By Marlina Azmi
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Asia’s diverse electronic music scene is currently at its peak. Whilst some regions started developing early – Singapore’s super club Zouk, for example, has been around for a quarter of a century, and India’s club scene boasts roots in the early Goa trance raves of the late eighties – there are many still new to the game. Despite some countries having to make up for lost time, their dance scenes have almost caught up with their more established neighbours in the last decade – and a lot has changed in the last five years especially.
Asia is now finally getting the recognition it deserves, and many are looking east as the industry has proven its potential as a serious contender in the international electronic dance music scene. The fact that in the last two years the influential International Music Summit elected both Singapore and Shanghai as worthy cities for its global conference (the Shangai event was the first of its kind in China), shows how far the region has risen in international esteem. To illustrate the point further and celebrate the wins, we’ve compiled some of the notable achievements that Asia has garnered in the last five years.
China, The Dragon Has Finally Awoken
EDM didn’t successfully take off when it first came into China in 2010, but it has since gained traction in the millennial generation, the initial setback largely down to the government’s suppression of club culture from the late nineties. The government has recently eased regulations, however, which coincides with an emerging capitalist and individualist culture.
“The Chinese government is slowly realizing that for people to pursue their individual ways of living is very important, and I think the government is starting to do that,” DJ Mickey Zhang said in an interview with YourEDM. Various cities in China have made it into lists of top spots to party in around Asia. Last year’s IMS report revealed that between 2011 and 2015 estimated capacity for electronic dance music event almost tripled.
Budweiser Storm Festival in Shanghai also expanded from 16 thousand in 2013 to a two-location event in 2015 with 30-40 thousand capacity. Boiler Room’s much anticipated entrance into China was a huge success this year with the online show breaking its own viewing records. The session in Beijing on 30th April pulled in over 1.3 million views for Le Music with more than 1 million more people tuning in to stream the show live on the Boiler Room’s own website. Shanghai’s packed session on the 1st of May achieved similar figures, with 1.6 million watching in China. Boiler Room China featured headliners, Disclosure, and local acts including the likes of MIIIA and TzuSing.
The Growing Numbers Of International Festival Brands
Asia has had a healthy influx of international festival brands coming through the region in the last five years. In 2012, Sensation made its debut in South Korea, Thailand, and Taiwan; earlier this year it made an appearance in Hyderabad. Australia’s now defunct Future Music Festival collaborated with The Livescape Group to host Future Music Festival Asia which, despite the controversial deaths of several punters in its 2014 edition, successfully garnered RM916mil in its debut in 2012.
2013 brought in an estimated 15,000 tourists and RM52.5mil in tourist expenditure, and was estimated to bring in RM112.6mil in its 2014 edition. Ultra Korea, the first in the Asian region returned for the fifth time this year on June 10th, 11th and 12th 2016. Since its debut in 2012, the Korean edition has grown to be the most established event in Ultra’s global calendar, next to of course the annual flagship event in Downtown Miami. It expanded into a three-day affair this year and the festival drew a crowd of over 150, 000 festival-goers, which automatically makes it the largest electronic music festival ever to take place on Korean soil.
The Success Of Home-Grown Festivals
While international festival brands have brought in immense success to many Asian nations, we cannot disregard the home-grown brands that have risen in the last five years. Djakarta Warehouse Project for one has been listed as one to not be missed in a lot of punters’ yearly calendar. DWP drew 70,000 people in 2014, the first year it was a two-day event, and Billboard estimates that 75,000 flooded onto the grounds in 2015 generating $2.9 million in revenue. The first event drew in 2,000 people, and eventually reached 15,000 in 2012. It doubled again in the following two years making becoming the biggest dance music festival in Southeast Asia by 2014.
Thailand has also grown to be a main player in the festival scene with the emergence of boutique festivals like Wonderfruit and Kolour In The Park. Bigger productions like Songkran Festival S₂O drew 42,000 revellers to their three-day affair, which was a spike of 8,000 revellers from last year’s debut. The second edition of S₂O drew 30% or nearly 13,000 foreign visitors of the festival’s overall attendance from around the region. This is a 10% increase in foreign attendance compared to 2015.
The Rise Of The Underground Scene
Despite the EDM buzz surrounding the mainstream market, the underground scene in Asia has flourished in tandem. The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore have been building up their underground scenes at a successful rate with more club openings that have given a solid platform for local artists.
Venues like kyō in Singapore, Pisco Club, Elysium and Under 9 in Kuala Lumpur, Time, and the newly opened XX XX / 2020club in the Philippines, Beam and Glow in Thailand, Shelter and Arkham in Shanghai and Oma in Hong Kong are some of the most celebrated underground clubs in the region. They not only host prolific international DJs at their spots, these clubs have started unofficial exchange programs featuring regional DJs as headliners.
Club and event promoters are now featuring DJs from neighbouring countries on their decks. The exchange rate in Asia has soared and it has caused promoters to re-strategise their line-ups to feature equally talented regional DJs on their rosters. This gives more opportunity to emerging local artists, but is not without its own problems…
“With international DJs becoming more and more expensive and there being more local talent that play reputably good music but cost just a fraction of the price, it just doesn’t make sense to book big names for small parties in Asia. Whether this is a good thing or not, I’m not sure because I still love to see my favourite big names on a big stage instead of a new generation DJ with a laptop and sync button,” Thailand’s Dan Buri said in a recent interview with Pulse Radio.
Internationally Acclaimed Producers And Record Labels
The advancement of technology has allowed Asian artists to reach out to international music labels, international producers and regional record labels, resulting in releases on these high profile platforms. Producers like Bangkok based, Sunju Hargun, Malaysia’s DJ Hightech, Singapore’s Xhin, and China’s Tzusing are some of Asia’s talents that have successfully released original productions on international music labels like Turbo Recordings, Lapsus Music, Meerestief Records and L.I.E.S Records respectively.
Producers like these have successfully made their presence visible to a wider audience, which isn’t limited to their local scene. We have constantly been hearing of more and more producers getting noticed by international record labels. Asian labels are also getting noticed by international artists, many of them willingly want their tracks and records released by labels like Midnight Shift, Fragrant Harbour, Pure Substance and Homesick. It is common for these local labels to focus on developing producers not just locally, but internationally at the same time.