TIMES are bad for the local entertainment industry and it would be a fool who failed to tread carefully with any plans this year. And Andy Lau Tak-wah is nobody's fool. The singer is planning a possible series of solo concerts in August and is making sure all market research is carefully done before he makes any commitment. 'It will be all or nothing,' said Lau. 'I am aiming for 20 shows - no more, no fewer - because it is what I had before.' However, he added: 'I don't want people comparing these concerts to past ones. Nor do I want to add on any more shows if the tickets sell because there is enough pressure as it is. 'If I don't hold my concerts in August, it will be because I have no confidence that I can fill 20 shows at the Coliseum. But I think it will be better for me than for some other Hong Kong singers because it has been two years since I last held solo concerts. 'It is going to be a big headache thinking up a special theme for the concert. The main question is, of course, how to attract these 12,000 people into the Coliseum every night.' Lau has been seeking the answer for more than six months, which is how long his staff have been researching the market situation. It has been the most extensive research Lau has carried out before a concert since he became a professional entertainer. From the results, he has observed that concert trends have been reversed in the past year or so. 'In the past, the most expensive tickets usually sold out fastest and the mid-priced tickets were always the most difficult to get rid of. Now it's the opposite. The same number of people are still going to concerts but they are buying the cheaper tickets first,' he explained. That is why Lau has ruled out discounted tickets for his concerts but instead will look into ways of starting ticket sales earlier, to allow people more time to make up their minds. 'We're looking at how we can get that done through Urbtix or even make them available by mail so that people can take their time in making their decisions. 'Giving discounts is not going to help because so far the figures show the same numbers are going. The thing we have to do is to make sure the concert is very special to give added value to the audience. Maybe we might design things so that certain parts can only be seen clearly up-front to get more people to buy the more expensive tickets,' he added, with a laugh. But the 37-year-old singer will not be taking a leaf out of Celine Dion's book by hiring the old Kai Tak airport, although he admits he would probably need only about five shows there for the same audience attendance. 'The logistics would be a nightmare. The venue is bigger but you'd have to waste a lot of money unnecessarily. You would have to prepare the venue and you would have to pay for crowd control and traffic control,' he said. 'And there are rules about how many toilets you must provide for a certain number of audience members so just bringing in these portable toilets would be a nightmare. The concert tickets would cost about $1,200! It really would not be cost-effective.' If the concerts come about, Lau intends to have his own production company produce the shows to keep costs low. 'That's what we've been doing all these years. We get paid a lump sum from the promoters to put on the show. If production costs are higher, then I just take a smaller performance fee. I don't mind that as long as we can do what we want and the promoters can make a little money from the shows,' he added. The past year has been quite good for Lau, who has made an all-out effort to make up for a quiet 1997. He capped the year with a handful of music awards, including the RTHK Gold Song Awards and the Hit Radio Awards. He also took two statuettes at the Channel V Chinese Top 20 '98 in Shanghai, one of which was for favourite media personality. Sales of his latest Putonghua album Silly Kids have also been remarkably high, hitting platinum just a few months after its release. In the midst of all this activity, Lau has also found time to nurture new talent, taking budding Taiwanese singer Lawrence Chou Jinwei under his wing. Just as Jacky Cheung Hok-yau helped launch Ronald Cheng Chung-kei's career by recording a single with him, Lau has also recorded a single, Don't Be Silly, with the 20-year-old Chou. Lau's lucky star also seems to be shining on Chou, who took home best newcomer at the Channel V awards. 'I've known him for about a year and we've had the pleasure of working together on several occasions in Taiwan. I think he really has a great voice and will be a big name someday,' said Lau of his classically trained protege. Lau will have to take time off from guiding Chou's career and also from deciding on the finer points of his own concerts for the next two months. He will spend most of the next two months at the casinos in Las Vegas. Although not a bid to win more production money across the gambling tables, his stay in Vegas will definitely fatten the kitty: he is scheduled to film the follow-up to one of his more recent movie successes, The Conman 1998, there. The sequel will be filmed entirely in Los Angeles and among the gaming tables of Las Vegas, where the movie's showdown takes place. After that he will be back at his calculator to add up the risks of appearing again on stage at the Coliseum for Hong Kong audiences. And, if his fans are lucky, the odds will even out.