Nine Shows Blow Out at Shanghai Arena

17 Sep

John Cappo, president and CEO of AEG China, stands before the Mercedes Benz Arena, Shanghai, which has been hosting 50,000 people a day at the World Expo, which ends Oct. 31.

“The spaceship has landed,” said an enthusiastic John Cappo, president and CEO of AEG China, over the success of the first multi-date concert on-sales for China and for the 18,000-seat, $400 million Mercedes Benz Arena, Shanghai.

The arena, currently site of a World Expo musical, will host the World Expo closing ceremonies Oct. 31, after which it will be turned over to AEG China to run commercially. The first concert there will be Nov. 19, when Faye Wong ends her five-year hiatus from touring and performs the first of five shows at the Mercedes Benz Arena.

“This reminds me a lot of the O2 in London when we put Scissor Sisters and Bon Jovi on sale and we blew through two or three days quickly. We knew we would sell two or three nights in Shanghai, but we’re a little awed that we sold out nine straight nights in less than a day and probably could have sold out 12 or 13 easily,” declared Tim Leiweke, CEO, AEG.

“I think clearly what it indicates is that the Mercedes Benz Arena is going to be like the Garden (New York), the O2 in London or Staples Center (Los Angeles) — iconic, world class and one of those capital markets that are must-play buildings now for everybody.”

The nine shows include five by Wong and four by Jacky Cheung, with the possibility of adding a fifth. The on-sale was Sept. 15. “Now you’re going to want to play Tokyo, you may want to play a market like Macao, you may want to play Hong Kong, but you have to play Mercedes Benz Arena,” Leiweke said.

Tickets for Wong were sold by Yong Le, the promoter’s chosen ticketing company, Cappo said. The on-sale marks the first five-show run ever for a Chinese artist and Chinese venue, Cappo said.

Cheung’s dates are promoted by Fun Entertainment and tickets are handled by Piao.com.cn. There is no national ticket company in China, Cappo said. Artists and promoters pick their own.

That fact fits nicely into yet another AEG initiative, its own ticketing company. Leiweke confirmed that AEG hired about half a dozen ticketing pros three months ago with the charge to forge a business plan that will allow AEG to sell its own tickets worldwide, a prospect that includes 20 million tickets and growing. That would certainly work in China, he said. The plan is to be presented by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, in Shanghai, Cheung’s run begins Dec. 1. He will also perform at the AEG-managed Wukesong Arena in Beijing. Those tickets go on sale next week, Cappo said, and will hopefully continue the multi-date tradition.

China has not had the luxury of air-conditioned, modern arenas with all the amenities, Cappo said. Most artists have performed outdoors at stadiums, some not so comfortable. The public is responding well to the concept of first-class entertainment venues, evidenced by the fact they are willing to pay the price. The average ticket price is about $100, Cappo said. “This is a new lifestyle destination.”

Mercedes Benz Arena is part of a complex, not unlike London’s 02, also an AEG-managed, iconic arena. Cappo said the complex includes a six-screen movie theater, an ice hockey rink, 20,000 sq. ft. of retail and a music club where artists will perform, sign autographs and hang out before and after shows.

The arena also has 82 suites, all sold out for the World Expo, with about 15 percent left to be sold after Expo. By the end of the World Expo, 8 million people will have passed through the Mercedes-Benz Arena in one year.

“We knew that Shanghai was much more of a marketplace that was into live entertainment. But they’ve never had a facility. The fact that eight million people will go through the arena during the World Expo is awe-inspiring and requires probably some new tile. We always knew that Shanghai and the Mercedes Benz Arena were going to be the capital building for live entertainment in all of Asia,” Leiweke said.

After the initial concerts is the official grand re-opening of the Mercedes Benz Arena on Jan. 15 with a multi-act package. Cappo said AEG has budgeted for 45-50 shows in the first year of commercial operation but, given that he has 26 events contracted from November to February, he expects to exceed that. “We will over-perform our expectations,” he said.

He is talking to several promoters about a boxing event and has booked a dog show and several corporate events. Walking with Dinosaurs is also scheduled for 2011.

NBA China is a minority partner in Shanghai, but will not have an exhibition game or team in that facility the first year. Shanghai Media Entertainment Group is the lead partner.

“We’re feeling awful good about our investment today,” Leiweke said, including the fact that they now have eight founding partners, also a sellout. “It is gratifying. This is a new idea, a new concept and a new economic model over there.” — Linda Deckard

Interviewed for this story: John Cappo, +86 21 612 63088; Tim Leiweke, (213) 741-7101; Michael Roth, (213) 742-7155

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