I’ve been doing a fair share of reading up on music and lifestyle trends in Asia…with particular focus of course, in Shanghai. Every item I have read has alluded to this burgeoning international city that is soon to leave London, Paris and (maybe) New York in the dust. OK, OK for now… we’ll just stick with the “Shanghai is the NYC of China” claim. Whichever the case, the overall notion gets me amped and ever-so-antsy to check it for myself. Here are some of my findings:

  • In March 2007, a familiar name, Ticketmaster, acquired a majority stake in Emma Entertainment Holdings HK Ltd., a provider of ticketing and event promotions services, to expand operations in China. Emma Entertainment changed its name to Emma Ticketmaster to reflect the acquisition.
  • Since the advent of Emma Ticketmaster, China has become a viable place for major foreign acts to add to their world tours. Big names such as Bjork, Maroon 5, Harry Connick Jr, Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys are all performing this Spring. In addition, another big-name concert promotions company, China West Entertainment, is bringing over Incubus and James Blunt.
  • China takes pains to ensure concerts are politically correct. Artists are forbidden to perform content that would harm “national unity” or “stir up resentment” and promoters are asked to submit set-lists and lyric sheets for approval. Performers deemed to have hurt national sentiments are put in the freezer indefinitely, or until seen to have made due penance.
  • Knowing the above, in her recent performance, Icelandic singer, Bjork’s pro-T____ outburst at a Shanghai concert not only angered China’s wary cultural guardians, but annoyed music promoters who say politics is bad for business and worse for Chinese fans. China’s Culture of Ministry has now claimed that controls would be tightened over foreign singers and performers after Bjork allegedly closed her set with an unauthorized song, chanting “Declare Independence!” as a seeming dedication with the word, “T____!” twice, to close her show.
  • Here’s what Bjork had to say in response:
    • “I have been asked by many for a statement after dedicating my song ‘Declare Independence’ to both Kosovo and T___ on different occasions. I would like to put importance on that I am not a politician, I am first and last a musician and as such I feel my duty to try to express the whole range of human emotions. The urge for declaring independence is just one of them but an important one we all feel at some times in our lives. This song was written more with the personal in mind but the fact that it has translated to its broadest meaning, the struggle of a suppressed nation, gives me much pleasure. I would like to wish all individuals and nations good luck in their battle for independence. Justice!”
  • As a result, the Chinese government is continuing behind-closed-doors discussion on additional measures (pending approval) by the Shanghai Cultural Bureau with regards to foreign performers in China:
  • 1. Organizers must sign additional guarantees that performers will not comment on political issues from stage, etc.
  • 2. A 50% of the total potential box office must be paid as a deposit on the show to the Cultural Bureau. Should performers break the law, this deposit will be retained by the government. Additional fines may be levied.
  • 3. Artist performances will be closely monitored to conform to the government pre-approved set-lists.
  • 4. Artists will not be allowed an unapproved encore.

Oye!! Now I’ve been in the business of concert promotions myself… and Point #2 above is STEEP. This Bjork backlash has most definitely set course for a possible decline just as quick as its recent acsent of hosting foreign acts in the Chinese market. So fascinating…. I’ll be keeping my ears on this one…

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– song entitled, “Declare Independence” from album, Volta by Bjork (05.22.07)

. . don’t burn the day. .

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