Waiting With Optimism: The Young Team Productions Interview

There has always been an unofficial Asian network of promoters who plan tours for artists from Europe, the US, and Japan. Asian tours by European and American artists usually involve multi-city tours, which requires the participation and coordination of promoters in different cities across the region.

Some of the promoters in this network include Hong Kong’s White Noise, Chengdu’s New Noise, Kuala Lumpur’s Soundscape Records, Singapore’s Symmetry Entertainment, Thailand’s Seen Scene Space and Taiwan’s Young Team Productions. Interestingly, they all tend to share similar interests, music tastes, and preferences. 

Each has an interest in post-rock, math rock, and shoegaze bands. Together, they successfully organised Asian tours for bands such as toe, MONO, envy, The fin, GY!BE, and Tortoise.

But Taiwan’s Young Team Productions stands out among the others. Young Team Productions was founded by Cha Cha Chen in 2017, who took the name from Mogwai’s debut album “Young Team.” But Young Team truly burst onto the scene a year later when they invited shoegaze legends Ride to perform in Taipei. 

Source: Young Team Productions

As Cha Cha recalls, “Ride was the first group of artists officially invited by Young Team Productions. It was also their first live performance in Taiwan. Before the show, their guitarist Andy Bell came backstage to ask me about the Taiwanese fans’ favourite songs and which ones they should perform for them. As this was Ride’s first time in Taiwan, I told them they should perform some older songs because their fans here in Taiwan have long awaited their arrival. And so, they performed their song ‘Nowhere’.”

Before establishing her own label, Cha Cha worked with renowned Taipei live house The Wall. It goes without saying that she is very much familiar with the operation of live venues and how they should be run. She also accumulated tons of experience in the music industry by working with Formoz Festival and Distorted Time.

Cha Cha Chen, Founder of Young Teams Productions

Her insights and experience enable her to handle Young Team Productions’ events with confidence and professionalism. These include 2018’s popular After Hours festival and a show headlined by popular Japanese bands MONO, envy and downy. The latter was particularly well-received, with tickets selling out swiftly on the day they went on sale. 

We first met during the Golden Melody Awards matchmaking meeting 3 years ago. There, Cha Cha spoke about the latter show with a calm, collected tone and a firm look in her eyes.

“MONO, toe, envy, downy and Lite all arrived on the day of the show. Despite frequent change over and the limited time we had, everyone involved did their best. After the show, we all went for a celebratory meal. Despite our exhaustion, we hung out till the morning in high spirits. It was truly an unforgettable experience.”

Indeed. As indie promoters, we all bear and share a common trait: an undefeated sense of bravery and an ever-burning flame of passion in our hearts. It’s this passion that gives us the drive, strength and motivation to see every event through. Often, it feels as if we’re constantly battling and facing various challenges in our way, challenges which, in the end, we always manage to overcome. 

From then on, Young Team Productions started to grow. Within two to three years after being founded, they invited several international artists to perform and tour Taiwan. These artists included Yo La Tengo, Ride, EGO-WRAPPIN, Japanese Breakfast, The Twilight Sad, and many more. Time and time again, Young Team Productions broke their own record for fastest ticket sales, achieving incredible milestones and spectacular results for themselves. 

Source: Young Team Productions

The Covid-19 pandemic has plagued the world for over a year now. There seems to be no road to recovery in sight for the music industry. For curator and promoter networks, the situation has had a severe impact on their careers.

Nevertheless, through connections, contacts, and the experience and insights accumulated while working as promoters, Young Team Productions was appointed the chief director for the Taiwan Beats Showcase at SXSW 21. The promoter was responsible for planning and organising the live-streamed performances of Fire EX, Enno Cheng, The Chairs and Neko Jam.

 

Now, this was no ordinary online live stream. It was achieved through creative thinking, team chemistry, and meticulous execution. The quality of the live stream is undoubtedly top-notch.  

“It was always our intention to substitute the typical indoor stages with an actual outdoor scenery from the start”, explains Cha Cha. “With international travel being at a standstill due to the pandemic, we took the opportunity to display Taiwan’s cultural landscape to the world. Another great showcase this year at the SXSW, the Northern Expo, shares a similar production concept with ours.” 

“Choosing the performers required taking various factors into consideration (such as the schedules of each band, the preferences of the SXSW officials etc.) before we eventually secured Fire EX, Enno Cheng, The Chairs and Neko Jam. The next step involved selecting the most suitable venues for them to perform in, while at the same time showcasing Taiwan’s scenery.”

