Results tagged “festivals” from Andy Best

Festivals: more competition nonsense

Image: click for large version

I've already written a piece on local advertisers and their role in the scene here, focusing on Vice/Virtue and it's an issue close to my heart. But then something coincidental happened. After reblogging a point made by Twin Horizon and using Jlangmead's cartoon (pictured), my band received an offer to participate in exactly the same kind of thing.

Recap: a disturbing new trend around the world is the use of design competitions to not pay artists. The cartoon sums it up perfectly. The world of advertising and PR is a rabbit hole of denial and insular thinking and the whole concept has started to be applied even without dressing it up. Local designer Kaine Lv, also singer in my band, recently started work on a project that was attained after presenting her professional portfolio and going through stringent background checks. She was then told mid-way into the work, that the boss wanted to check new designers so he had more than one person working on the same project - and would choose the best one (and only pay that one.)


On Saturday, my band Astrofuck played our first long set. I organised a night at Yuyintang and we had an hour of material to choose from, we played forty-five minutes (plus banter etc). It all went great, we had a fun time and I felt we successfully showed we could plan and perform a longer set. This was, it seemed, immediately borne out. As soon as we got off stage, we were approached to play the Xi An Festival (Shanghai). They have permanent grounds down by the new Xu Hui river park and Cui Jian will headline this year. This will be the second year and they have sponsors and everything. Now, actually, I'm not a big festival person and there are many issues ... but I admit to being a bit excited, and it felt like validation of the step up we were trying to make.

And then ...

We went out back to discuss the details and exchange contacts but another story unfolded. The guy explained that the festival had a sponsored Weibo account and that we should use our own Weibo account to make posts there and show our vids and blogs etc. Then, they would 'see who was most popular with the fans' out of the invited bands and choose winners who would then get to play on the bill with Cui Jian. He looked at me and Elsa with an expression that said, 'that's so exciting for you, right?' I asked him to tell me what the deal would then be if you played, but he avoided the question. Finally I said that we'd have to discuss it as a band so could he e-mail me the whole thing in writing, including the dates and pay for if we ended up playing etc. of course, the e-mail hasn't arrived. He left reassuring us that we should first get involved in the Weibo event and go from there.

Where to start? This festival is holding an online event to market itself and its sponsors and is asking bands to put all their stuff there for free, to attract interest to their site and event, to bring in the bands' fan base, and then maybe you will be selected to play and get paid for it. It's basically the same thing as the art comp issue. Also, the really sick thing was wrapping it up in the implication that we should be happy to do that because we get to play on the same bill as 'X big headliner'. Like we are good enough to be on their site and play the festival, but not enough to deserve professional respect.

Let's be clear: the free stuff posted at their Weibo is being used by them for a professional, big-money-making, fully sponsored event. It is being used to make money. Also, local bands spend one or two years on average to get good, all on their own dollar and part-time. Their original material is their work. At our show there were four acts and everyone killed. I would say that HIMDONG blew the stage up. But the festival rep only approached us so here's what I'm assuming: he saw our set and thought we were good enough to play the Xi An Festival - or at least cool enough to be in their online event ... so, if we are good enough to play your for-profit high profile event THEN BOOK US and pay us fairly. 

I suppose what really makes this behavior sting is how it's always wrapped up in the language of respect. I mean the whole industry. They talk of cool bands, 'creatives' and supporting local talent etc. But they in fact treat bands and artists poorly. At best they pay a poor percentage of the project's overall profits or budget and expect to be praised for providing the opportunity to work for a big name, or for paying over slave wages local rates. Not paying at all is the new low, how could you go lower? As long as people participate in all this BS, the longer it will go on. We should at least be vocal about it and not let these a-holes feel comfortable about what they are doing.

Festivals behaving badly, again

love stage car
Pic: one of the two cars on stage at the 2010 Strawberry Festival, along with some VIPs and one of many photographers

Festivals are coming around and we have the first story of the season.

