Hong Kong gigs

Hong Kong Canto-pop stars turn to live streaming to reach fans around world

Social media let anyone, anywhere, any time broadcast content to the world, and Hong Kong singers are on board

PUBLISHED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 8:01am
UPDATED : Monday, 20 June, 2016, 8:00am

A recent live show in Hong Kong saw Canto-pop singers Jason Chan Pak-yu and Phil Lam Yik-hong performing in front of about 4,000 people at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

This was already quite a sizeable crowd for the up-and-coming singers, but Chan and Lam were actually being watched by many more people, many from outside Hong Kong. Thanks to technology, Chan and Lam’s music reached fans from Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and Thailand live that night via a streaming collaboration between Taiwanese music platform KKBOX and social media platform Twitter, broadcasting via its Periscope app.

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“Live streaming can reach a much larger audience compared to traditional television,” Chan, 32, says following the show. “Our fans spend much more time on the internet than watching television at home. With live streaming they can watch the show live or a playback of the clip any time they want.”

Lam echoes this view. “It certainly opens the creative mindset of ‘anytime, anywhere’,” says the 31-year-old. “Sometimes we might not get the opportunities to perform on the biggest stages. Internet streaming eliminates all those problems and I think audiences would also appreciate the rawness it brings.”

Live streaming via social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube or Twitter’s Periscope, is well on the way to overtaking traditional television to become the main stream for live content of the 21st century.

These feeds allow celebrities to reach their fans directly. Celebrities do not have to bear the risks of having their messages distorted or taken out of context. Fans welcome the “genuine” faces of their idols much more than a dolled-up image that has been carefully put together by their managers.

Just look at Leon Lai Ming. A fading Canto-pop “heavenly king” from the 1990s, Lai switched his focus to films. He has taken a step back from performing, wearing the hat of a music label owner in recent years. While his acting has yet to garner any major awards, unlike that of fellow “heavenly kings” others such as Andy Lau Tak-wah, Aaron Kwok Fu-shing and Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, his lacklustre offerings on the musical front gave the impression that he was content with faded glory and refusing to step out of his comfort zone.

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But since Lai signed up for Facebook earlier this year, thingshave taken a dramatic turn. Lai often broadcasts funny videos and messages to his 313,000 followers. At the end of April, Lai posted a video apologising for the last-minute cancellation of the first night of his solo concert series at Hong Kong’s Central Harbourfront. The public – as well as his fans – applauded his move and even took part in picnics outside the concert venue to show support.

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“Lai strips off all the unnecessary idol packaging in this raw footage,” wrote marketing guru and critic Tsui Yuen. “It meets fans’ needs to see the ‘genuine’ faces of their idols. You don’t need a publicist or a manager. You can face your fans and the public on your own. You just say what’s on your mind and communicate directly with the public, through social media.”

Now content providers are adding to this momentum. Taiwan-based KKBOX has partnered with Twitter to offer live music content worldwide. Catherine Chien, marketing vice-president of KKBOX, says the music platform already has 25 million tracks backed by more than 2,500 artists. “We will co-create content on Twitter for Chinese pop fans and artists to share their music with the world through live communications platform,” she says.

It also brings a great deal of benefits to social media platforms – not least boosting traffic. Twitter Greater China’s head of media partnerships Margot Ling says a partnership boasting Chinese-language content will boost Twitter’s presence among Chinese-speaking users around the world.

As for Chan and Lam, the new technology offers an opportunity for them to expand their fan base outside Hong Kong.

To Chan, there are few differences between performing on TV or for live streaming, but he is thrilled that fans who cannot make it to the live gig can still have access to his performances. “With live streaming of various formats, fans can catch our performances regardless of where they come from,” Chan says.

“I know I have fans around the world, even in Japan, Spain and Thailand,” Lam says. “It’s amazing to have live streaming to other countries. This doesn’t guarantee success in these foreign markets, but it at least allows my music to reach farther than I could.”