Why live shows lose to KTVs
Updated: 2012-09-28 09:26
By Mu Qian (China Daily)
Comment | Mu Qian
If you have been to a live performance in any theater within the past year in China, that means you are one of an elite circle who account for only 20 percent of China's urban population.
Even if you just have an interest in going to a theater to see a show, you are already somewhat special, as 61 percent of urban Chinese don't have such an interest at all, according to a recent survey by the Guangzhou Public Opinion Research Center.
This sounds surprising for a country with one of the oldest theater traditions in the world, and for a people who developed theatrical forms thousands of years ago.
What's even more astonishing is the results covered a wide range of genre from dramas to Chinese operas, dance and variety shows.
The survey sample, which included 5,000 urban residents from 423 cities and towns throughout 23 provinces and four municipalities of China, also found that 41 percent have never been to a theater in their lives.
Is it because Chinese people are too busy working, and do not have time to spare for watching shows? Not likely. People need entertainment. But the question is, what kind of entertainment are they choosing? I believe among those who have never been to a theater, many have been to a KTV.
Then the next question is, why KTV, not theater? A friend used to tell me that she'd spend money on KTV rather than a show because she prefers to use money to feel "high" herself, rather than to see someone else get "high" on stage.
It makes sense somewhat, but a good show can no doubt make its audiences feel good. Take a look at the audiences of comic stars like Guo Degang or Zhao Benshan. People enjoy every minute of the shows.
The problem is, shows that can make people relax are too few in China, and too many performances are made by official troupes with themes that sound hollow, or as my friend put it, unable to make the audiences feel "high".
We certainly need serious theater, but it's not everybody's preference to receive education after a hard day's work.
I don't know how the results of the survey differ from region to region, but if my guess is right, probably the rate of people who are interested in going to a live show is higher in Northeastern China, because the local errenzhuan performances are so popular.
Having developed from a traditional opera, errenzhuan is now a variety show designed to entertain every member in the audience. You don't have to think at all. Just watch the actors do acrobatics, imitate a star, or crack a joke.
I'm not a big fan of errenzhuan, but I'd prefer it to a recent drama I saw in Beijing by a renowned official troupe, which was so eager to present its moral stance that you could tell a bad character from the first minute he appeared on stage.
Such official troupes don't produce market-oriented works - the budget is from the government and venues are often provided by the government for free. They can afford not to care about what people want.
Take a look at the box office, the most popular works are usually those by private groups who have to strive to survive on their own in the market.
The survey shows that what influences audiences' choice of live performances differs. For younger audiences, it is "attractive content", while for middle-aged and senior people, it's "lower prices".
Prices have been a topic for the longest time, but today's ticket prices are still unreasonably high in comparison to income level. It's even more so if you take into account what you get for the amount of money spent from most of the shows in China at the moment.
So maybe my friend is right. Why spend money on shows that you are not sure you will enjoy, when spending it on KTV is guaranteed to make you feel good.
Contact the writer at firstname.lastname@example.org.