Fri, Oct 10, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: The festival wave

Spring Wave is one of the first Taiwanese festivals to franchise regionally. Is this the future of Mando-pop?

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

JJ Lin.

Photo Courtesy of Friendly Dog Entertainment

Taiwan is fairly bursting with music festivals these days, and now Taipei gets another one. Spring Wave has been going since 2006 as the Mando-pop festival in Kending, where it serves as a mainstream counterpart to Asia’s oldest continuous rock festival, Spring Scream.

This weekend, Spring Wave opens its first franchise event in Taipei in the riverside park on the south bank of the Keelung River. Never mind that it’s autumn — the event is still called Spring Wave, just as the music is still Mando-pop.

The lineup is one you might see on a TV variety show, with Warner Music artist JJ Lin (林俊傑) headlining tonight and female idol Hebe Tien (田馥甄) topping tomorrow’s bill. Other performers include Bii (畢書盡), the Taiwanese pretty boy with a Korean mom, Della Ding (丁噹),a Chinese singer who forged her career in Taiwan, the busty Kuo Shu-yao (郭書瑤, aka Yaoyao), the Singaporean duo of sexy twins By2, rock bands Chairmen (董事長) and Monkey Pilot, TV show host and singer Tao Ching-ying (陶晶瑩), and indie-pop artist Ann (白安).

The concert is really more interesting as a marker of shifting business trends than for its singers. Since the 1990s, Taiwan has been the music factory of Chinese pop, but physical music sales have crumbled in the last decade with the rise of the Internet. Aside from licensing and endorsements, concerts and events are one of the music industry’s last bastions for earning revenues.

Now some in the music industry are trying to expand pop’s market into music festivals. Spring Wave will compete mainly against the Simple Life Festival, which is set to take place in Taipei at the beginning of December. Both events are produced by former top staff at Rock Records (滾石唱片), one of Asia’s music majors in the 1990s — Spring Wave by former music director Shen Kwan-yuan (沈光遠) and Simple Life by marketing guru Landy Chang (張培仁).

Yet festivals for Mando-pop have been slow to appear — much slower than festivals for rock, which has spawned numerous competing events in Taiwan since the mid 1990s. One big reason may be that pop music becomes uncomfortable outside of the sterile studio atmosphere, and its fans are likewise put off by festivals’ free-flowing socializing and the various discomforts — standing (or even sitting) for hours, no air conditioning, portable toilets and the threat of rain. These were all criticisms of recent pop festivals in Singapore, where such events are quite new.

Taiwanese fans are perhaps much hardier, and have been weaned on all sorts of festivals since the late 1990s.

At present, it would be safe to say that Taiwan’s festival market is fairly saturated. Other music festivals taking place this year in or near Taipei include Ho-Hai-Yan Gongliao Rock Festival (貢寮國際海洋音樂), Urban Simple Life Festival (簡單生活節), Spring Wave Music and Art Festival (墾丁春浪音樂節), Daniel Pearl Day, Beastie Rock Festival (巨獸搖滾音樂祭) and Street Voice Park Carnival. Elsewhere in Taiwan, we’ve seen Spring Scream, Spring Wave Kending, the Heart Town Festival, Rock in Taichung and the Wake Up Festival in Chiayi. There are also half a dozen big dance music parties with festival-sized attendance. And two of Taiwan’s biggest music festivals — Formoz and Megaport — weren’t even held this year, though they may re-appear in 2015.

With no room left to grow at home, the big players are looking to grow in overseas markets, namely Hong Kong, China and Singapore.

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