Sybesma Speaks

Details have emerged about the recent closure of Steve Sybesma’s China West Entertainment, one of the few China-based concert promoters to bring Western acts to the country.

Sybesma, who headed the company for five years, told the China Music Radar blog he decided to suspend operations because of an “unprofitable bottom line” with little prospect of improving the company’s financial situation in the near future.

He said the decision came after helping to bring Kylie Minogue and Kanye West to Shanghai last fall. Though both concerts were considered successes by the media, West’s in particular was not very profitable.

Bringing a star of West’s stature to China was very expensive, thus pricing tickets out of reach for most hip-hop fans. Although there are always “customary cheap seats” at the 9,000-capacity Shanghai Grand Stage, these did not sell well.

Sybsema said hip-hop, considered very popular among young urbanites in China, is still “a niche genre” in the country.

Though production services and venues in China are now top-rate, issues of sponsorship, licensing, permits and negotiations with authorities make it difficult for concert promoters to turn a profit in China.

Add to that the “uneven playing field” foreign promoters have to deal with and the overall poor global economy, and it’s easy to see why Sybesma decided to pack it in, at least for the time being.