China and Taiwan: How did they manage to keep stages alive?

The effects of the epidemic corona on the entertainment industry is being replaced by normalization phases day by day in Asia.

China and Taiwan have gained the ability to safely perform events that host thousands of music fans in these days while Europe is closing its doors and the United States is breaking a case record every day. Though event planning in Europe and the US at the edge of uncertainty, AEG Asia CEO Adam Wilkes, who runs the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, reported that: “When we look at the artist reservations carrying out for next year, we predict that we will have a normal year in calendar”.

The BEAUZ duo is one of the symbolic figures of normalization in China. The reason of live music industry came to the point of closing its doors in the US this summer, prompted the duo to make a radical decision. Deciding to abandon their settlement in California, the duo turned their route to China. East Asian brothers Bernie and Johan Yang remained in quarantine for 14 days after arriving Shanghai in early August, in which they found themselves preparing for a concert in the country that managed to contain the coronavirus crisis. BEAUZ has performed in 13 club stages since their preparations. According to Bernie, one of the duo, this was the busiest stage period in their careers.

One of the important strategy of this normalization seen in China and Taiwan took place between 1 and 8 October. Taking advantage of this time period, which is a national holiday in China, the organizers performed more than 4 thousand live events. Approximately 10.000 people participated in 20 of them. According to the data of the ticket company Damai, the number of participation increased by 130% compared to the same time period in 2019. Another milestone was that Modern Sky, one of the leading organizations of the entertainment industry in the country, organized Strawberry in Beijing, Chengdu and Harbin, which is a music festival with a daily visitor number between 10,000 and 20,000. Later, Taihe Music Group organized Rye festivals at three locations, including the country’s city of Zibo. The festival in Zibo hosted 30,000 music lovers, and cleared the bar for normalization.

So far, mostly local artists have performed at events in China and Taiwan. Because in both countries, the application of quarantining artists from abroad for two weeks and problems with business visas still continue. Some global organizers are reactive to this situation; one of them is Live Nation. Jim Wong, the company’s director for the Asia region, says that organizations such as Creamfields are unlikely to return to China and Taiwan in the near future unless A-list artists’ work permits are facilitated.

Most of the shows with large participations are performed in open areas with the thought that the virus will not spread so easily. Before entering to the events, although health screenings of the participants are carefully examined and strict practices such as the necessity of using a mobile application that measures fever and contact tracking put forward, it is observed that measures such as the use of masks and social distance in the event areas are not controlled sufficiently. The crowds of people piling up in front of the stage in the Rye festival series and the photos of the visitors following the concerts without masks kept the country busy for a while.

Chinese organizers started work on reviving the live event industry in May. Disneyland Shanghai started to open its doors again at that time with 30% capacity, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism increased the capacity of open concert venues to 50% in late July and up to 85% in August. The Chinese entertainment industry has come to this level by trial-error method,according to AEG Asia CEO Wilkes, new profit have reached to the creative capacity. Mercedes-Benz Arena prepared to hold its first ticket event in the normalization process with the 40% capacity on November 21st. 4,700 music lovers were expected to attend the event, where singer Xie Chunhua would take the stage.

The strict measures of the Chinese government in its effort to contain the virus played an important role in the return of the music industry. Organizers who want to organize concerts with more than 10.000 participants in the country are allowed in the city where the concert will be held, provided that no cases are happened for 60 days. Some companies, such as Modern Sky, are pursuing their own initiative to bring concerts back by reducing their capacity in order to overcome this requirement. Even though ticket revenues have dropped, organizers acting in this direction consider it a plus to keep the “normalization perception” high by holding concerts during the pandemic period.

The mobile application, which makes it easier for authorities to track the virus, was also critical in this process, and the grouping of the infection in certain regions was thus prevented quickly. Everyone in the country has to show the QR codes specially produced for them in this application each time while entering to many official/private buildings. It is also the reason of strict attitude of healthcare professionals to carry out quarantine procedures. The Yang Brothers in the BEAUZ duo state that they could not even get into each other’s room during the 14 days they spent in quarantine, and that the healthcare workers wearing special clothes came to the quarantine house and applied tests without prior warning. Remembering the SARS epidemic that broke out in Asia in the early 2000s, Johan Yang explains, “People here act with the awareness of how much the virus can harm society. They obediently accept demands such as wearing a mask, measuring temperature and displaying a QR code.”

According to AEG Asia CEO Wilkes, the next step towards normalization could be organizing regional concert tours across Asia. Underlining that this requires high level of coordination between governments and organizers in the region, Wilkes states that Australia and New Zealand may also be included in the scenario in this new expansion. By determining the airports that are used as “green corridors” on the proper routes, if necessary, international artists who cannot take the stage in their own countries can tour in Asia. Alesso and Kayzo, the leading DJs of dance music, stayed in quarantine for two weeks in order to perform at the Road to Ultra Taiwan festival organized by Ultra in Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, on November 14.

 

Many industry prominents, including Wilkes, demand a solution to the situation where the artists have to stay in quarantine for a certain period of time in every country they visit to perform, which is not sustainable. BEAUZ‘s exceptional situation is a little different one. The duo plan to stay in Shanghai for another six months and enjoy continuing to be on the stage with their performances.