Galas over gigs? The future for foreign bands playing in China


It’s getting more expensive for foreign artists to play live in China, thanks to new tax regulations on overseas performers and ticket sales. That’s bad news at a time when ever-more western artists are eyeing China with intent, thanks to the boom in legal music-streaming services owned by companies like Tencent and NetEase.

Now Chinese music company Split United’s MD Archie Hamilton has published a blog post about the implications of the new tax regime – spurred by another article questioning whether China is “headed towards a future without foreign bands”. Hamilton’s view: “While the economic case for smaller tours is crumbling, promoters and organisers are moving up the production and value chain: big, bold shows with bigger artists.” He cited recent shows by the likes of Rae Sremmurd and Lil Yachty; Troye Sivan; Jason Mraz and Tom Odell; and even The Jesus and Mary Chain. “We’re seeing two simultaneous trends: 1. A broader crackdown on ‘grey market’ economies across China, of which live performances and music are but one target,” he wrote. “2. A continued frustration with poorly defined rules and norms for low- and mid-tier live music in China that is leading promoters to go bigger. Galas over gigs, if you will.”

Hamilton has some thoughts on how the business environment can be improved to support those bigger shows, but adds a warning: “All of these arguments presuppose that China actually wants more in the way of touring international artists, which is not apparently obvious at the moment,” he wrote. “Is there a future for foreign bands in China? There is, but without some fundamental changes, it’ll be restricted to overpriced, over-hyped spectacles with frequent risk of cancellation.”

Stuart Dredge

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