out the people who were starting to get good shows on there. And there's no where else that size.

And as for the music. Take Little Nature. They were obviously going to be good from the first time I saw then blogged them over a year ago. They had raw energy in the shows and catchy songs. The demo track on the comp CD was way off their sound, and the hair-do's at the shows ... well. The band have not been the same since. I love them to bits but the last show was a shadow of their old energy.

Sorry guys, but what about the owner of the Dream Factory? Was s/he forced to sign the deal? why nobody blames DF for concluding the deal? What about the people owning YYT, Livebar and other venues? Why have they not joined their forces and signed the deal with DF together.

And yes, I know close to nothing about the local music scene in Shanghai.


The info on Soma's deal/new rates is news from two respectable independently corroborated sources who book regular shows there.

As for Dream Factory management I don't know. They were pretty clueless before, only getting a successful show on there when someone organised came in and did it all for them. I'm assuming this deal would supply them with some kind of fixed income. Makes sense to a businessperson.

As for Soma in general, I was and am 100% behind a proper label and/or venue to support the growing scene in Shanghai. But it's turning out more like taking the better parts and changing it to suit their own purposes. As it happens, it's been too ineffective to have a major negative effect as the band's decent shows since signing have been back at the old venues through the same channels.

Personally, I have been to all the shows, been to the launch event and bought the first CD. Even if the event was like a pop hits branded night and miles away from the rock shows they all used to do.

And believe me, when The Mushrooms get that CD out, I will be first in line to buy it.

hi guys.. i'm now working for soma as a part time job. and i know Archie,we had short talks when i was in mushroom as a drummer. and now i play for sonnet.
anyway, i have to correct some wrong info in the post. we have not take over DF through wed. to sun. and we just book the Sat. & sun.

as an indie lable in shanghai, we want to help the local young musicians, so we create the indie top series. to my opinion,the first one is really not that 'indie' ,some foreign friends told me about that. and i talked to lao yao & pangpang about the problem, and i'm now preparing the second one and we have invited 'my little airport'(HK),neyuabe(malaysia),5mis(france.beijing),tookoo,perdal,bigger bang....we want the second one will not be that 'pop' as you said and be a true reflection of chinese indie musicians. we record the songs for the bands for free and pay for them to use their in indie top album.indie top is just at its beginning, we'll make it better.

we want to cooperate with DF to build up a high level live house, we invest about 1,200,000RMB equipments including the PA system and the lighting. and we are now cooperating with other indie lable like hot pot & modern sky to do gigs in DF. and we are now talking with my little airport.旺福.and toe(jp), orange range(jp) to arrange their gigs in DF. and every band we invite will have a chance to have an interview on fm101.7 for 1 hour(the program will be broadcasted at 5pm every Sat.) to promote themselves.

we have good relationship with the local media and FM101.7&103.7 will broadcast our gig info(every sat.5pm to 6pm on fm101.7 & from Friday one week before the gig from 7pm-9pm on fm103.7) and give free tickets for the audience. and we are now talking with the ICS to promote our gig on their TV program. we want more people will come to watch the gigs and get to know about the scene.

the way how we will cooperate with DF is still under negotiating cause we will also have to share the tickets income with DF. the first gig we arrange will be MUMA&third party on 8th. May, we pay for the band and afford the flight & hotel fee. we'll not make money if 400 people come to watch the gig. cause our only income is the ticket. but DF will benefit from the ticket and the drinks.

soma will not be the autarch of DF, and we are will to cooperate with the foreign promotors on the mutual benefit. and if someone want to talk to me you can add my msn:

thank you:)

He Lezi

Thanks for posting the details.

The idea of making the venue good and promoting the scene is a good one. There is no problem with that.

It's okay for you to say you will cooperate with other/independent promoters (don't mistake that for foreign only) but the first deal offered to outside promoters (Splitworks) was very high. It was competing not cooperating. That's the fact and it was controversial.

Again, don't mistake 'foreign'. Frank Fen Ran from Dashamao is another example of someone who likes to try and promote larger shows but has trouble with high charges, gov rules and 'red tape'. The rates quoted to Spiltworks would cut people like him out too.

We are talking about the smaller promoters, including YYT, who have worked to build up the scene in the past few years.

The business side has to be careful not to kill the creative side. The bands are good because they focus on the music. Yuyintang and 0093 are community style and inspirational. Making bands how you like to fit a 'market' = shit pop bands, then no scene anymore.

We all have to be careful not to push the 'indies' and cheap venues out.

We are all in the world of music and love culture. I hope that means we all know that 'life as a market' and 'life as competition' is bullshit. The goal should be to preserve the unique nature of the music and let people appreciate it, not change the music to fit the mass people. We can use a different business model. Bands and their fans, not brands.

Amen to that

What is it,

I like it so much,

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This page contains a single entry by Andy Best published on April 14, 2009 8:49 PM.

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