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Selling music and dreams

(Global Times)

16:16, July 02, 2012

A violinist performs during Saturday's concert at Trojan House. Photo: Courtesy of Jiang Yang

As anyone who's ever tried to promote a concert will tell you, it's no picnic. Although Jiang Yang managed to not only pull it off, but do it in style. On Saturday afternoon, a full house packed into Beijing's 200-seat Trojan House theater. Most audience members were in their mid-20s and early 30s for the small concert titled Dreamcatcher (Zhuimengren) - Nostalgic Music Season.

During the concert, a live band kept the crowd entertained with familiar tunes from movies and TV dramas popular in the 1980s and 90s and accompaniment from professional and amateur singers alike.

Jiang spoke to audience members of his motivation to host such a concert before and after the show, sharing the hardships of doing all the work himself. He mentioned how he had quit his full-time job as a salesman earlier this year to devote himself to the entertainment industry, and encouraged the audience to live out their dreams.

"Everyone can pursue their dreams, just like I have," the 35-year-old Xinjiang native said at the end of the concert. Though slender and short, Jiang exuded confidence onstage. Applause followed before a lucky draw, a gimmick Jiang revealed later would keep around one-third of the audience coming back to future concerts, was held.

"As a businessman, he has done a good job in marketing the concert," said a musician and the theater director at the concert who requested anonymity.

"I wouldn't have come to the concert if I had known about the [lack of] expertise among performers, but I was impressed by the way he organized and marketed the show. To me, this concert is not all about music - it is more about Jiang's dream and selling such a dream to the audience," he added, adding that Jiang's courses for adults wanting to learn to sing and play musical instruments was another big selling point.

Jiang's brainchild is "Heart and Soul," the name of the series of concerts that he has been building for over a year that combines his interests in literature and music. It followed the publication of his 2009 book of the same title, a prose about his interpretation between the two.

Making full use of the intimate and interactive features of small theaters, Jiang has staged 10 concerts at Trojan House since June last year, with themes ranging from commemorating Taiwanese writer Sanmao to recalling college life.

While selling concert tickets is challenging in itself, Jiang taps into his professional background in advertising and marketing to ensure venues are never empty.

"The most important thing is to have a specific theme for your concert. For me, this is literature and music," he said. "It might be a niche market, but I know what I want to show and who my target audience is: post-60s to post-90s literature appreciators."

Jiang used all possible channels to reach his audience, although it proved to be a time-consuming project. "So far, the Internet is still the most effective marketing tool," he noted.

He was able to sell tickets via group buy websites and taobao.com, with nearly 30 percent of the audience taking advantage of half-price tickets.

Bu Qichao, a 25-year-old concert-goer at Saturday's show, was one of many lured by Jiang's vigorous marketing campaign.

Bu took a high-speed train for almost four hours for the concert from his home in Nanjing, but said he had no regrets.

"I like the songs listed in the playlist, so I traveled here. I could tell some of the singers aren't professional, but attending the concert filled me with emotions that differ from listening to an MP3 recording at home," he said.

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