Although she is a consultant for Korean concert promotion company MyMusicTaste, Sophie Chivanova is based where the East and West converge: Russia. And that gives her a pretty unique perspective on the state of live music in Asia and Europe during the coronavirus pandemic.
Having graduated from the National University of Kiev with a BS in Computer Science, the data-driven Chivanova also co-founded two Russia-based live music companies, giving her more than eight years of experience in the European and Asian markets.
Sophie was formerly the Head of Europe & the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, i.e., nine Eurasian countries with Russian as their official language) at MyMusicTaste, which has offices in Korea, Los Angeles, and Moscow. The data-driven concert promotion company has organized concerts for GOT7, MONSTA X, Kehlani, The xx, and many more in 30+ different countries around the world — all based on fan requests.
In Part 1 of our conversation with Sophie, we discuss the Russian music industry, whether streams translate to ticket sales (at least pre-coronavirus), and the state of live music in Europe and Asia.
The Russian Music Industry
From the Western perspective, Russia may come across as somewhat of an enigma, but with Spotify going online in Russia and 12 other Eastern European markets in July 2020, music may begin to tear down that wall.
According to Sophie, the Russian market is a bit isolated, in no small part thanks to the language barrier. As a result, the live music market is huge with local Russian and CIS artists, which comprise the main portion of all live music in Russia.
However, some genres are blooming for locals and foreign artists. In fact, some international Hip-Hop artists are bigger in Russia than other places in Europe and Asia, according to Sophie. Meanwhile, other genres like Blues Rock and Country are "ridiculously small."
Still, not everyone was happy about Spotify's launch. After all, Russia already had Apple Music and local music services Vk (comparable to Facebook) and Yandex (comparable to Google). So, another tech company entering the fray in Russia was likely more exciting for Spotify than it was for Russian music fans.
Do Streams Translate to Ticket Sales?
In our June conversation on Career Strategies and the Future of Live Music With Paradigm Talent Agency's Diana Gremore, we broached the subject of whether streams actually translate to people buying tickets for an artist's concert, at least pre-coronavirus.
Sophie's assessment was the same as Diana's: not necessarily. But in Russia, the discrepancy seems to be far more pronounced, affecting even international superstars like Luis Fonsi.
I do remember 'Despacito' author Luis Fonsi coming to Moscow, to a big venue of 7K or 8k capacity and selling around 800 tickets.... That's all you need to know about streaming vs. ticket sales.... Or think of Tekashi69. I love the boy, his music videos are huge ... but imagine if he sells as many tickets as his music videos are getting views. It's crazy, but it's not happening. And it's not going to happen, because there is a correlation ... but it's not that you can throw out this coefficient of, 'Okay, this million views, and these tickets sold.'
Interestingly, however, more niche genres tend to demonstrate more predictability when it comes to this correlation, and that's largely because they are more community-based, according to Sophie. When it comes to mainstream genres like Pop and Hip-Hop, it becomes harder and harder to predict.
The State of Live Music in Asia and Europe
With her many years operating in the Asian and European live music markets, Sophie has a keen sense for the particularities of each. That said, when it comes down to it, the West and East seem to share more similarities than differences.
- In Europe, there are many countries and cities, which makes it a huge market for local and foreign artists, whether they're from Asia, the West, or the CIS. Europe is open for all artists from all over the world, with American artists trending more in the UK and in Germany and less in Russia.
- In Asia, there are less target cities for foreign artists, but the local market is the local market, like it is anywhere in the world. However, it's important to think carefully about which foreign artist to bring in, as touring hasn't been that massive in Asian markets. Artists don't have a lot of venues to choose from, especially in Seoul, South Korea, where there are really only two or three 500-700 capacity rooms. It's also tricky to cater to Korean tastes.
- In the United States, however, there aren't a lot of indie, mid-sized, or small promoters, but in Europe and Asia there are. In fact, in each country there is usually an auction of 5-10 names battling for one act.
According to Sophie, "Live music is live music everywhere. Stadium shows are no different in New York, London, Seoul, Hong Kong, or Moscow. Same with club shows."