Silent months ahead for Bangkok's international music scene

Silent months ahead for Bangkok's international music scene

Not a single big name is slated to perform in Bangkok this year. But politics and protests aren't the only things to blame
Tom Jones woos the crowd during his March performance in Bangkok. He was one of the few big names to roll though the city in recent months.

Though Bangkok is slowly recovering from some of the darkest days in its recent history, the city’s international concert scene -- which was already enduring a slump this year -- has been silenced indefinitely.

More than six months have passed since Green Day took to the stage at Impact Arena, a memorable performance that quenched the thirst of concert goers from all over the city. Billie Joe and his band not only ended the lengthy concert drought of 2009, but they also installed huge hope for a much more eventful 2010.

It is now June, and the only household names to hit our city since Green Day were a string of good time oldies such as Boy George, Deep Purple, Kool and the Gang and Tom Jones, who, by the way, has still got it, regardless of his 69-year-old age tag. We did see appearances by Placebo and Kings of Convenience, but again these aren’t the international big names our city once welcomed.

Looking back to 2007, Bangkok hosted Eric Clapton, Ronan Keating, Gwen Stefani, Linkin Park, Beyoncé and The Black Eyed Peas. Six world-renowned artists, all in the space of a year. That was three years ago, so what has changed since then?

Political chaos not entirely to blame

Not too long ago, it was speculated that the serenading John Mayer would tour Bangkok during his current Battle Studies world tour, however, a respectable appearance fee could not be agreed upon, say concert organizers. Even so, would John Mayer have still toured the city during a time of such political turmoil? Probably not.

Concert promoters, like BEC-Tero Entertainment, Bangkok’s primary entertainment and concert promotion firm, now have to cope with costly appearance fees in addition to the recent protest chaos, which has created a whole new dimension of problems and severely hindered Bangkok’s ability to host such concerts for the immediate future.  

For instance, opera legend Andrea Bocelli and Hip-hop phenomenon Pitbull both scratched Bangkok from their world tours this year due to the political unrest. But don’t be quick to blame the political conflict for everything just yet. Mid-2010 was bound to be musically mundane regardless of Thai politics.

“Whenever a major international event takes place, whether it be 9/11 or the World Cup, such events steal the headlines and draw away consumer attention,” explains Neil Thompson, deputy managing director of BEC-Tero Entertainment. He says it is a concert promoter’s biggest nightmare to compete with the likes of an event as huge as the FIFA World Cup, especially in a football loving country like Thailand.

So if it’s any consolation, Bangkok is not the only eventless city at the moment.

“The 'drought' of concerts in Bangkok applies elsewhere in Asia,” says Nigel Peters, director of Midas Promotions, one of the leading concert promoters in the region. So it seems that this concert shortage has been cast upon the entire region. An economic slowdown and tremendously high appearance fees do not go hand in hand, and concert promoters in Asia just cannot afford the big names right now.  

Thait said, BEC-Tero Entertainment told us it has a number of concert projects in the works for the end of the year. But the bottom line remains: As long as there is the threat of troops and protesters returning to Bangkok's streets, the concert halls will remain very empty.