Biebs Banned from China

Did they do it on ‘Purpose’? The government of China has ratcheted up Justin Bieber’s teen appeal by banning him from the country for “bad behavior,” onstage and off. The 23-year-old Canadian-born, Los Angeles-based bad boy is now officially someone you can’t bring home to mama (if you live in China). When it comes to heightening outlaw cred, few things are as effective as getting  banned from the most populous nation on the planet. You can’t pay for this sort of branding!

First reported by CNN, the story was picked up internationally, including in the U.K.’s Telegraph, which headline blared “Bieber Banned From China in Attempt to ‘Purify’
Nation.”  The international incident was triggered by a fan who posted an inquiry on the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Culture’s  website, asking why Bieber’s Asia tour included dates in nearby Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore and the Philippines on the Asian leg of his latest world tour, but not her People’s Republic.

She was met by the friendly but firm response, translated below.

Bieber was recorded by the global concert touring data firm Pollstar as in 2013 playing the Cotai Arena in Macau, China, where he wildly outperformed the venue’s typical concert act, raking in $1.2 million on ticket sales of 8,725 — besting by more than 100% the average of $466,388 in box office and 5,410 unit sales. The only mainland China venue that reports to Pollstar is the Mercedes Benz Arena in Shanghai. Booked by U.S.-based promoter AEG Worldwide, the MBA was the 11th top-earning venue in the world for 2016, generating $76.3 million on ticket sales of 688,566.

Underscoring its mandate for wholesome fare, the top-performing western act at the Mercedes Benz facility was “Disney on Ice,”which skated off with $1.5 million, selling 33,528 tickets over eight shows. Metallica came in a close second, at $1.2 million (8,670 tickets sold) on Jan. 15. With album titles like Master of Puppets and St. Anger, it’s hard to believe Metallica proffers the sort of wholesome goodness China seeks in stage performers, though the public misconduct of the band members, who are now all 55-plus, is subdued compared to Bieber’s lively antics.

“Queen-plus-Adam Lambert also did very well” in China, according to a Pollstar spokesman, who tallied that performance at $1.1 million on 8,913 tickets sold. Most of the Mercedes Benz Arena’s top acts are homegrown Chinese artists, led by Jacky Cheung.

In terms of pre-recorded music, China is still considered a developing market, but one that is rapidly growing and showing great  promise, according to worldwide music trade organization IFPI, which ranked it the 12th largest market in the world for 2016, with healthy 20 percent growth over the prior year. Only time will tell if this pent-up demand for Justin Bieber will result in an eventual gusher.

Historically hampered by rampant piracy, China was long viewed as “the sleeping giant” many believed would never wake up. With indigenous internet giant Tencent  doing gangbusters business in streaming (+30%) that’s beginning to change. “Thanks to a confluence of deals, technology, new government policy and cultural shifts, it is being talked of as the next great global opportunity, with the potential to rank alongside the biggest music markets in the world,” the IFPI 2017 Global State of the Industry Report notes.

To achieve that lofty goal, the Chinese market may have to face the music and unleash the Biebs.

Bieber’s “Purpose” world tour was the 6th highest-grossing live act of 2016, earning $163.3 million on sales of 1.76 million tickets. “Purpose” drummed up another $93 million in the first six months of 2017, making it the third biggest international roadshow. Sounds like the “controversial” crooner doesn’t need China, but clearly Chinese fans need him.

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