Posted by Nevin Domer on 15. Mai 2009
When I think of Shanghai I think of Yu Yin Tang as the club that has been working tirelessly to develop the music scene. How long have you guys been around?
We started in 2004, so about five years.
And you have had three locations, right?
No, two locations. And actually when we started in 2004 we were just promoting rock shows in some small bars. It was in 2006 that we started our first space.
Can you explain the meaning of the name "Yu Yin Tang?"
There used to be a road named "Yu Yin Tang" which was next to a church and this church would collect orphan babies. So when we made the name "Yu Yin Tang" we took the original character which was "ying" for baby and changed it to "yin" for music.
So the "yu" means "to raise" and "tang" means "place." You just changed to "ying" to "yin" so now it's the place for raising music.
I guess the name really sums up the mission of Yu Yin Tang as a space for developing the Chinese scene. You said that when you got started you were promoting shows in other bars and spaces. Why did you start doing that?
In 2004 there were few clubs and few live rock nights for bands to play at. At that time I thought about what we could do to help the bands and that is how we started.
Over the years I'm sure you have seen many bands come through here. What do you think is the current state of the Chinese music scene and how does it compare to 2004 when you started?
I think the scene is very different now. I remember when we first started having shows one night a month with only 15 to 17 people in the audience. Now when we have a good band and we do a lot of promotion we can get up to 600 people.
Ten years ago young people began to know music from the radio or CC Television but not from other sources and they couldn't learn about a very wide range of music, just the singers from Hong Kong or Taiwan and just pop music. Now however, thanks to the internet, young people in China have no time to listen to the radio or watch TV they just get their information directly from the internet and it's much easier than before for them to get information about rock music. And if they like rock music they can also go on-line and connect with communities of people who also like it.
If you could change anything about the Chinese rock scene what would you change?
I think that the bands and rock music are getting more and more popular in China and the audiences at live houses are getting bigger. However still in many cities they don't have any professional live houses or rock venues even though more and more good bands are visiting those places and going on tour there aren't good venues for them to play in.
Yu Yin Tang keeps changing. It seems that every time I come here the place keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Even though this place is still not that large we have been trying to get more space by changing the decorations for the first floor and moved the band backstage room up to the second floor. Now we can fit up to 300 people in here, but I feel that in Shanghai 300 people is the maximum crowd we can expect for most normal shows.
Do you have any plans for Yu Yin Tang for the future?
Well I hope that this year or next year we can get more chances. In Shanghai if we get a bigger place the rent is prohibitive, so right now we can not rent as big a place as we would like. Live Spaces are different from other bars or DJ clubs. We know how many people we can expect to come here and how much money they will spend. If every day we can get just 100 to 200 people here than we can start looking at chances to rent a bigger place. The other thing we are considering doing is starting a label that would help the bands with their recording.
Yeah, I know there have been other clubs in China before like 4Live and places that have tired but in the end couldn't afford to stay open. How does Yu Yin Tang keep going? What is your secret?
We know how many people in Shanghai like rock music and we know the costs of the house rent and band fees in Shanghai. So we can balance those things out. If we lose money we can't keep going but if we can make some money, even only a little bit, we can keep going. That is something we can do.
Out of all the shows that you have seen are there any that truely stick out for you?
One of my favorite touring bands was "Horse the Band" a very good hardcore band... and Chinese bands; I really like Retros, Sound Fragment and Sound & Toy.
What is one peice of advice you would give to a new band just starting out in China?
The first thing I think is for them to just focus on playing good music. Last year we had a band from Beijing, they had good artwork and were on a big company so people think that there should be more audience but the show was on a Sunday night and only eight people came. Also touring, many friends have told me about bands in Europe and Japan. If there is a band that wants to be sucessful then they tour from one city to another city playing many live shows and developing their audience. The first level, the foundation, for any band is their live shows and to tour.
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