China’s growing music festival industry#Oriental Outlook#-Sino-US

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China’s growing music festival industry#Oriental Outlook#

After the trend of music festivals took root in China from the beginning of this century, the industry has seen rapid growth, which not only shows people’s changing personal interests, but also embodies the country’s rising soft power.

Well known music festivals in China include Zhaoqing Dinghu Mountain Music Festival, Changjiang International Music Festival, West China Music Festival, Taihu Midi Music Festival, Tomorrow Festival, Shanghai Jz Music Festival and so on.

In the 20th issue of Oriental Outlook, the magazine ran a cover story on the booming music festival industry in the country. Below is an excerpt of the story.

Rapid development

While the number of Chinese music festivals held in 2016 increased to 202, up 59.1% on year, the size of the audience in 2016 was 1 million more than that in 2015, according to, a Chinese website specializing in information about the music industry.

And since 2010, the phenomenon of holding music festivals has spread to more and more second and third-tier cities in the country. Before that, music festivals were exclusive to the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai.

For local governments, holding a music festival not only helps to increase tourism, but also is an opportunity to establish local cultural brand.

“In the past, there were not too many cultural activities in the country’s second and third-tier cities, but there is a need in those areas to promote tourism and cultural industry. Therefore, the increase of music festivals in second and third-tier cities is a result of both companies’ ambition to expand their market and the cities’ pursuit of better development,” said Shan Wei, CEO of Midi performance company owned by Beijing Midi School of Music.

“Music festival is an environmentally friendly industry, and it can bring long-term benefits to a city,” he added.

The rapidly developing music festival industry in China also comes amid the country’s ongoing efforts to boost its cultural industry.

The Sixth Plenary Session of the 17th Central Committee of Communist Party of China which was hold in 2011 proposed that the cultural industry should be built into one of the pillars of the country’s economic development. In May 2017, a guideline on the country’s cultural industry development during the 13th five-year plan incorporated music industry for the first time as a “key project in the cultural industry development”.

“A city which has music festival is often more energetic,” said Shan.

However, Shan also said that the challenge the second and third-tier cities face in holding music festivals is how to attract branded sponsors. Although there are local companies supporting the music festival, many branded companies still tend to be more attracted by music festivals in first-tier cities which have a bigger market.

Market participants say only when a city has a big market and established reputation for the music festival, can attract more branded sponsors.

Costs and benefits

Data from shows that the volume of China’s music festival industry in 2016 amounts to 483 million yuan, 42.5% up from 2015. But while such a figure shows a developing landscape of the music festival industry in China, market observers say around 80% of music festivals are running in loss.

The Chengdu Love Music Festival in 2012 had an investment of 60 million yuan, while the box office was only 3 million yuan, causing a loss of over 50 million yuan.

One important reason for the financial pressure is the increasing cost of holding music festivals. According to some industry insiders, the daily cost of a small music festival with less than 10,000 audience is around 2 million yuan, while a big one with more than 10,000 audience costs about 5 million yuan per day.

A market observer who declined to be named said that without government financial support, it will be very hard for a music festival to be continued.

Meanwhile, some also believe in the long tail effect that a music festival can bring to both the social and economic development of city.

“Holding a music festival not only helps to attract more people, but can also help drive local consumption, promote the development of relevant industries, and raise the reputation and fame of the city and its scenic spots,” noted Mao Xiubing, an analyst with

“By cooperating with local tourism bureau, we launched several tourism products relating to music festival; and by cooperating with local Merchant Groups and publicity department, we also invited more merchants to our music festival and thereby improve the influence of the city,” said Huang Zhihui, chief planner of the Zhaoqing Dinghu Mountain Music Festival.

City and music

While music festival can bring economic benefits, its significance goes far beyond the development of a city.

“It’s (music festival is) just like ‘fireworks’. When it’s lit, it can be seen by many people living far away. It tells the world about the happiness of a city,” said Teng Wen, planner of Shenzhen International Jazz Music Festival and Tomorrow Music Festival.

“The protagonist of a city should neither be house nor car, but should be the coexistence of people’s life and beauty. Otherwise, people may get lost under the huge pressure of city life,” Teng said.

While the music festival is spreading to more and more second and third-tier cities in China, most of the cities are located in southern and coastal areas of China, such as Jiangsu Province, Zhejiang Province and Sichuan Province.

According to Adachi Takuo, a Japanese musician, there are three basic preconditions for a city to hold a music festival- convenient transportation, good infrastructure and environment, as well as rich cultural resources, and those are the advantages of cities in China’s southern and coastal areas.

By combining music with life, many music festivals are also focusing on lifestyle innovation for people living in the city. One example is holding a fair on the sidelines of a music festival.

“Besides music, a music festival is also about a new lifestyle. A music festival can include trending animation, fitness, food and so on,” Chen Xiaotong, a person in charge of the Xiamen park of national music industry base, said in 2013.

“Life in the city is diversified, and people like social contact in musical environment. Music festival is a new lifestyle in the city, which embodies such kind of diversification,” said Xu Bo, editor of Douban Music.

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