Rock music takes aim at China's smaller cities

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Music festivals have become a way for Chinese fans to access rock music.

As the music festival scene grows in China, organizers are looking to go beyond first-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai because they aren't the only places people want to rock.

"We have seen festivals go from purely on the coast to further into the interior," says Eric de Fontenay, owner of Music Dish. "I think there is really untapped demand in these other regions."

Music Dish China, a media company with a history of sponsoring China's leading music festivals, announced recently that it will be a sponsor of the Play Rock Music Festival in Hefei, China. Hefei is the capital of China's eastern Anhui province, and Play Rock has become China's third-largest music festival in only its third year running.

"One reason why I think (Play Rock) has been able to grow so fast is it faces a lot less competition," Fontenay says. "If you're a festival-goer in Beijing, you have so many festivals."

Fontenay says when he was in Beijing in the spring, the Midi and Strawberry festivals - China's largest rock music festivals - were scheduled at exactly the same time in the same city, Beijing. Play Rock is the only large-scale music festival in Hefei.

"You come to the point where there's so much competition that they're actually splitting the festival audience of the city," Fontenay says. "For Play Rock, there's not that problem."

People are talking about second- and third-tier cities, as well as more interior and provincial regions, as the new horizon for growth in China's music festival industry.

Rock Play will be held in Hefei's Three Ruins Park on Aug 23-25 with a lineup of 25 Chinese acts. In the past two festivals, a number of well-known musicians and bands have performed on the festival's two main stages, including Cui Jian, Tang Dynasty, Yip Sai Wing and MC Hotdog.

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