The basic gist is that bookings were all over the place, including a complete schedule of three days going public before half the artists had even been contacted about it. It also involved many DJs feeling completely disrespected after working with Midi before and going ballistic about it on social media. However, what's interesting to me is that intrepid reporter Brian Offenther (DJ BO) decided to write it all up professionally for SH247. That's the link up there. This involved SH247, a future ticketing and promotions partner of Midi. Then things got heated, but after BO fought to have it put online, the Midi people came down and sorted things out, prompting much love online for said fearless reporter. Result.

It's interesting in that, this is far from the first time stuff has happened on the festival scene that involved disregard for the performers. But it is the first time proper action was taken to resolve it, because there was clearly a threat to sales and promotions - before the show.

Some of the more famous incidents that bands have gone public about in their dismay include Zhang Shouwang on the 2010 Strawberry Festival. The Love Stage was largely taken up by two show cars and a VIP tent. When he tried to go back stage he was told it was VIPs only. When he said he was in the band, showed his card and explained he just wanted some water, he was told that he wasn't a VIP - that was sponsors only - and that water was only free to VIPs. Major sponsors abound, show cars on stage, crane cameras flying around and VIP camps, and yet when Helen Feng jumped down off the stage and busted her knee that very same stage and festival, there was no staff help or facilities at all. They simply said that they couldn't help and walked off, leaving her to be carried out and hitch hike back to town with fans. 

That same year, Helen wrote online about how they were often contacted many times about the same slot at the Midi Festival and it all tracked back to the Midi boss, who's name you can find easily. Midi got several bookers to compete with each other for bookings as some odd way to drive down the bands' fee without taking direct blame for it. Needless to say it barely makes sense, collapsed as an idea and ended up simply exposing the fact that the Midi organisers sat around brainstorming ways to pay the bands less. 

As for the Shanghai Midi electronic stage, but it ran so well last time when the Antidote crew organised it, I hear you say. Yes, I wonder what happened there? I promised someone involved not to write the details at the time but ask around for the gist, and bring the sick bag.

What are we to take from all this? The whys and wheres of the festival scene here are many and mysterious. We can take this, that if you stay strong and speak out about stuff, it can make a difference, if it looks like it may effect the 'brand' or sales. An earlier incident at the Shanghai venue On-Stage made me think too. An incident happened but one of the four bands refused to let anything go public because they feared souring relationships. Like it's bad form to complain when someone punches you because you may embarrass the attacker and make it hard for them to keep punching people.

Zhenjiang Midi announce all-metal headliners

Midi have announced the headliners for the Zhenjiang festival.

News courtesy of Max at the Rock In China Wiki blog here:

These are the bands:

Midi are already famous for being hard-rock/metal oriented, in part because it came out of a rock school that produces technical guitarists and musicians' musicians. This happens all over the world. With this announcement though they have kind of painted the festival with the metal brush. In some ways this is good as there's so many wishy-washy festivals this year and this gives them a clear identity. On the other hand, despite all the tall tales, not that many people go and these bands surely put off non metal people. I guess I'm wondering if there are enough hardcore metal fans to support a festival of this kind in China. Midi have already done one festival this year, with a similar flavor and didn't do so well out of it.

Are you a metal person? Do you know that Soulfly is Max Cavalera's band that he formed after leaving legendary Brazilian outfit Sepultura? Does listening to Inner Space take you back to the classic days? No? Then you're not really a metal person. If you are then this is good news for sure.
festivals shot
I'm sorry for all non-Chinese speakers. I have to blog this as it's massive on Douban right now and relevant. 

Zinging its way about China's most used site for underground music and arts at the mo is a note on 2010's boom in music festivals here. It comes from Pet Conspiracy's band page and is called, loose translation by me, All the festivals we played were trash.

