MAO Shanghai opening in September

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MAO.jpgIt's been a couple of months since news first broke of Soma's move to hook up with the people from MAO and open a Shanghai live music venue. Since then, locations have been scouted, proposals written and trips made to Japan to persuade investors to buy into Soma's vision of a "livehouse revolution." It's now been confirmed that they will be opening a new live music venue in the space formerly occupied by WTF next to the Red Town area. It will be called MAO Shanghai and it should all be ready by September 18th, when Hong Kong indie-popsters My Little Airport will take to the stage. UPDATE: Latest word is that the My Little Airport opening show could be delayed, possibly to the following week, possibly until even later.

The news was confirmed by Lisa Movius (who is doing PR for Soma) in an e-mail/comment by proxy here:

"While it will be a subsidiary of the Japanese investor, and not of the Beijing locale, it sounds like the Shanghai and Beijing Maos will be quite closely affiliated, with a coordinated line-up. Which hopefully will mean that our Shanghai bands will get more chances to play in Beijing and Japan.
Mao Live Shanghai is now slated to open on 18 September with a concert by Hong Kong's My Little Airport.
Mao Shanghai's space can hold 800-1000 people and is on Huaihai Xi Lu, adjacent to Red Town. Zhijiang Dream Factory will, after this month, return to New Factories' management."

This explains why Soma have been canvassing opinion on popular Japanese bands via Douban recently - be prepared for a stream of Japanese acts heading to these shores. Soma haven't been too great at promoting the bands on their roster so far, with the most successful shows from a Soma band coming courtesy of The Mushrooms - who organised the events themselves. So it will be interesting to see whether there will be more than just a one-way flow of bands from Japan and whether this will help Shanghai bands gain wider exposure.

Soma's marriage with the Dream Factory, which caused a fair bit of controversy when it was initially announced, didn't turn out to be a particularly happy one and they struggled to fill the venue on a regular basis. Can they pull in 800-1000 people week in, week out? The biggest crowds during their Dream Factory tenure came for shows which they did not organise and it'll be interesting to see whether they employ a similar deal to the one that they put in place at Zhijiang, which led other promoters to feel they had been cut out. If they want to be filling a mid-size venue like this regularly, they may need to cooperate more with other promoters.

When I interviewed Pang Pang from Soma in the wake of the Dream Factory controversy, he said that the "ultimate plan" was to "create a specialised livehouse" with an emphasis on "the environment, the sound, lighting, stage, low-priced drinks." This vision became bogged down in wranglings with the New Factories management, hence this move for their own venue. One would think that this new venture will give Soma more freedom to do what they want and it will be interesting to see what they do when given their own venue. The Soma-Dream Factory saga seems to be at an end. Whether they will enjoy more success with this new venture remains to be seen.

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A little more information: Soma have told me that they will be undertaking a different arrangement at the new venue than with the Dream Factory. They say that the split ticket revenue deal that was set up at the Dream Factory was because Zhijiang's management insisted on taking the entire drinks revenue, meaning the only money they could make was through ticket sales. As they will be managing the space at Red Town themselves, this situation will not apply and they will therefore be happy to work with other promoters to put on shows.

Where exactly was WTF.

There are two large spaces. One is in one end of the Sculpture Space building (was Candy) and the old O2 space is a little up a lane opposite where you come in to Redtown.

Yeah it's the space that was Candy before, although I thought that was the same place where 02 was. To be honest, I never went to any of them though, except for WTF for Ghostface Killah. It's changed hands quite a few times just in the last year or so, no one seems to have had much success out there...

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