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Stadiums

In mainland China large performance venues such as stadiums and conference centers are state-owned. Often a substantial part of the tickets is handed out to various governmental departments to secure their support. This and difficulties with permits is why stadium concerts in China are only profitable for the largest stars and why even the largest stars rarely perform in mainland China. Even with around 20 million inhabitants, Beijing hosts around one concert of a major pop star each month, often in the Worker’s Stadium or Wukesong Stadium.  

When Jay Chou performed in Shanghai in 2010, it was at the Shanghai stadium. After the Shanghai Expo of 2010, the Mercedes-Benz Arena (maximum capacity of 18 thousand) has also hosted a number of concerts.

The Hong Kong Coliseum offers 12,500 seats. Since it was built in 1983, Hong Kong pop stars staged elaborate shows, often days or even weeks on end.

In Taiwan, the Taipei Arena is the main location for large-scale concerts. However, Radiohead performed in July 2012 in the Taipei WTC Nangang Exhibition Hall.

 

Live Houses and Pubs

Beijing East (Sanlitun)

  • In the 1980s most of the shows where in hotels, restaurants or clubs catering to foreigners.
  • A bar street emerged in the east side of town, near the embassy area and the central business district. Today, sanlitun and the surrounding area offer many cheap drinks but few live performance venues.
  • The Jazz bar CD cafe is an exception.
  • Further east there are two rock venues. To the northeast the rock bar Dos Kolegas frequently hosts reggae nights. Mako Live, several kilometers to the southeast of Sanlitun, even south east of the CBD, is a large former factory that is used as a live house. 
  • Sanlitun houses many dance clubs. Cloud 9 (now closed), Club 88 (now closed), White Rabbit (later Haze) and Lantern feature local and international Djs of renown.  

 

Beijing Northwest (Wudaokou)

  • In the mid and late 1990s a number of small bars in the northwest of the city offered shows to Chinese and international exchange students that were living in this university area. Of these places Scream Bar and Happy Paradise were crucial for emerging punk and rap metal scenes.
  • In the early 2000s D-22 (new wave, punk, now closed) and Club13 (metal) have kept this tradition alive.

 

Beijing Central (Drum Tower)

  • The ‘traditional’ low rise around lake Houhai and the adjacent Drum Tower area (including Nanluoguxiang and Wudaoying hutongs) emerged as a central area for tourism, shopping and night life after 2005.
  • The area has a host of small bars. Jiangjinjiu, Jianghu and Zajia offer original (folk) music.
  • 121, Temple (rock), Hot Cat, XP (experimental music, by the owners of D-22), East Shore (jazz), School (Djs) and Si...If (Djs) are medium sized spaces that offer a wide variety of music, for free or a modest cover charge.
  • Live houses include StarLive (now Tango, to the north, near Lama Temple), Mao Livehouse (by Japanese investors) and Yugong Yishan (to the south, near Zhangzizhonglu). These venues are larger and usually better equipped. With Mako Live (see Sanlitun), these places are the top live music venues of Beijing. They can sell over one thousand tickets for shows of foreign bands, better-known Chinese bands and (often Taiwanese) pop singers.  

 

Shanghai

  • Shanghai is more commercial than Beijing. Rents are higher, making it more difficult for prospective bar owners to find a suitable place. For instance, after the long-standing Ark Livehouse closed down in 2008, the renovated area Xin Tiandi consists only of shops and expensive restaurants and bars.
  • Much as in the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai from the 1990s onwards offers a wide range of jazz bars, often staging foreign artists. Cotton Club, JZ (since 2004) and the House of Blues and Jazz are all located in the old concessions near the Bund.  
  • Since 2006, Yuyintang is Shanghai’s principle venue for rock shows. Located just outside the center it has space for 500 people. In 2009, the much larger Mao Livehouse Shanghai became its main competitor. Smaller live music venues include Windows Underground, Dada, 288 Melting Pot and 021 Bar.
  • Shelter is an alternative club in a poorly ventilated basement. There are also many classy and commercial nightclubs in Shanghai, including D.D.’s (now closed), Y.Y., Muse (Park97 and several other locations), Babyface and M1NT.

 

PRC second-tier cities

  • Since the mid 2000s, Beijing-based rock bands embarked on national tours. Although equipment, remuneration and other factors can be substandard, it is now possible for bands to tour outside the main urban centers of China.
  • Whereas northeastern China is still quite difficult to tour, the northwest (Xi’an, Lanzhou), the southwest (Nanjing, Vox Bar in Wuhan, Little Bar in Chengdu, Kunming, Dali), the southeast (Base Bar in Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Zhuhai) and central-east China (Hangzhou, Qingdao, Dalian, Club 13 in Tianjin) are part of this informal network.
  • Some of these cities have one or more stable, dedicated venues that have build an audience and perhaps even foster a local band scene. Shows in other cities may take place in venues that normally stage cover music, standard jazz or club music.

 

Hong Kong

  • Even more so than Shanghai, in Hong Kong it is very hard for prospective entrepreneurs to find an affordable and suitably located building to open a live music venue in. The Hong Kong’s music scene is famously deprived of opportunities to perform live, which has not stopped bands from making interesting music.
  • Fringe Club, since 1983, is located in a Victorian building close to Lam Kwai Fong, Hong Kong’s most famous bar street. Fringe Club is now a multi-purpose art and cultural center sponsored by the Hong Kong city council. It hosts live music shows each Friday and Saturday.
  • Hidden Agenda opened in 2009 but has had to relocate several times by 2012.

 

Taipei

  • Small venues arose around universities in Taipei in the 1990s. Of these, Witch House, Riverside and Underworld gained national fame through media coverage of their struggles with safety laws and gentrification. In 2012 Underworld is again under such pressure and it is unclear if the bar will continue.
  • Pubs mainly rely on selling beverages. By contrast, live houses rely on tickets, and hence at these venues the music is more central. This concept was introduced to Taiwan from Japan by Freddy of the metal band ChthoniC. In 2003 he opened a venue with a capacity of 600 called The Wall Livehouse. The Wall successfully hosted shows of a range of foreign artists, often while they were on their Japanese tour. Currently the Wall has opened subsidiaries in other Taiwanese cities, including Kaohsiung and Yilan.
  • Legacy is a larger live house that has opened in Taipei in 2009. With a capacity of over one thousand it is too large for most indie bands. Whereas pop singers perform on the weekends, the venue gives the floor to new talent each Thursday.
  • Their are several live houses in other cities in Taiwan, including Kaohsiung, Taichung, Hualien and Tainan. Sometimes these are sponsored by local governments, which seek new purposes for old beer factories and other industrial buildings located in city centers.

 

 

For a more complete and detailed account, please download the whole chapter in PDF below