Are game shows killing the live music scene?

Update: July, 23/2016 - 09:00
Free entertainment: Pop star Hồ Ngọc Hà has chosen to perform more frequently on TV game shows instead of at live concerts. — VNS Photo
Viet Nam News

Thu Anh

HCM CITY — Dozens of TV music shows are attracting millions of viewers who like watching music at home for free instead of going out for live shows.

Are the glory days of the music scene over?

Many singers are refusing to back big concerts except those that receive sponsorship from major commercial companies. Instead, they have chosen to perform on game shows such as The Voice of Việt Nam and Việt Nam Idol, both versions of American TV shows, and Solo Cùng Bolero (Singing Bolero).

While pop star Đàm Vĩnh Hưng has worked as a judge on Solo Cùng Bolero this year, his competitor, Mỹ Tâm, has performed on The Voice of Việt Nam show.

Young singers like Noo Phước Thịnh and Đông Nhi have been seen on Hòa Âm Ánh Sáng (The Remix), a TV game show that began in 2014. It has attracted a number of teenagers and young people in HCM City and southern provinces.

"The more we’ve invested in big shows, the more we’ve lost," said theatre director Trần Vi Mỹ, an experienced impresario who has organised many successful concerts in HCM City and Hà Nội.

Music game shows are broadcast live on several channels of national and provincial TV stations, including VTV3 of Việt Nam Television and HTV9 of Hồ Chí Minh Television, helping the producers earn big profits from TV commercials.

“Top singers like to perform on game shows because they can promote their appearances and receive high payments as well,” he said.

Mỹ said that show organisers had calculated carefully and cut expenses to the max.

“That means our shows have become less interesting. And we have lost viewers."

Big venues such as the City’s Opera House, Hòa Bình Theatre and Bến Thành Theatre in the past hosted two or three live shows a month, with around 2,000 people attending each show.

But that no longer occurs. Two shows at the Hòa Bình Theatre in April and June, for example, attracted only 500 people each, causing losses for the producers.

“Vietnamese pop and dance music has been an important part of life for three years now. Game shows featuring singers have won the hearts of fans, particularly youth who like free TV entertainment,” said Khánh Nguyễn, director of Nhạc Xanh (Blue Music) Entertainment Agency.

“Game shows create an ‘instant-noodle’ taste among audiences, who refuse to see their icons sing in live concerts,” he said.

CD producers are also facing hard times. Most of the problems stem from lax domestic copyright laws.

"Many big hits from most domestic CDs are covered and performed on TV shows without payment," Khánh said.

Small is beautiful

While giant theatres offer fewer live shows, more music lovers are going to bars and nightclubs. The owners of such small entertainment venues are optimistic.

"Attracting 100 customers a night isn’t difficult," a club owner said.

A few years ago, most of these venues were located downtown, but things are changing, with more clubs opening all over the city.

"We can relax in the cosy atmosphere of a small nightclub," said a fan of nightclub Cao Minh in Bình Thạnh District.

These places usually have live music with a twist: songs in English and French in addition to Vietnamese staples. They lure audiences in with veteran singers.

In the intimate atmosphere of a small bar or club, audiences can relax to the gentle sounds of old romantic songs by composers like Văn Cao and Phan Huỳnh Điểu.

Clubs in districts like Bình Thạnh and Gò Vấp cater to such a clientele.

Younger customers seem to prefer pop and dance music and go to places like We and Đồng Dao in District 1. They charge VNĐ200,000 to VND300,000 for an entire evening of live entertainment and refreshments.

Singer Cao Minh, owner of Cao Minh, said several young singers studying at music schools have performed at his nightclub.

“Most of them just want a place to perform their own songs rather than earn money or glory,” he said. “Yes, my singers are newcomers in the field. But I believe they provide fans something new instead of just pop and dance music.” — VNS