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A new chapter for Chinese indie music

Updated: 2019-08-16 13:51:39

( chinadaily.com.cn )

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Punk rock band New Pants wins first place in 2019 reality show The Big Band, produced by streaming site iQiyi. [Photo/Mtime]

For most of China's Generation Z, this summer may be the first time they experienced rock music, while the country's middle-aged have had the chance to relive their youth with the sounds that made it special.

This is thanks to reality show The Big Band, produced by video streaming site iQiyi, which has helped bring new energy to the Chinese rock industry.

A cultural phenomenon

First aired in May, the show concluded last Saturday with a star-studded concert featuring singers like Pu Shu and Li Yuchun playing onstage together with the show's newly crowned hot five bands, including New Pants, Miserable Faith and Hedgehog.

Featuring 31 bands representing different genres such as punk, funk and reggae, the show has showcased homegrown indie musicians.

"Sisi yufan, and Jiulian zhenren! Kudos to the program producer for discovering these bands," reads a comment on Douban, a popular review site in China.

Running for two months, the show attracted massive numbers of viewers and sparked debate on social media.

On Sina Weibo, China's Twitter-equivalent, heated discussion inspired a series of trending hashtags like #Pu Shu from Manchester, #Zijian smashes his guitar, and #Help New Pants hit 1 million followers.

"The show has done solid work in every aspect. To some extent, it has certainly put domestic bands, still a love for a small group of people, in the public eye, which is really commendable in a time when everyone in showbiz is vying for attention and reputation," said Zhang Hao, guitarist of Byebye Noise, a rock band in Beijing.

On Douban, variety shows typically see their scores go down as they progress. The Big Band however offered an exception – when it kicked off, the show was rated 7.4 out of 10, which gradually rose to 8.7 by the time it finished.

Hedgehog, a three-piece rock band and one of the hot five bands on 2019 reality show The Big Band, produced by streaming site iQiyi [Photo/Official Weibo account of Hedgehog]

A career watershed

Thanks to the show's huge popularity, participating bands have also seen increased traffic to their social media pages, with many bands' followers increasing more than tenfold. Hedgehog's followers on Sina Weibo for example increased from 30,000 to over 1.14 million.

The show's top acts have seen their lives change. Most indie musicians have trouble making a living out of music, so they have day jobs to pay the bills, according to a Beijing Youth Daily survey.

Zhao Zijian, Hedgehog frontman, used to be a programmer.

"Finally, I don't need to go to work anymore," he said in a speech at a recent roundtable organized by Zhihu, a Quora-like question-and-answer website in China.

Shi Lu, Hedgehog drummer, is a single mom who doesn't have a day job but has to moonlight as a drummer in three bands to survive.

Funk rock band Click#15 is one of the hot five bands on 2019 reality show The Big Band, produced by streaming site iQiyi. [Photo/Official Weibo account of Click #15]

Click#15, a dark horse of the show, is a funk band comprising keyboardist Yang Ce and lead singer and bassist Ricky. The duo have confessed that their pre-show gigs draw few people and they only earned about 1,000 yuan ($142.4) a month from music.

Thanks to the show, they're now well on their way to the mainstream. Industry insiders have estimated that the band's ticket sales have increased by at least 400 percent, with tickets for their forthcoming national tour sold out.

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