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DJ in nightclubWhen the words don’t matter, the music should be global, right? Electronic dance music (EDM) relies mainly on the beats and sound mixing, with few lyrics that usually repeat throughout the song. Thus its promise as an international entertainment form seemed nearly guaranteed, and the success of international stars throughout Western markets reinforced that notion. Yet spreading EDM to China is proving more challenging than several promoters anticipated.

The success of EDM festivals around the world have led promoters to seek to expand them ever farther afield. Not only do hundreds of thousands of fans flock to the festivals, but they also attract substantial sponsorship dollars from firms that want their logos in front of the young, hip crowds of music fans. Yet in China, EDM has not attracted many fans. Rather, the best selling Chinese pop music tends to be somewhat slow in its arrangement, which better supports singing along with the most popular songs in China’s ubiquitous karaoke bars.

In an effort to find a niche for EDM in China, a promoter named Eric Zho is determined to make kids like the sound. The centerpiece is the Storm festival, which he hopes will become an annual event. He hired Avicii, the well-known Swedish DJ, to collaborate on a song with Wang Leehom, a Chinese pop star. The recording, “Lose Myself,” describes what it feels like to be transported by the experience of a music festival. The song and its accompanying video dropped about two weeks prior to the latest Storm festival.

The festival then was scheduled to feature Avicii and Wang, performing their new song, as well as collaborations between other European DJs and Chinese pop stars. Also at the festival, an American Idol–like competition would seek to find the first great Chinese DJ, narrowing the field to six contestants who then would be featured on a reality show. Just in case these amateurs where not interesting or appealing enough, Zho expended around $10 million to book famous EDM artists from the West, in an effort to introduce them more widely to the Chinese audience.

To ensure they would come, the promotion also featured close to 100 smaller “pre-parties” in 20 different cities. At these smaller events, attendees could gain better familiarity with both the music and the norms of festival attendance. In turn, Zho plans on vast merchandising and video game links, once the Storm festival takes off.

Source: Hannah Karp Schwartz, “In China, Concert Promoter Wants EDM in the Mix,” The Wall Street Journal, October 5, 2014, 2014, http://wsjonline.com

Discussion Question

What other tactics might this promoter use to introduce the new product of EDM to Chinese audiences?