Hey, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Shen Yue. I’m one of the partners of Modern Sky.
Could you tell us a little bit of Modern Sky?
Modern Sky is currently the biggest record label in China. Our business includes artist management, music releasing, records, digital and also commercial cooperation with brands. The biggest part of our business is the festivals and we also specialize in live shows. We are trying to build an ecosystem of music from artist management to releases and live shows. Everything that is about music – we do it. We were founded in 1997, when our boss Mr. Lihui decided to have his own music label for his own band. Then, all of a sudden, he realized that his record label was bigger than his band and decided change careers from being a rock star to a CEO.
What is Modern Sky Festival?
Modern Sky Festival is held in Beijing and Shanghai once a year. We do live shows in clubs with headliners such as the Cardigans and Cat Power and crew bands such as Free Energy. We also do big festivals like the Strawberry Festival, which is an outdoor event with hundreds of thousands of people. Modern Sky Festival is more about the music only. Unlike Strawberry, Modern Sky Festival is held in live houses, clubs and concert halls with artists playing series of live shows. We hope it to become a little bit like South by Southwest. We love to have the EARS summit as a part of the Modern Sky Festival and extend the content.
Do many Chinese people listen to rock music nowadays?
It depends how you understand rock music. People think you should be a free spirit and a rebel – people put a lot of labels to rock. But actually it’s a community, like pop music. What people want to hear and see is wonderful live performances on big stages, especially on outside stages, in music festivals for example. Whatever the music is, if you give a good performance on the stage, the audience will love you. I think pop or rock is not serious. A lot of people are labeling artists, we don’t want to do that. If we do a rock festival, and if you happen to be a pop star we don’t care. It’s more about the people at the event and what kind of music experiences people want, not what kind of music you play.
What other differences are there between Strawberry and Modern Sky Festivals?
In Strawberry festival, for example in Beijing last year, we had eight stages and around two hundred artists or groups playing. Most of the artists were local but we also had big names like Xie Tianxiao, Second Hand Rose, New Pants and of course indie pop stars from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore. For Modern Sky Festival we wanted to do it differently. We want this to be totally Western artists that we think are totally presentable, cool and something to present to the Chinese audience. For the Strawberry festival we also have good western artists as headliners, in the future even more than previously. Strawberry festivals main goal is to include everything, Modern Sky on the other hand is all about being sharp, new and a opinion leader. That’s why we choose bands like Cat Power, Club 8 or Cardigans. We want people to enjoy the Modern Sky Festival, it’s a very edgy brand.
Why aren’t the Chinese bands big globally?
I think the main reason is that some of the biggest names in China, for example Cui Jian, Second Hand Rose and Xie Tianxiao, do most of their music is in Chinese and don’t see themselves as global artists. But there are also other bands like New Pants, Re-TROS, PK14, who are more likely to have global careers and tours also in the Western world. Their music is in English. I think the culture and language barrier is the main obstacle why Chinese bands aren’t that big globally. But on the other hand, if a Chinese artist sees himself as a Chinese artist, it’s a good thing. They don’t have to go global actually.