The gist of it is that there were a massive bunch of festivals suddenly this year as investor fever trumped gov arts policy, as they are all investors themselves. The band played twenty and found that they were all let downs due to a culture of third-rate business man's tricks. 

China Music Radar have been following this carefully.

Here's the full text of the note:

2010年中国大大小小的音乐节有一百多个,就象90年代,一个城市就有一百个迪厅一样,政府好象突然对摇滚乐宽容了起来,主办方都成了乐队的救星,midi 摩登 热波 西湖成功了,然后大家都觉得自己可以,最后才知道自己根本就控制不了局面,为什么?投资方是政府,是企业,是景区,很少有能站在一个角度去思考问题的。今年大大小小我们参加了20个音乐节,刚开始的时候真的觉得是个好事情,但演着演着,这种好心情就没了,两个问题要不是策划人根本对音乐不感兴趣,要不就是策划者控制不了局面,最后这一切就都成了闹剧,乐队乐队埋怨你,主办主办埋怨你,观众观众埋怨你,还赚不了太多钱,理想也没实现,你说这是何苦呢?这些音乐节策划人都应该向midi 摩登 热波 西湖取取经,不是问你们怎么赚着钱,怎么营销的,应该问赌注是什么?今天有个哥们的哥们打电话说要办个音乐节,哥们的哥们问:你们是宠物阴谋乐队吗?虎答:宠物同谋。哥们的哥们问:你们是有两个外国人吗?虎答:是的。哥们的哥们问:那你们挺国际化的,我们想做个国际化的音乐节,再找几个中国知名乐队一起,虎答:好,哥们的哥们问:你觉得唐朝黑豹多少钱,虎答:不知道,应该很贵 哥们的哥们说:某某景区出钱,还会有一些当地企业赞助,怎么才能让乐队和这些赞助很好结合再一起,虎答:让我好好想想吧,想好了通知你再见。哥们的哥们说:好想着点,大家都有钱赚,再见。 三分钟后虎短信给哥们的哥们:让唐朝穿上唐装,让黑豹穿上皮草,宠物阴谋我和晕晕可以带个假发,装外国人。半小时后们的哥们回复:好。。。让我想想。 操我们参加的音乐节就是一个垃圾场,我们热爱音乐,热爱音乐节,但是我们讨厌三流商人的戏法。 希望你们2010年听到你们想听的音乐,享受到你们应该享受的音乐节,因为你们花钱了。

AV Club crosstalk on festivals

candy monster
Before we get going with this link, let me remind you that the place to get all your China festival news is China Music Radar. So check it out.

So. I don't really like festivals.  They are shit for seeing live music and the other aspect - the experience / hang out - rarely comes together as it should for many reasons. 

But, instead of ranting about it, I'm going to link this amazing AV Club discussion (text) on it that just came out:

Here's the opening:

Every summer I face the same no-win situation: Do I man up and set aside my instinctual aversion to outdoor music festivals, which I've come to associate with overstuffed and B.O.-heavy crowds, wallet-killing concessions, poor sound, and even worse sightlines? Or do I surrender to sanity and stay home, which will inevitably make me feel like I'm missing something, especially after I read all the reviews online about how "mind-blowing" and "awe-inspiring" such-and-such band was. Really? You really thought it was that good after standing in flip-flops in the punishing sun for eight hours in a sea of awful, inconsiderate drunks? Is it possible that I actually hate live music?

youtube Youku: Pinkberry @ Zhangbei

Shanghai pop-punk band Pinkberry have just been up at the Zhangbei festival. Here's a video of them there. It's not the most intelligently shot vid I've seen with no crowd or indication they're at a festival but I'll take it. 

Two tracks, watch through for Pinkberry Song.

Big long article on Beijing experimental music and ...

road via doubanIt's slow and hot and some people, not me, are taking the opportunity to write longer articles on more in depth topics. I have been doing a bunch of other stuff, check Indie Everything, but writing thoughtful pieces is not part of that. 

