Pop Group Mayday
Heating Up Taiwan's Concert Industry
Hundreds of thousands of fans make the pilgrimage to Mayday's concerts each year, bringing in hundreds of millions of Taiwan dollars. Mayday's success is due in no small part to the backing of its 100-strong support staff.
Heating Up Taiwan's Concert IndustryBy Yueh-lin Ma
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 514 )
The temperatures were cold, but the passions of Taiwan's concert-goers were burning hot.
More than 10 major outdoor New Year's celebrations ushered in 2013 across Taiwan. At least 850,000 revelers gathered in front of Taipei City Hall alone.
Kaohsiung received an extra shot in the arm from pop music group Mayday, who put on four concerts before hosting local New Year's celebrations. In a short 20 hours, the city's economy reaped a windfall of more than NT$1 billion in tourist dollars.
In this increasingly digitalized age of virtual reality and voice effects, the experience of seeing an actual live musical performance is all the more precious. Just as the recording industry is faced with the collapse in retail CD sales, the progressively maturing business in live music is booming, winning the hearts of music fans over the past two years.
According to a report on the popular music business in 2010 from the Ministry of Culture, there were 441 live musical performances that year for which tickets were sold, an average of at least one a day and a huge leap from the average one every three days the previous year.
And amidst all the hubbub, the most rapturously received band of them all, the "Concert Kings" of Taiwan are Mayday.
Mayday's four "Noah's Ark" performances in Kaohsiung to close out last year not only saw their customary spectacular stage effects and spirited rock and roll music take to the stage, but also LED lightsticks, the flashing colors of which could be centrally controlled, took the sense of audience participation and excitement to a new level.
Radio host Ma Shih-fang, who sees at least one show every time Mayday tours, says the "Noah's Ark" shows without a doubt put Mayday solidly at the top of the heap of Asian bands.
Pro Roadies Make for Perfect Performance
"Their ambitiousness in staging concerts has always been evident, but in the past they've kind of overreached and been somewhat visually scattered," Ma says. "With the Noah's Ark shows, they really reached an equilibrium. The focus was on the music itself, but the overall stage effects gave quite a tactile sensation."
With concerts now trying to outdo one another in terms of outrageous spectacle, the fundamental emotional link remains the feelings the songs evoke.
"This is where Mayday really excels, so they've always been the pop stars fans feel closest to," Ma concludes.
To put on the perfect concert, you'll need more than just the band. You will also need a crack professional roadie crew.
When B'in Music International, Ltd., Mayday's record company, was founded in 2006, they decided the company should have a concert production department. That department has since grown from five people six years ago to 50 now, and B'in Music is Taiwan's only record company that can handle the entire music business process from music production to record promotion to concert production.
Aware of the vital role video can play in orchestrating the ambiance of a concert, B'in Music in 2007 expanded to include a video production department.
Now, B'in Music puts together concerts not just for artists from their own stable like Della Ding and Yan-j, but even for performers like Yoga Lin and Christine Fan (A.K.A. "Fan Fan"). The company staged 110 concerts of varying sizes last year alone.
Staging a major outdoor musical event requires a top notch crew of more than a hundred, not including contract day labor. B'in Music can not only bring more than half the required specialized manpower to bear from in-house, they also have three- and five-year working relationships with their Japanese sound and lighting engineers.
For two of their year-end concerts last year, Mayday plunked down another NT$5 million to bring in the German production team that handled the aerial holographic imaging of the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics to shoot the concert proceedings as they unfolded with their most advanced "spidercams."
10,000 Shows in a Single Day
There was a back-end in mind with that hefty investment; the creation of a new business model. A 3D presentation of Mayday's year-end concerts will hit movie screens by the end of 2013 at the earliest.
"Imagine it – Mayday opening live on stage in 10,000 movie theaters across China on a single day," says Ocean Chou, director of concert productions for B'in Music.
"A lot of people buy into the myth that flashy hardware is the bee's knees, but the hardware works in the service of the software. The point is figuring out how to execute creatively," says B'in Music CEO Ason Chen. Although the company did employ six engineers from Japan and Germany to record the Kaohsiung concerts, the core concepts and ideas behind the program design were entirely the work of Mayday and B'in Music's concert production staff.
Mayday has their sights set on competing with top international acts like U2, Coldplay and Glay. Whether it's in London or Tokyo, they're anxious to try to make foreign crowds scream "Wow."
After a concert last year in which Coldplay employed LED lightsticks, B'in Music tracked down a Taichung company that could custom design environmentally-friendly LED lightsticks using patented internal programming technology that would allow the color scheme of an entire venue to be centrally controlled. The company ordered 100,000 at one pop, and completely sold out.
"But Coldplay's lightsticks were only monochromatic in two modes, flashing or steady. Ours have seven different color and flash combinations," Ocean Chou says with pride.
Mayday world tours are in the range of 40 to 50 shows. Sufficient economies of scale reach a critical mass, prompting bolder investment and resulting in increasing popularity. On top of the more than 50 items of peripheral merchandise that had been designed, ticket sales for last year's four Kaohsiung concerts alone grossed NT$280 million.
As Rock Records chairman Johnny Tuan observes of the Mayday phenomenon, it's actually a collective success, a collective performance. The audience are performers, taking part in the performance.
"But where I want to pay due respect is to the team handling the backstage operations. Popular music in Taiwan really needs this kind of talent," he says emotionally.
Having gone from gigs in front of 2,000 fans in 1999 to extravaganzas before throngs of 100,000 in 2013, the lads of Mayday are veterans of more than one world tour, moving up from Asian stars to a world-class act.
Translated from the Chinese by Brian Kennedy