Beijing Beat blog with Mark Godfrey

Beijing Beat

Mosh.cn: China's Rock Facebook

Jul 2

Written by:
7/2/2008 12:57 AM  RssIcon

We talk with the manager of the Chinese website helping local fans find friends for concerts, art exhibitions

Last week I followed up Mosh, an intriguing Chinese url I'd seen on some rock concert posters and met the website's operations manager Roy – Chinese name Wei Xian - who told me about Mosh in the meeting room of a modest two floor office in the hulking mass of the Soho office towers near the Dawang Lu subway stop in Beiing’s business district. Mosh is a facebook for fans of trendy music and art. Corporate hotshot Zhang Rui left his job at Morgan Stanley to run the operation. “A lot of people thought he’s crazy but he thinks people need to meet people offline.”

Members "play together, watch shows and go to eat together," says Roy. With 200,000 registered members – they add up to 300 on a good day – the site has added 20 staff in a year to reach a headcount of 30. Mosh staff and promoters post event listings on the site but the idea is that members and users do the work: posting and commenting on shows, while arranging lifts to and from gigs with similar-minded music fans. The site takes a percentage of tickets it sells for venues like Starlive. Revenue from ticket sales however remains “very little and Mosh doesn’t intend it to become a main source of revenue.

“If there’s a show and you want to go you can find out who is going and you can then add them as a friend,” explains Roy. People check out your concert photos and which concerts you’re going to and then add you as a friend. Male members are in the majority but girls use the site functions more. Two areas he’s sees growing is sports and travel: members will seek travel companions.

Since most staff and users are rock fans Mosh now seeks art and, dare say, pop fans to join up. Management is particularly keen to have more content on local art events. Perhaps because it’s free an art show gathers a lot more user buzz: 300 friends will often group up on the site to visit an exhibition whereas the biggest crowd we’ve seen go to a rock concert is 100. Over 100 Mosh fans went to see James Blunt, also at Starlive, though Roy reckons he’s unimpressed: “in the UK he’s not that popular anymore.”

Most Mosh users are 25-35 year old professionals with the money to afford a James Blunt show. Arty-type students use the site to find like-minded fans of art and music.The site went into overdrive after the Sichuan earthquake, when rock stars organized charity gigs to raise funds for victims. “Big crowds came out to see 90’s legend Dou Wei play the Starlive venue near Ditan Park.

Most puzzling perhaps is where the money comes from. There’s no venture capital but “we don’t lack for money,” says Roy. Advertising hasn’t taken off yet. Stickers to pass around and plaster on venues and youth hostels as they go. Just as people crash together when moshing we want them to crash together on the website.

there are lots of ways Mosh.cn could make money. Music fans often trade CDs and DVDs on the site. Mosh.cn showed its distribution potential in the aftermath of the quake when members teamed up on the site to deliver relief supplies: Roy overheard a man in a supermarket telling the shop assistant he was sending two big boxes of milk powder to Sichuan via mosh members. “That made me very proud.”

An environmental science graduate, Roy spent much of his university time wandering between cities, looking for music and like minded types. Whereas Beijing has the best rock scene – “definitely the most bands” – he sees a regionalization of tastes. Shanghai fans like Britpop, the northern Chinese like metal and punk. Southern Chinese are more into “art music – they want thinking music, they don’t care about riffs or solos.” Northerners are obsessed with genres and copy. “They think, ‘I have to play just like the Americans or British’.”

This Radiohead fan like local band the Sand and Sober but dislikes the most talked about band in town, Carsick Cars, “because they’re too much about noise, like Sonic Youth.”  Carsick Cars have a huge following among Beijing's university community. The large shows are out of the reach of students who spend their RMB700 college allowance on CDs and books. “In a month they can usually only afford one show.”

The Mosh crew has plenty of time to tweak the systems since most rock concerts have been cancelled (partly due to a government clamp down on outdoor events in the wake of a pro-Tibet outburst by Bjork at her Shanghai show). The thinking is if there’s nothing maybe it’s a good thing. Before the summer slumber a memorable gig was the Children’s Day concert, June 31, by Muma to launch the band’s third album.

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