China says “nah” to Maroon 5; can’t say I blame ’em

Sometimes I ask myself, “Why, exactly, have I seen The Backstreet Boys three times in my adult life?” It’s because the tickets were comped, I lived in Shanghai, and viable musical entertainment was sparse (though it was definitely looking up by the time I left, thanks to some great promoters and music companies that were plugging away). So if I still lived in Shanghai, would I have gone to see Maroon 5 on their most recent Chinese tour? Absolutely. Without a doubt. I have no shame. AND I WOULD HAVE BEEN EXCITED ABOUT IT. (Again, assuming the tickets were comped.)

Maroon 5 was scheduled to play Beijing and Shanghai in September, but Live Nation somewhat abruptly canceled both shows. CNN is speculating that the shows were canceled possibly because of a tweet band member Jesse Carmichael made that mentions the D word (the Dalai Lama, of course). It’s certainly possible that this is the case. Totally possible. Tweets ruin lives in China! But actually, I don’t think that is the case for Maroon 5.

It is notoriously difficult to get visas for performers to begin with. The Cultural Affairs office wants to look at lyrics and albums and your political affiliations (anything with Tibet is a big NO) and concerts you’ve done before so yeah, a tweet could totally land you in hot water.

But more so, the costs of actually getting an act to mainland China and then pricing the concert is the more difficult part. Maroon 5 would definitely have a fan base in Shanghai, no doubt (in fact, this would have been their 3rd tour in China). But the cost of tickets to justify coming to Shanghai can be so high as to price out a large portion of that fan base. It’s a super tricky time right now where promoters want to get a certain level of international performer in China, but the visa difficulties and travel costs and general pain-in-the-assness of China mean bands have to charge a ticket price that is going to be inaccessible for much of the target audience. To add to the difficulty, in other countries there are usually multiple cities a band can book, but in China it’s pretty much Beijing and Shanghai only (Hong Kong and Taipei are their own entities and do not have to adhere to the stricter visa rules; therefore many bands will tour there and skip mainland China entirely). So it’s an uphill battle, to say the least.

Also, a little Live Nation bird in China told me that the show was canceled because of poor ticket sales, so actually that’s probably the real reason. Promoters will often have a very limited number of seats at a very low price which create a lot of hype and sell out very quickly, and then the $150-$300 tickets languish away (just like America!). Chinese audiences for a band like Maroon 5 fluctuate in ways they don’t in Western countries so it ends up being a wildly complicated procedure figuring out what price point will be right, each time. Maroon 5 managed to do it twice before, but not this go around.

So yeah, it was the money.

But maybe it was also the competition from the other big stadium shows like Taylor Swift and Linkin Park all at the same time of year.

Or maybe China is over Maroon 5.

Or maybe, you know, it was the tweet.

Side note: I had to browse SmartShanghai for the first time in a year for this article, and ughhhhhh…feelings, man. I miss Shanghai.

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