China has always been a difficult get for touring artists. Cultural restrictions abound and can often be a moving target for anyone hoping to perform live. Dua Lipa recently had the experience of this first hand.
China is the ultimate enigma for the music business: It has seemingly unlimited potential as the most populous country in the world, but artists and their concert promoters are still facing unique obstacles to growth there.
After a brilliant debut Chinese performance in Guangzhou, a bizarre incident at Dua Lipa’s performance Sept. 12 in Shanghai highlighted the continued adjustments ahead for artists and promoters in the country: security officials removed fans at the Shanghai show for simply standing and dancing.
And while Ultra Music Festival managed to pull off its Beijing event last weekend (Sept. 15-16) after an unexplained postponement in June, Ultra’s Shanghai club takeover, which had been slated to start Sept. 8, was canceled just days before showtime.
This is hardly an unusual story as authorities tend to be inconsistent in every aspect of the business.
Sources vary on reasons for the cancellation: The event’s public statement cryptically blamed communication and circumstances outside of expectations. Officials are a common scapegoat when event planners can’t properly complete all the proper preparations to launch an event in coordination with authorities, but Ultra’s statement didn’t blame the government or local authorities.
“Going ahead with the club takeover could have affected the outcome of the full 2-day Beijing event and therefore was cancelled so as not to jeopardise the main ULTRA China Beijing Festival,” an Ultra rep says.
Doing music business in China demands a nuanced understanding of — and collaboration with — the government. The mandate from Beijing is clear: while music is meant to entertain, officials tell industry executives, it should not recklessly promote what may be seen as unhealthy ideas or dangerous behavior. Thus, every single show needs to apply for a permit before being approved the sell tickets. Background checks, lyrics of the proposed set list, and more are all critical factors subject to review by the local authorities.
There’s a lot more to this story. Read the whole thing here.