Hong Kong's intimate venues carve out indie music niche

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 5:46am
UPDATED : Sunday, 06 April, 2014, 5:46am

As cash-rich Macau throws its dollars at stadium-filling megastars like the Rolling Stones, Justin Bieber and Rihanna, Hong Kong appears to have carved out a niche as a touring destination for Britpop and indie bands from abroad.

With the likes of Blur, Suede and The Stone Roses as well as US and Canadian indie groups playing in Hong Kong in recent years, local music promoters are behind a steady stream of gigs at smaller venues in a city that has long favoured mainstream Canto-pop shows at the Coliseum in Hung Hom.

"But the problem is many indie-type bands can't always attract a mass audience or sustain a strong ticket price so it's tough on the local promoters to fly them in and monetise the show," said Michael Roche, managing director of Live Nation Lushington which brought Bruno Mars to Hong Kong last week.

"But more shows, diversity and choice are great in developing the market, the industry and the live music fan base."

The main issue was the lack of mid-sized venues, Roche said.

"We desperately need more facilities run on a commercial basis for events of 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 capacities. Without these, we just can't compete and we will lose shows to Macau on the basis of the money that casino-related venues can offer."

One trend he had observed in recent years was Hongkongers' interest in Western performers.

"What is heartening is that many of our large-scale Hong Kong shows are now heavily patronised by locals as opposed to many years back when it was so dependent on expatriate support," he said.

Another local music promoter, Songs for Children, was set up by two Scottish expatriates who could not find any music gigs they liked. Recent gigs have included influential alt-rockers Dinosaur Jr and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

Also, last year's Clockenflap music festival in West Kowloon featured British indie rock band Franz Ferdinand.