I want to point you at two articles doing the rounds.

The first is from We Live In Beijing and is written by Pete DeMola. It's a massive in depth article with interview snippets about a new emerging experimental scene in Beijing based around a regular night at D22. Blimey, it's good.

The other article is over at China Music Radar who are struggling valiantly to keep track of the massive boom in music festivals going on right now. Warning: it's not just about major music festival organised by labels and music peeps, it includes pop, jazz, tourism stuff and whatnot. The main thrust being that suddenly, mainstream city folk and business peeps see gold in them thar hills.

Festival Weekend, but not here

love stage car
So May holiday weekend is now music festival weekend in China. But not in Shanghai, we have the Expo.

So, the festivals are not really the remit of this blog and what's more - I didn't go to any of them.

I have a confession to make. Even back in the UK while surrounded by great festivals, I didn't go much. I hate watching bands in large outdoor venues, it sucks. There are so many festivals these days, because they offer the opportunity to make a ton of cash.

I'm in the extreme minority on this point though so here are three excellent write ups of the festivals from:

our very own Jake Newby

Enjoy. And yes, that photo is from the Modern Sky organised Strawberry Festival. Just in case you mistook it for a VW ad shoot or mall display.

Midi Festival rumours and a video

by Wee Ling
There's currently a bunch of info flying around about the Midi Festival that includes a possible date in Shanghai. Some of it is public and some of it is private (sorry, can't publish that).

First of all, for non-China readers: Midi is a music college in Beijing. They started a festival and put it on in their own campus. Then it grew and grew and moved into Beijing's Haidan Park, eventually looking like a real festival with international acts and multiple stages. Alas, it came a cropper of the Ol*mp*cs and tried to reschedule into a different holiday, clashing with the Modern Sky festival.

Before I link up the rumours, better point out that previous attempts at a 'Shanghai Midi' were just local promoters bringing the bands down who were also playing Midi before it was canceled. New rumours talk about people directly involved in the Beijing Midi - starting with the fact that they are having difficulty getting permission for this year.

So first of all we have the post at China Music Radar saying it will definitely happen in Shanghai Sculpture Space (Redtown) on May 1st & 2nd.

Then we have the Jake Newby (pictured with me) write up for Shanghaiist which is a bit more skeptical.

Personally I'm with the skeptical side ... read the blurb, multiple stages at Redtown? Has anyone reading this actually stepped onto the lawn there recently? I have, I lived opposite for 18 months. Multiple stages and big festival stuff? I don't think so. If it does happen there, it will be minimal. Well, lets wait and see. I leave you with Subs footage from a previous Midi. It's rough as fuck buts that's the best way to hear the Subs.

More festival talk


festival surfOpen commenting is new to the blog and I'm not sure how many readers are checking back in. The last post on festivals brought some excellent reponses from That's Shanghai music writer Lisa Movius and Spilt Works' Archie Hamilton. They definitely warrant a post for your consideration.

Here's Lisa:

You perhaps deliberately skipped RockIt and its offshoot the Summer Music Conference last year. One may - okay, everyone does - have issues with the sponsor/venue, Bonbon/Dino Beach, but they were nonetheless successful events with some great performances.

RockIt 2007 was a split-off of 1234 in 2006: two of the main organizers, Frank Fan and Wu Jun, amicably went separate ways. Both were very diplomatic about the split, and Wu Jun never claimed (to me at least) that RockIt was year two of 1234, but he got nonetheless some abuse from certain third parties. However, having interviewed both Wu and Fan, and covered both events, I think that RockIt can be as fairly considered 1234 v2 as the actually-named 1234 v2, given that it actually happened... Regardless, we'll see what happens to both in non-Limp Icks years, as well as what impact the Shibo ends up having on local culture - nourish vs squish.

