The Story of Split Works

September 9, 2016 2016年9月9日

In the early 2000s, China’s live music scene was still nearly non-existent. Even in Beijing, where arguably the music scene was the most developed in China at the time, there weren’t many music festivals that could compare with the likes of some of the more well-established festivals in the West, like Coachella and Bonnaroo in the U.S., or Glastonbury and Reading in the U.K. With the state of live music being so dire then in China and in need of some help, Split Works entered the scene. This ambitious music events company has been working tirelessly to improve the live music scene in China for over the past decade, which they have done with many successful festivals, such as Echo Park, JUE, Black Rabbit, and more. Split Works has also brought in numerous legendary acts to China, including bands like Sonic Youth and hip-hop icons like Talib Kweli and Grandmaster Flash.

本世纪初,中国现场音乐的发展还几近一片空白。即便是在北京,这个当时或许算得上是音乐发展最为先进的城市,也并没有几个拿得出手的音乐节可以与业已成熟的西方音乐节相媲美,比如美国的波纳罗音乐节和科切拉音乐节,或者是英国的雷丁音乐节和格拉斯顿伯里音乐节。就在中国现场音乐的发展一片黯淡之时,Split Works横空而入。这个有着雄心壮志的音乐公司,在过去十年间不断努力,致力于推动这里音乐的发展。迄今,他们已成功举办了诸多音乐节,如回声公园音乐节、觉音乐节、黑兔音乐节等等。同时,Split Works也为中国引入了诸多世界级传奇音乐人的演出,诸如美国噪音摇滚乐队Sonic Youth,以及hip-hop偶像级人物,如Talib Kweli与Grandmaster Flash。

Founded in 2006 by Archie Hamilton and Nathaniel Davis, Split Works’ goal was “to create a more sustainable ecosystem for music in China.” In 2005, Archie had moved to China and met Nathaniel just two days after arriving. The serendipitous meeting would turn into a decade-long partnership that would be integral to the development of China’s music scene. What had brought Archie to China in the first place was its lack of an established music industry. “I wanted to be in a place that wasn’t necessarily controlled by an industry,” Archie tells us. “I’m not very good at working inside of an industry – and I felt that Europe and other mature markets around the world were very much owned by corporations.” And so, without an overbearing industry controlling the scene in the country, he decided that being in China would allow more flexibility to do what he wanted to do, to fulfill his vision as he sees fit. “The flipside of this is that we didn’t really have an audience.” At the time, many people in China didn’t see buying tickets for live shows as a good way to spend money. Instead, Archie sought other ways to turn his vision into a reality. He began approaching brands armed with nothing but a proposal and a simple pitch: do you want to be responsible for the birth of a live music industry in China?

由Archie Hamilton和Nathaniel Davis于2006年创立,Split Work致力于“在中国构建更具可持续发展的音乐生态”。2005年,Archie移居中国,并于抵达仅两天后结识了Nathaniel。他们的这一次偶遇终转化为携手十年的合作,而这份合作成为中国乐坛发展不可或缺的一部分。吸引Archie来到中国的正是这里未成熟的音乐产业。“我想要一个没有被完全产业化的地方,”他说:“我并不擅长在一个已经非常成熟的行业中工作,我觉得欧洲和全球其他很多成熟的市场已经被各大集团掌控。”在没有垄断性公司把控音乐行业的中国,他认为有更大的空间供自己发挥,引进符合他音乐理想的项目。“不过这同时也存在一个问题:未有广泛的受众基础。”因此,在大众并未将购票看现场音乐视为合理消费的大环境下,Archie寻求其他途径以实现自己的理想。他从零开始寻求品牌合作,全凭一个直指中心的简单提案——你愿意为中国现场音乐产业的诞生出力吗?

In the beginning, Bacardi and Converse were the only two real brands that were adventurous and far-sighted enough to invest in Archie’s vision. Bacardi sponsored a series of live shows that led up to the first ever YUE Festival in 2007, an outdoor festival held in downtown Shanghai that at that time boasted the strongest roster of international acts the city had ever seen. Later in 2008, Converse worked with Split Works for Converse’s “Love Noise”, an indie rock music showcase, which at the time was something simply unheard of. Brands in China back then were far more interested in putting money behind big-name pop stars and huge advertising campaigns. “Converse actually put their money where their mouth was and said ‘Ok, we’re going to invest in something cool, something interesting, something new,’” says Archie. This slow shift in mentality was an exciting pivotal point for China’s live music scene.

最开始,只有几个具有冒险精神和远见意识的品牌——Bacardi和Converse愿意投资Archie的抱负。Bacardi赞助了一系列的演出活动,并促成了2007年十跃音乐节的诞生。这个在上海市区举办的户外音乐节,在当时汇集了这座城市有史以来最耀眼的国际音乐阵容。之后在2009年,Converse携手Split Works推出了Converse Love Noise,一个在当时前所未闻的独立摇滚演出。彼时,中国的品牌商们尤其看重邀请流行大牌明星和策划大型广告活动。“Converse则拿出了实际行动,表示’行,我们要投资一些很酷的事,有意思的事,新鲜的事。’”Archie说道。这个心态上的缓慢转变,对于中国的现场音乐发展来说,确是个令人振奋的转折点。

“One of the main problems with doing business in China is that a lot of people, particularly investors, don’t have a lot of patience. They don’t want to invest in things for the long term,” Archie says. “Lots of businesses in China do well after a month, or six months, or a year. They show promising signs of doing well early on. When you look at a music festival, where you need three to five years just to get close to breaking even, a lot of people will think ‘This is too risky. This is fucking insane.’” After Black Rabbit Festival in 2011, it took Split Works a few more years to find a patient investor who was willing to buckle in for the long term, which brings us to more recent times with Concrete & Grass, the new rebranded version of Echo Park, their successful 2015 outdoor festival. “People are reluctant to be the first. It’s particularly extreme here. They want to see it. They want to hear it. They want their friends to go to it and say it’s alright before they go.”

