EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: China to embrace A2LiVE Programming with Open Hands
Transitioning from one of the world’s biggest metropolitan cities to another – from New York to Shanghai – Eric Reithler-Barros is moving on track after his last stint at SFX Entertainment to lead one of China’s booming electronic music conglomerate – A2LiVE – as Managing Director and Chief Commercial Officer that owns STORM Festival, DianYinTai, A2ARTISTS, Strobe Light Talent, and the latest project STORM Records!
Its latest annual press conference in Shanghai saw a grand announcement of its latest collaboration with Spinnin’ Records and expansion of STORM Festival to Australia and Taiwan. Over 60 foreign and local journalists and broadcasters, plus hundreds of fans and VIPs, attended the announcement as it marks another new milestone for A2LiVE.
Eric shares with MNA challenges ahead in the China market, their confidence in expanding and creating an electronic music ecosystem and how the demand in electronic music is evolving in this eastern part of the world for the last decade.
Q: A2LiVE has already launched DianYinTai; its artist management arm A2ARTIST and Strobe Light Talent and also releasing its new DJ/production academy and record label division. While the economy at other parts of the region may be slowing down, why have you guys chosen to launch and push for all the above now?
We are moving along a natural and intelligent course from being a festival company to an electronic music ecosystem. If you build multiple businesses that feed each other synergistically, business areas that are interrelated, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. What are some lines of business that would complement our festivals nicely? We are investigating several strategic options that make sense for us and for our fans.
Q: A2Live has been the pioneer to the existence of the electronic music scene in China and you guys are riding on your own electronic music wave right now. Any thoughts on why it remains to be in such high demand in China?
Electronic music seems to be following its own growth trajectory in China, as opposed to the patterns of its evolution we saw in Europe and America many years ago. But in China, it’s getting more and more popular in its own way. We see different types of fans getting into electronic music for different reasons and motivators, but in many ways I think that China is simply catching up and gaining interest in a form of music and lifestyle that has been popular outside of its borders for many years. Electronic music has now come into its own and has captivated the imagination of the young people. Several waves of innovation in Chinese DJ/producers have helped fan those flames.
Q: How is the market moving right now and how do you foresee growth of this genre in China and around the region?
It is moving fast in both China, and more generally in Asia. Big international festivals are moving in and giving the local ones a run for their money. Labels are blossoming. Business decisions are becoming more data-driven. There is big growth happening in the lifestyle aspects of electronic music, both amongst fans and the brands that are seeking a dialogue with them. I foresee deeper and more valuable brand connections with both regional and international brands. As a counterpoint, more striation and specificity will occur in the consumer base. What I mean is that people will gravitate and identify more with different layers of content: mass-market vs niche, trap vs techno, indie/artsy vs mainstream, etc. A third middle-layer will emerge as a buffer. Sure, you like chicken, but do you like McNuggets or cordon bleu? Or both? Bad analogy but you get my meaning.
Q: What about challenges in the China market?
I think the main challenges traditionally associated with China, particularly for festival operators, have been navigating the fairly complex regulatory environment and approvals process. That seems to be coming around now and alleviating somewhat, however the system still rewards the experienced players, those with repeated successful track records. Newcomers may need to invest significant time and resources to get into a comfort zone with governmental entities, one which we have worked hard to occupy.
With its plans to expand to Australia and Taiwan, Eric will be working closely with its team, CEO and board to keep an eye on new commercially handsome opportunities while spearheading 6 out of the 7 current and future divisions of the company: brand partnerships, talent management (A2ARTIST), bookings (Strobe Light Talent), streaming music platforms (DianYinTai), and A2LiVE’s forthcoming DJ/music production academies and record label groups.