California rapper and singer/rapper Anderson .Paak played a show at Shanghai’s Mao Livehouse on September 30th, a milestone for Shanghai’s growing concert scene. The hip-hop performer, famous for hit songs such as “Drugs” and “The Season” is possibly the biggest of many acts to play in Shanghai.
The resounding success seen by American acts in Shanghai is testament to the degree to which Shanghai has become a truly international city. Callum Amor, 19, an NYU student who is employed by Shanghai booking company SHFT said “The Anderson .Paak show is the first type of act like that to come to Shanghai. He’s booked to STD which is the people that own Arkham [concert venue] and they’ve never had someone like that come out before because of how much it costs, usually somewhere between thirty and sixty RMB.” In the past, the great cost of booking big-name performers has prevented Shanghai booking companies from taking risks on an unproven market but the growth of interest in American hip-hop culture has given them reason to invest more greatly in such ventures. So far, it appears that such risk-taking has proven profitable.
Amor also spoke to the difficulty of booking acts due to the strict controls the government places on shows. According to him, all shows in China needed to be approved of by government officials who would review songs sent to them, which required editing obscene content before submitting them. The difficulty of this was underscored when the following night Virginia rapper Pusha T was booked for a promotional show for sponsor Adidas but was unable to perform due to police intervention. Like other forms of cultural engagement, the proliferation of an art form that has been aimed at a distinctly American audience has faced great challenges, but it appears that that there exists a sizeable consumer base from which could grow a significant market.