“在中国做生意存在的一个问题就是,太多的人,尤其是投资者都不太有耐心。他们不喜欢投资那些长期性的项目,”Archie说,“在中国,有很多生意在一个月、六个月或者一年后就会出业绩。它们在初期就显露出良好的发展态势。但当你再看一个音乐节的投资项目,这种需要三五年才能勉强收回成本的投资,很多人的感觉都是:‘这太冒险了,这他妈不是疯了吗!’”2011年黑兔音乐节之后,Split Works又花了几年的时间寻找到有耐心和意愿做长期性项目的投资者。由此,2015年时候成功举行的户外音乐节“回声公园音乐”节近期才正式更名为“混凝草音乐节”。“人们不愿意成为第一个吃螃蟹的人,这点在这里尤为极端。他们要实实在在先耳闻目睹一番;他们要听到他们的朋友们去了说这个好,才会参与进去。”

Douban, a website that allows users to share information about films, books, and music, entered the scene at around the same time as Split Works. When Douban started gaining traction and popularity, China went through a creative renaissance of sorts. The widely used platform is considered by many to be one of the most influential websites in China. Its impact on the country’s previously stagnant music scene is undeniable. “Suddenly the whole environment just changed completely. These kids could find out about stuff and share what they knew with other people. It went from having zero access to content, to having almost an unlimited access to content,” Archie says. “The years since then, there has been a learning period where people in China are faced with a deluge of content and opportunity, but no one really knew what anything was. It’s like walking into a record shop when you are nine. There are CDs, tapes, records, and whatever else everywhere – but you didn’t know anything. It can be intimidating, and you might end up picking up some pretty crap albums; but over time, you find out what you like and what you think is interesting.”

豆瓣,一个允许用户分享书、影、音方面信息的网站,和Split Works差不多在同时间起步。当豆瓣网渐渐获取关注和用户时,中国经历了一场创意上的“文艺复兴”。这个有广泛用户基础的平台在很多人看来,是中国最具影响力的网站之一。它对中国之前停滞不前的音乐场景有着不可置否的影响。“突然之间,整个环境彻底改变了。年轻人们能够挖掘信息,也可以和他人分享自己掌握的信息了。从零开始,到丰富的内容,再到能够找到各种信息的无限渠道,”,Archie表示,“那之后,纷繁的信息和机遇迎面而来,中国人进入了一个学习期,但也没有人真正懂。就像是,九岁时的你走进一家唱片店,里面有CD,磁带,专辑……玲琅满目让人眼花缭乱,但你却一无所知。那会让人恐慌,最后你很可能只是挑选了一些质量堪忧的专辑。但随着时间的推移,你会找到自己喜欢、觉得有趣的东西。”

This digital flood of creative content naturally appealed to the Chinese youth, and Archie feels like the diversity and quantity of all the music being introduced into the country has in turn led to many new Chinese musicians becoming more bold and experimental. “Some of the bands that have emerged out of China over the last ten years have been some of the most exciting bands to emerge anywhere in the world,” says Archie. “Nobody felt like, ‘We like Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, so we now need to like Soundgarden.’ There wasn’t that sort of delineation of ‘I’m this, so therefore I have to be that’. But in China, it’s just like ‘I like music, so what’s out there?’ They don’t have a kind of derivative channel that they grew up with here. Musicians in China might mix hardcore with ambient, or hardcore with trap, or whatever else. They don’t know any better. No one’s telling them they can’t do that.” Archie feels like Concrete & Grass is a direct reflection of this genre-defying attitude that many of these Chinese musicians have been creating with. “We got Korean traditional post-metal, Chinese black metal, classic American hip-hop, Indian Bollywood EDM, and so on. It really is so far across the board. It’s a music festival for music fans. For anyone who comes – even if you don’t know anything about the music – you can go to every single stage and get something out of it.” Concrete & Grass is happening later this month in Shanghai on September 16th and 17th. You can find out more about the event on their official website.

这个创意内容数字化的浪潮,自然引发了中国年轻一代的关注。Archie认为,大量多样化舶来音乐的进入,让很多新生代的中国音乐人也更加大胆,更敢于尝试。“在过去十年,中国涌现了一些让世界也为之一亮的乐队。”Archie说,“不会有人认为‘我们喜欢涅槃乐队和Kurt Cobain,我们就也得喜欢声音花园乐队’。这里没有“爱屋及乌”那种派系定论。在中国,那就像是‘我喜欢音乐,那,都有些什么音乐呢?’他们在成长过程中,没有接触到固定的流派设定。中国的音乐人可能会把硬核和氛围音乐混到一起,硬核和trap混到一起,或者任何别的什么。他们不知道,也没人告诉他们不能那样做。”Archie认为,当下很多中国音乐人所持的这种反类型的音乐态度,都将在混凝草音乐节中直接映射出。“我们有韩国的传统后金、中国的黑金、经典美式嘻哈,印度宝莱坞电音等,真是什么音乐都有。这是属于乐迷们的音乐节。我想无论是谁,即便是对音乐一窍不通的人,也可以在每个舞台前都有所收获。” 混凝草音乐节将稍后于本月,即九月16号和17号在上海演出。更多信息,请点击访问音乐节官网


Contributor: David Yen
Photographers: David Yen, Wang Xin, Zhu Qi, Zeng, Yu Hao Yuan, Chang Tong, Dong Luan



供稿人: David Yen
: David Yen, 王新, 朱祺, 曾晓, 于昊元, 童畅, 栾东