Many Chinese would sign deeply speaking of the operation situation of live houses in China. As a matter of fact, there are only a limited number of midsize live houses that are now still in service in Beijing, and many popular live houses are struggling to make ends meet.
In 2015, Li Chi, founder of Mao Livehouse, declared via his Weibo that rising rent, meddlesome officials, and a vicious copyright spat would soon lead to its demise. Many music fans felt sorry for Mao Livehouse hearing such news. In recent years, several popular live houses have already dropped their curtains permanently due to revenue issues.
Today, Chinese people are increasingly turning to online platforms, including major video streaming sites and live video broadcasting sites that can get access to music fan instantly, which significantly squeezed the market for offline live houses.
At the same time, musicians who used to perform mainly in offline live houses began to turn to online platforms, which will meet their need for publicity and help them reach broader audience.
In TMTpost Photo Gallery 030, we paid a visit to Dusk Dawn Club (DDC), a rising music venue in Beijing, in hopes of giving you a glimpse of the current operation situation of live houses in China.
Dusk Dawn Club (DDC), founded on July, 15th, 2014, is based in a Siheyuan (Chinese quadrangles) in Shanlao Hutong, South Luogu Lane, Dongcheng District, Beijing.
In the above picture, DDC’s boss Zhang Jincan, nicknamed as “Mr. 69”, was checking if all the equipment were in function. Drive by his love for music, Mr. 69 had opened three music bars in Xiamen, Beijing after graduating from the University of Science and Technology of China with a bachelor degree in physics and master degree in computer science. In 2014, he founded the brand new DDC.
“We hold a music activity almost every night, and two or three per day during prime hours,” Mr. 69 told TMTpost. There are roughly an audience of around 50 for music activities held on workdays, but over 300 to 500 for activities held during prime hours. So the average number of audience is over a hundred per day, and the higher the box office is, the higher sales of liquors and beverages will be. Take for example the sales figure in 2015: DDC opened for 350 days, and held activities on 292 among these days. The total box office revenue was RMB 1,050,028 (around $157,787), and the peak audience reached 480. In addition, the average ticket price varied from RMB 30 ($4.5) to over 100 ($15.1), and 75% of the total box office went to bands & musicians.
Ade (the person in the middle of the picture) is a Yi-nationality folk singer from Yunnan autonomous region. He went to DDC to see music performances a lot, and wished to hold a folk music concert of his own at DDC. “DDC sticks to independent music, and is a great venue to perform in terms of both the environment and the atmosphere,” Ade explained. However, the schedule was so tight, and his concert was finally assigned on August, 28th. The musicians and band that perform at DDC vary a great deal: from hip-hop singers abroad, to big name local musicians. It is Mr. 69’s hope that DDC will help find and nurture more new, talented and independent musicians & bands. In 2015, over 233 foreign bands performed at DDC.
Ade, aged 31, left his hometown in Yunnan at the age of 18 and started to pursue his dream as an independent musician. However, he only managed to make ends meet by performing at different bars across China. “It could be really hard for independent musicians to make a living, and only few of them could rise to fame and grab much public attention,” Ade intertwined Yi language into his folk songs, making his songs very unique, “Yi nationality’s music is pure. It’s okay if the audience don’t understand Yi language, because the music itself (melody and rhythm) is enough to convey my feelings and thoughts.”
A guy in the audience was recording the entire show with an iPad. To help promote publicity, DDC would interview musicians & bands and make trailers for the performance, live broadcast the performance in cooperation with some professional live video broadcasting platforms as well as make some special video clips afterwards for fans to review and enjoy. View times of these video clips could reach as low as a couple hundred and as much as ten thousand.
In the above picture, the band was performing with the help of special equipment such as Gameboy, computer chips, etc. Besides folk, rock and jazz music, World Music, independent, avant-garde, experimental, electronic and punk music could also be heard on DDC’s stage. Rock music, which takes up over 30% of all the performance, is still the dominant genre at DDC, and is followed up folk, jazz, independent electronic music, World Music and R&B, etc.
She is Canadian musician Ember Swift, and her husband is the vocal of the Chinese reggae band “Long Shen Dao”. Ember followed her husband and moved to Beijing eight years ago. Since 1996, they have 11 issued albums. Currently, she was working on her12th album, which is to be issued this September. “I used to perform a lot, but now only twice or three times a month, because I have to take care of my two babies. I have an entirely different life pace right now,” Ember explained, “Back in Canada, I could perform a couple times a week. I lived this way for several years and could make a steady income by performing thanks to the favorable environment for independent musicians in Canada; in China, the market is still not as developed yet, so it’s still hard to make a living merely by performing.” However, she was still positive for the future of Chinese independent music industry, believing that the market is already growing.
DDC would also rent the venue to press conference organizers or film&video producing teams. In the above picture, the workers just finished disassembling the stage of a popular entertainment show Meet Stars. The venue was closed for a while, and some fans of the show paid a visit in hopes of meeting some stars on flesh.
Long Zhang, the bartender at DDC, has been working at DDC for two years. DDC started with only the service team and the operation team, but gradually expanded and recruited professionals specializing in marketing, designing, editing, etc. The majority of the team are young college graduates born in the 90s. To add fun to work, they kept a Chinese rural dog called “Dusk Dawn Dog” (or 3D) at DDC.
Mr. 69 was chatting with the neighbor Ms. She in the above picture. Ms. She grew up in Shanlao Hutong, and has lived here for over four decades. She would also grab a drink at DDC when there weren’t lots of people. She even addressed Mr. 69 as brother, jokingly. “After DDC opened two years ago, this Hutong were often packed with people. It could be a little noisy at night, sometimes,” Ms. She told TMTpost. “I shall go and live in my house in Changping District tonight. Drop by if you have time, but I really doubt if you’ll have any free time,” Ms. She invited Mr. 69 before she left.
TMTpost Photo Gallery
Special column of TMTpost
Aiming to record individuals and entrepreneurs in the Internet industry
Photos don’t lie, but they don’ tell the whole truth
Photos are free, but also full of traps
This is an Internet age, and we want you to discover stories with us online
(Like our Facebook page and follow us now on Twitter @tmtpostenglish and on Medium @TMTpost and on Instagram @tmtpost_english.)
[The article is published and edited with authorization from the author @Zhu Lingyu, please note source and hyperlink when reproduce.]
Translated by Levin Feng (Senior Translator at PAGE TO PAGE), working for TMTpost.