The Shanghai Tourism Festival has done well sometimes, suprisingly so, like in 2003 when it opened with a line-up of Cui Jian, The Honeys, and Crystal Butterfly.


And here's Archie:

We're actually just about to send out a press release about the next steps for Split. Like everyone else, we've had the same sort of problems with getting anything licensed, so we've pretty much decided to write off 2008. We have, however, just come back from a road trip to 2nd tier cities with PK14, Queen Sea and local support in each city, which was pretty rad. Managed to fly under the radar until Xi'an, when the police caught up with it all. You can read more at and search for Converse Love Noise in English or for Chinese.

I live in hope that the next few months will be a return to the upward curve. We're trying to get some money together for the Rockkid festival at Songjiang which has been pulled through lack of funding, and as I said, there will be some more news on other stuff soon. Just someone give us a decent venue in Shanghai with reasonable management and we could start doing so much more. In the interim, keep up the great work everyone. It's a labour of love, but it will work for us eventually.


And here's Lisa again to end on a positive:

What matters now is that ther is a critical (probably too critical!) mass of musicians, fans, media, etc, who will strive and revive no matter what happens. For all my nostalgia for the intimacy of the late 1990s scene, I am flabbergasted and giddy about the energy today. The obstacles remain, but the momentum is ever greater.

Venues come and go. Bands come and go. That shit happens is kinda par for course by now. But the institutional memory is finally here, the community support, for bands and for venues is permanent, and developing really excitingly. Things are finally, finally congealing, and it is heart-breakingly awesome.

Festival talk 2008


Yue FestivalOver the past couple of years, festivals have entered the music scene and then bashed up against the glass ceiling and dissapeared as quickly as they came. I recently read a bit of news and had a couple of conversations out the back of gigs.

The Shanghai scene is quite a different, and shorter, story than Beijing. Talking of Beijing ...

Most of the recent talk started with this post over at China Music Radar. I want to go through this step by step for non-China based readers. It is standard practice here for large events and also licenced (known) smaller events to be shut down during any national meeting of political importance. This is usually a tight window but this year we had the sporting event that shall not be named - which started to wreak its havoc from May onwards. So, the news at China Music Radar was that the cancelled Midi Festival in Beijing was to be revived in the October public holiday. Alas, this is exactly when Beijing indie label Modern Sky are holding their own festival in the same park. Read that link for more info.

What about Shanghai? Well, the history of Shanghai festivals is much easier to relate as there's hardly any of it. In fact there's only really been one indigenous festival of note - the 1234 Beach Rock festival - and that has only managed to appear once. The other festival was the Yue Festival organised by Split Works. Split Works are experienced international promoters and the festival brought in big names from abroad. No word on the site about rescheduling for this year ... Archie? Comments are open with no registering now. 

1234 started out down in Fengxian at the man made beach and was mainly organised by Frank Fen of Mortal Fools. It expanded last year and moved to a new site near Shangnan in Pudong. Alas, the date clashed with the National People's Congress in Beijing and the plug was pulled at the last minute. This year has been another write off due to the sporting event that shall not be named. Frank says it could be done late this year but that they simply don't have the money to get through the approval process. He will focus on smaller events in the future.

Now for a confession. I can't stand large scale open air shows. They suck. I don't drink and i'm not interested in the party atmosphere at shows. The best show I ever saw was when White Zombie showed up at Birkenhead Stairways - a little smaller than the Dream Factory here. They were touring for their major label release La Sexorcisto Devil Music Vol 1 and only played two UK shows, London and Birkenhead. Wierd. But, it set the standard for me. A legendary artist at the peak of his powers, right there in front of you and you're experiencing a connection. Also, most shows I saw ever were in the Liverpool Royal Court which is a mid-scale touring venue and about as big as I like to go. Another amazing small scale show I saw was Love/Hate at the Tivoli in Buckley. Donington Monsters Of Rock was the main event for my crowd at the time - but really, buckets of piss flying through the air?!   


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