Source: Young Team Productions

On the performers, Cha Cha explains: “Enno Cheng grew up in the mountainous areas of Beitou district, whereas Fire EX come from an important industrial town. On the other hand, The Chairs is well known for their blend of old and new styles to form a unique type of retro music.

All-girl group Neko Jam have been breaking gender barriers and restrictions in recent years while combining electronica elements with traditional religious aesthetics.” 

Those who follow Young Team Productions’ Facebook fan page will have noticed that they don’t just post about music. You can also find interesting perspectives on lifestyles, such as the program specially prepared for Japanese music group EGO-WRAPPIN’s Taiwanese shows called “Taipei Not Going Home”. It was more like a night out guide of Taipei, delicious food recommendations included.

When asked if Young Team Productions had any plans to follow up Taiwan Beats Showcase with more tours, live shows or music festivals, Cha Cha had this to say:

“The main reason we agreed to work on Taiwan Beats Showcase was mainly to better promote Taiwanese bands internationally. This role is a perfect fit for Young Team Productions, as we’ve regularly helped international artists and labels promote themselves in Taiwan and Asia in general.”

She continues, “Recently, we also managed to set up collaborations between bands in Tokyo and Taipei. Instead of just organising shows for Taiwanese acts, we also want to help Taiwanese bands break into the international music scene and market. In addition, we also aim to assist overseas artists grow their fanbase and make a name for themselves in Taiwan.”

Right now, Taiwan’s indie music scene is developing and progressing extremely well. Be it a live show or a music festival, the response and feedback from the public and audience has always been outstanding. On the other hand, though, the number of international bands performing in Taiwan has seemingly decreased. But Cha Cha has a different opinion on the situation. 

“During 2020, the decrease in international artists playing Taiwan was due primarily to the pandemic. I don’t recall any downturn before the pandemic occurred, as there were still many live shows and events. But ever since the end of Formoz Festival in 2013, Taiwan has not hosted any large-scale music festivals with international line-ups like Japan’s Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic, Hong Kong’s Clockenflap, or Korea’s Pentaport Rock Festivals.

“Of course, this isn’t to say that having international acts on the bill automatically makes the festival better. Instead, it’s just that this lack of international festivals reduces the chances of Taiwanese bands being noticed or discovered on an international scale. There’s also less exchange between the music industries from different countries. It’s a pity, as all this seems to have lost potential for what could be something great.”

In recent years, the Taiwan government has been actively exporting and promoting local Taiwanese music, investing a considerable amount of resources into numerous large-scale showcase festivals. Has this drive borne fruit? Cha Cha explains that specific government departments—such as the Bureau of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development, MOC and Taiwan Creative Content Agency —have always been attempting to help advance the Taiwanese scene.

In the past, they may have worked with a public-sector mentality. However, these departments have recently started inviting more people involved and working with the music industry to join this movement. Cha Cha thinks this is a good and positive-looking start. 

Back to our most crucial and significant issue: given the numerous uncertainties and dilemmas spawning from the pandemic, European, American, and Japanese bands are unlikely to be touring Asia any time soon. Consequently, how should Asian promoter networks tackle this obstacle and adapt to the current circumstances? Will online live stream performances be the only viable option?

Source: Young Team Productions

Cha Cha reckons that large-scale music festivals in western countries will gradually resume and return in the summer, thanks to the quick roll out of vaccines. However, there aren’t any guarantees; Covid-19 continues to be an unpredictable phenomenon to this day. She advises everyone to expect the best and prepare for the worst. Regarding online performances, her opinion is that different countries have different opinions on paying for shows. On top of that, there’s also the undeniable fact that online live streams will never manage to replace the pure quality and atmosphere of actual live performances. 

Unless the online performances manage to equal the bar set by Japanese act Sakanaction, with top-tier productions involving astronomical elements and exceeding audience expectations, ordinary online events are usually just a temporary bridge connecting and maintaining the relationship between the audience with the artists or performers. So, profit is generally forced to take a backseat. 

“Despite that, promoters need not feel pessimistic and discouraged. Online performances will never have the same feeling as live shows, nor take their place. Rest assured that concerts and tours will return. So will the bands, the fans, and, especially, the music itself.”

Text: Mak
Edited By: Azzief Khaliq