Structure of Target Groups and Followership in Chinese Rock and Modern Music

From Music-China Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

this is an atempt to draw out the bigger picture of what target groups the live music market are comprised of. I like to out-line these groups by listing favorite artists and music events of their interest. This article needs to be constantly modified since representive artists may vary with time...

by - --Websl@ve 12:06, 4 September 2012 (CEST)



As the live music industry in China is constantly expanding and growing in a fast manner, we all have to analyse and evaluate target groups and market value for each project we are going to do.

According to my long year experience working in Chinese live music industry, we would divide Chinese live music audience in different categories of target groups. Each category would have different taste and needs in music, live performances and contents.

The biggest target group still is what we call "C-Pop" or simply "mainstream", some industry experts estimate the market share of "C-pop" up to 70% of the national music business, others also take more traditional music genres such as propaganda music/Chinese folk (post-war folk song repertoire) or classical music into account because the way how to do live show business on mainstream aspect is totally different to exsample rock or indie music.

As huge live music events, especially with the boost of TV shows such as CCTV's "Tong Yi Shou Ge" (同一首歌 means "The same song"), started to emerge during the 1990s, large numbers of concert visitors has been drawn to the live events. The music itself doesnt nesesarily has to be performed live, but pop sings definately do their performances live. Most productions are made suitable for TV production. The big income are not done be ticket sales but by entitling sponsorships. Even though mainstream music events seems to sell a lot tickets and have a huge mass of visitors, truth is, one cant tell for sure how much tickets are really sold. But that is another story.

With the underground music movement since 2000 and the recenty emerging music festival culture (see my article here) the groups of real music fans (in comparison to generally interested or mass media influenced music fans) are growing rapidly, forming serious market potentials both for open air festivals and indoor concerts. But during the two or three decades of Chinese rock/modern music development, the active followership has gone through different offers of available live music products. The more different approaches of various music concepts and genres surfaces, the more individual get the taste of music fans.

For now, we basically can cut active live music lovers into 3 target groups: C-Rock or rural rock fans, hipsters/indie pop fans and contemporary pop/mainstream:


This is the category for the typical Chinese rock kid. Young and ful of energy, enjoys the brother hood within the rock community, in most cases high school to college students with not too much poket money but whole lot of enthusiasm for what they belief in rock. For them rock music has a deeper meaning than just entertainment, it's message should express all values what youth stands for, and it should have a socio-political statement towards all struggles in their daily life with somewhat utopian ideas behind it. They dont consume too much on events, after spending on travel costs and tickets it wont leave them too much options for other things such as drinks or merchandise items, but still they are the most loyal supporters of their favorite acts.

This audience as their artists of interests are not very international for what they need to express and understand is all typical Chinese.

Typical events of interest

Midi Music Festival, InMusic Festival, 330 Metal Festival, as long as there is enough rock bands who show more teeth and muscle in music and deliver the exact sound track to their energy of youth, they are fine with everything.

Typical Chinese artists of interest

Metal: Tang Dynasty, Yaksa, Twisted Machine, Suffocated, AK 47, Voodoo Kungfu

Rock: XTX, Subs, Oxygen Can, Zuo Bin, Heaven, Brain Failure, LR, Misandao, SMZB

Rap: In3, CMCB, Yin Ts'ang

Urban Folk: Miserable Faith, Hao Yun, Ma Tiao, Su Yang, Chuanzi

Folk Rock: Second Hand Rose, Buyi


The typical member of this category is very interested in art, music and culture, especially modern and new forms and they like to keep up with international trends and movements. They value individualism and lifestyle very much. Many employees of media and music industry belong to this group and you will often find young opinion leaders being the activists among them, not surprisingly many young females (also the bands of interest for this category feature more active female musicians see here).

They dont mind if a band is very much international or typical Chinese but they also have great interest in what's fashionable overseas. Income-wise, it seems they have it a bit better than the category illustrated above, at least hipsters seem to be more will on spending, not necesarly only on music but all in all. And yet they are constandly and activly looking for new things and open minded to try things out.

Typical events of interest

Modern Sky Festival, Music Vallay Festival, InterCity Festival concerts of recently popular western artists in indie pop or rock music.

Typical Chinese artists of interest

Electro Indie: Nova Heart, Pet Conspiracy, Queen Sea Big Shark

Indie Rock: Reflector, New Pants, Tookoo, Hedgehog, Carsick Cars, The Life Journey, Escape Plan, Omnipotent Youth Society

Rock: Long Shen Dao, Muma & Third Party, Residence A, Twinkle Star, Re-TROS, DH & Chinese Hellcats, Duck Fight Goose, Boys Climbing Ropes, Finger Family, Sonnet

Metal: Spring Autumn, The Falling, Tengger Cavalry

Ethnic Folk: Hanggai, Shanren, Ajinai, IZ

Urban Folk: Zuoxiao Zuzhou

Folk Rock: Nanwu, Lidong, Top Floor Circus


Note: bands of interest listed for this category are also quite suitable for tryouts on oversea market, many of them already had successful tours in Europe, North America or other countries.


Note: this is not the general mainstream C-Pop, it's a new approach of indie pop artists widely accepted by rock fans, most of them are songwriters themselfs with a feel of indie music than mainstream/TV stuff such as Han Hong, Na Ying, Wang Fei, Sun Nan or big names from Hongkong/Taiwan etc.

I guess the easiest way to understand Chinese pop is by differ between hyped/produced pop music and collectively popular modern music. Where the first approach is relying on commercial business models involving lucrative sponsorship to pay the bills, the real popular music are supported by real fans in small circles with niche attitudes.

A major part of the music of interest here is the so called "college songs" (校园歌曲) of early days and adapted into what we call now urban folk (民谣) which is basically the singer/songwriter thing in the west. The feel of the music is more soft than what's know as rock and yet even though also as part of Chinese pop music the content isnt as cheesy C-Pop.

This category of music fans is maybe the largest of all introduced target groups, it's a good mix of normal students or those young people who just got a job after graduation.

Typical events of interest

Kama Love Music Festival, Zebra Music Festival, Strawberry Music Festival or live concerts of famous Chinese pop artists

Typical Chinese artists of interest

New School: Cao Fang, Peng Tan, Chang Chunxiao, Deserts Xuan (Taiwan), Joanna Wang (Taiwan)

(few Taiwan artists has been included here because these became more popular on mainland China than their home market)

Old School: Xiao Ke, Gao Xiaosong, Lao Lang, Zhang Yadong, Xu Wei, Wang Feng, Li Jian, Pu Shu


Beside the Chinese audience, one significante force of live show / festival visitors are actually long term residential foreigners in China, especially in more international cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. Their taste and faves in terms of Chinese bands are very similar to the "Hipster" category above, in fact many are befriended to member so of that target group and interact with each other on social media or real life occations.

Many foreigners are also active in Chinese music industry themselves, blogging, informative websites, employed by media and music companies, doing labels on their own or playing in a band. There are some of those all foreigner bands who also have gained very good reputation beyond foreigner/expat circles. They often take part on Chinese music festivals and have their own fan bases just like Chinese bands do.

Friend or Foe, Bad Mamasan, Amazing Ensurance Salesmen, Devils on the Crossroad, Dude, The Fever Machine


Restricted / Protected Article

Rock in China is a mainly free community project documenting the Chinese underground music scene. Though some of the content hosted is copyrighted and published with specific permission by the original works' author. This article is one of these and it has been protected / restricted and thereby excluded from the provisions in the General Disclaimer regarding its copyright. The applicable terms are stated below.

Copyright with Yang, Share-Alike, Attribute to Original Author, Do Not Change