Updated: Jul 16
From 电子舞曲 ‘electronic dance music’ (diànzǐ wǔqǔ), to 浩室音乐 ‘house music’ (hào shì yīnyuè), via 铁克诺音乐‘techno music’ (tiě kè nuò yīnyuè) and 出神音乐 ‘trance music’ (chūshén yīnyuè): these musical genres are a part of China’s playlist (De Boni, 2018). Deputy Secretary General of the Center for China and Globalization pointed out how the “night economy is a very important reflection of the vitality of the economy” (Cheung, 2019). Deng Xiaoping’s reforms and opening of the country in 1979 allowed the introduction of "western party culture" to China. In the 1990s, nightclubs were present in every big city with the Chinese underground scene making appearances in the music industry (De Boni, 2018).
Electronic dance music (EDM) fans in China have kept growing throughout the years, starting with 32 electronic music festivals in 2016, to 150 in 2018 (Chow, 2019). EDM music isn’t just one genre of music but includes several genres from disco music to drum and bass and techno. Starting in the 1970’s, EDM has developed as a symbol of contemporary culture. Recognised in nightclubs and discos, EDM music today is known for organizing raves and festivals. 21st century EDM has become popular with European and American DJs that were part of albums of famous artists such as Madonna or Lady Gaga. These DJs are today acclaimed musicians (to name a few: Tiësto, David Guetta, DJ Snake, Zedd) and China’s EDM music scene is similarly becoming increasingly important (Chow, 2019).
The population listening to EDM in China is of the age group of 18-35, approximately 300 million individuals (Wang, 2016). The demographic impact of China’s young generation listening to EDM is more important than in the United States or any country in Europe. China has become a home ground for EDM and the organization of festivals with other countries in Asia such as India, Thailand, Indonesia, or South Korea. Out of 5,000 people in China, 64% of survey respondents indicated that they listen to a form of electronic music, making China 5th in the dance music ranking. (Todoroski, 2018). In 2013, China’s first large-scale electric festival was created, titled the ‘Storm Music Festival’, with 24,000 attendees, growing to 180,000 attendees present in 2016. The Storm Festival in 2016 was held in different cities in China with most of the crowd coming from China (84%) (Ming, 2017). In 2016, four Chinese clubs were listed in the top 20-clubs ranking by DJMag, the biggest EDM magazine of the world (De Boni, 2018).
With foreign DJs invited to mix in festivals or nightclubs, China’s own EDM thrives with Chinese’s DJs such as Breaker, Lucky Zhang, Lizzy, and the list goes on (Wang, 2016). Local EDM artists are getting recognized by the population by throwing parties or creating their own music label. Others joined American or European music labels. The crowd in China’s nightclubs were originally mostly foreigners, but the crowd of young Chinese has grown and it has expanded EDM in social media popularity, making this genre of music appreciated by the new generation (De Boni, 2018). With websites such as Xiami or Douban, Chinese DJs can make streaming and downloading their mix available to the younger generation but also to anybody curious about this new musical genre that attracts the younger crowd (Collinge, 2018). Chinese artists are also introduced to a more international crowd by playing in festivals such as Ultra or Coachella (DJ Carta and DJ L) (Music Business China, 2019).
EDM schools are opening in China as local artists are often moving overseas to develop their popularity. For example, in 2019, NetEase Fever (an electronic music brand dedicated to Chinese users) created Point Blank China (Shen, 2018). A lot of local artists started to mix at a young age by learning an instrument and searching on the web new techniques used by international DJs. Local artists point out how, for some of them, their hobby that turned into a well-paid job isn’t recognized by their parents, wanting them to pursue an academic path (Van Zessen, 2016).
In August 2020, Wuhan hosted the ‘HOHA Electronic Music Festival’ from 11 July to 30 August 2020 with local artists such as Akini Jing, Gai, Tizzy T, Panta Q. After a 76-day lockdown, the EDM festival brought over thousands of participants with a mask to listen to EDM in a water park (Lim, 2020). No cases were reported in three months, allowing the festival to take place (Heffler, 2020).
With social media, EDM in China even grew during the quarantine period of the pandemic. Music director Zhou of Beehive bar (Shanghai) said, “who would ever think that I would be a live streaming DJ on the Internet”. As live shows, music festivals were cancelled, so social media took over the musical scene by allowing the visitors to continue to listen to EDM or decide which genre of EDM the individual wants to listen to, ranging from trap to dubstep (Xinhua, 2020).
With artists present in nightclubs or on the web, EDM in China is a growing market and the crowd of listeners is expanding. Furthermore, the support of the government makes China’s nightlife more attractive and enables the development of local artists in their career.
Prisca Mirchandani is a second-year student of a trilingual master’s degree of Global Security and Analysis (French, English, and Chinese) at the University of Bordeaux, France. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University “Lumière” Lyon 2, France and studied Chinese language with the University and participated in language exchanges with students coming from China to study in Lyon. She is passionate about China- EU relations, China-France relations, and China Hong Kong’s history. You can find her on LinkedIn (https://fr.linkedin.com/in/prisca-mirchandani-48b98612a).
The opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not represent the views of European Guanxi.
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