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Superstars unlikely to impact local music scene
By Brian Offenther

IT’S like a goldfish salesman getting excited that Shamu is coming to town.

That line sums up one important aspect about how I feel about all the superstar musicians coming to town. The latest to be announced is perhaps the No. 1 pop singer in the world, Justin Bieber, who will be performing on October 5, at the Mercedes-Benz Arena.

Among the other big names coming to Shanghai are classic crooner Tony Bennett (September 19-20 at The Mixing Room), blues rockers Aerosmith (August 21 at Hongkou Football Stadium), Latin pop-rapper Pitbull (August 27 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena) and thrash metal giants Metallica (August 13-14 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena).

It was concerning that last act, Metallica, when I first made the Shamu and goldfish comment. A reporter for an English-language culture and nightlife magazine in Beijing asked about the significance to the local music scene of Metallica coming to Shanghai.

Shamu is the name of famous killer whale(s) that are attractions at SeaWorld theme parks around the world. People have to be willing to spend big money to see Shamu, because tickets aren’t cheap. It’s a safe bet, too, that most people who go and see Shamu aren’t necessarily interested in marine life, and probably never will be.

Seeing Shamu is an event, and that overrides the specifics. A salesman selling fish as pets can expect little impact from people seeing Shamu, since the mindset of how people approach each swings in wildly different directions.

Even with thousands upon thousands of people going to see Metallica and their platinum cohorts, I expect very little direct impact on the local music scene, even with performers who make music in their sub genres.

Of course, it’s possible that a few people will be inspired by seeing an act like Aerosmith to pick up the drum sticks, or even attend local music shows. I won’t hold my breath, though. Due to the high ticket prices, most people going to the show are a bit older and, dare I say, too comfortable for a show to sway their habits.

Superstar shows might also bring more national and even international attention to the local market, with the local scene benefiting as well. John Lydon, lead singer of recent visiting band Public Image Ltd, has spread the gospel of Chinese punk music throughout the world.

These are, again, only peripheral.

While this pod of whales swims through Shanghai, we in the local scene will keep shop and not expect much. All we can do is hope for the best.

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