New breed of festivals spark Asian music tourism boom
The influx of progressive music festivals gracing Asia's shores is sparking a region-wide travel boom
Several genre-spanning festivals are set to make their Asian debut this year, sparking the curiosity of heads and adventurists alike. April alone boasts the likes of Sónar's Hong Kong edition, Equation in Vietnam, as well as Thailand's Paradise Island and Tao Festival. These follow the successful launches of Epizode on Vietnam's Phú Quốc island in January and Mystic Valley in Khao Yai, Thailand last month.
Demand for music-related globetrotting is huge, said Priya Dewan, founder of Gig Life Asia (GLA), a start-up offering travel packages for Asia-based festivals. More people are seeking a new kind of travel experience, and there are now events across the region that can satiate any musical or experimental need, she explained.
With Wonderfruit and Ultra Singapore as clients, Dewan--a former Warp Records North American label manager who also runs booking agency Feedback Asia--is now researching other festivals to work with, such as Fuji Rock, Djakarta Warehouse Project and Magnetic Fields.
GLA's all-inclusive travel deals can help bring new audiences to music shindigs, including those who tend to shy away from interesting festivals such as Japan's Rainbow Disco Club due to the logistical planning involved, Dewan noted.
Of course, dedicated fans still make up a hefty share of festival-goers.
Singaporean Hidzir Junaini, editor for music publication Bandwagon Asia, is one of the region's numerous rhythm aficionados on the move. "I pretty much only travel around the region to catch music--at least every 3 to 4 months depending if I have time off from work."
While affordable airfare has always fuelled pan-Asian travel, festival organizers are hoping their events will be another catalyst for regional tourism.
Hong Kong-based Cliché Records, home of eclectic vinyl collector San Soda, is currently prepping for its first-ever festival, Equation, on April 14 in Vietnam's Dong Mo Lake. For the inaugural edition, Equation's audience will likely consist of Cliché's friends and fans in the broader Asian electronic scene, explained co-founder Ouissam Mokretar.
"We're giving foreign visitors the chance to discover the Vietnamese countryside while enjoying a quality line-up they can hear in many Western countries."
Going forward however, the team intends to focus primarily on the Vietnamese crowd in the hopes of introducing clubbers to genres outside of EDM, which is massively popular in the country, said Mokretar. Cliche already has roots in the Southeast Asian nation, with the 2016 launch of its Hanoi-based club Savage.
Indeed, opportunities for businesses and consumers are abundant amid Asia's expanding festival landscape. But for the region to boast a thriving music economy, as Europe does, key challenges must be overcome.
More clubs with quality musical programming is crucial, Mokretar warned.
"There needs to be more awareness about broader genres of music within Asia's general audience," echoed Dewan. For fans to understand the value of high ticket prices, there also needs to be more exposure to more European festivals and well-produced Asian festivals, she added.
[photo via Epizode]