Why is G.E.M. charging more than Madonna for London gig?

May 11, 2015 16:26
Pop diva G.E.M. is gearing up for a major November concert in London. Some special tickets, priced at US$1,000, are being targeted at the rich overseas Chinese. Photo: Xinhua

Chinese stocks are hot right now, and so is one pro-Beijing female singer from Hong Kong.

Pop diva Gloria Tang Tsz-kei, better known by her stage name G.E.M. -- which stands for "Get Everybody Moving", is reportedly charging as much as 652 pounds (HK$7,800) for some tickets for a concert in London later this year.

Fans buying the premium tickets for the "G.E.M. Get Everybody Moving’s X.X.X. Live" concert will have ringside seats at the SSE Wembley Arena on November 22 and also get an opportunity for a face-to-face encounter with G.E.M. after the show.

As part of a "Meet & Greet Package", the top ticketholders can get pictures taken of themselves with the 24-year-old pop star and also receive autographed pictures from their idol.

The privilege will be offered to just 30 fans. 

With this ticket pricing, G.E.M. -- who was born in Shanghai in 1991 before moving to Hong Kong at the age of four -- has beaten Madonna (who charged 435 pounds last December for a dinner and after-concert party) and the 25-year-old Taylor Swift (who is charging 249 pounds for a summer concert in Manchester) 

Even a lower-priced "Hot Ticket Package" of the Hong Kong singer will come at a minimum price of 228 pounds, according to the Ticketmaster website in London.

Making her debut in 2008, G.E.M. has been a sought-after teenager in her early career due to her powerful singing despite her petite frame.

Her career got a boost last year when she scooped the second runner-up prize in the Chinese version of the famous Korean reality TV show "I am a singer", losing only in the last episode to a local mainland singer.

Already positioned as a regional singer, G.E.M embarked on her first world singing tour in 2011 when she entertained her fans North America, Australia, Asia and Europe.

Now, she is preparing for a new leg of a concert world tour, which will include the Wembley event.

The interesting thing is that G.E.M. seems to have decided on two levels of pricing -- one for Chinese audiences in the mainland and the other for international fans overseas.

A mainland city tour that is set to start this month will see tickets priced in the range of 980 yuan to 1280 yuan, for audiences in places such as Chongqing, Weizhou, Shanghai and Hefei.

In contrast, G.E.M. is able to charge about five times more for an upcoming tour to Vancouver, Toronto, San Jose and Newark, where the average ticket price is around a thousand dollars.

Why G.E.M. is such a hot singer overseas is a mystery to me. Yes, I was impressed with her talent when I attended a variety music show sponsored by an insurance company. But she was not the most popular guest in the show; it was instead Hacken Lee who drew the most appreciation.

I recall that G.E.M. kept saying that she had just landed from Changsha where she attended a singing contest. But sometimes I did not hear her quite clearly as she tended to stammer at times.

Some Hong Kong netizens have long been criticizing her singing style, which emphasizes too much on high pitch and extension of the notes, instead of putting effort on presenting the depth of the song.

Some say her style suits the taste of mainland audiences, who want their singers to perform in high pitch, perhaps to convey the message that China is now a rising power.

With a huge mainland China market, G.E.M. probably does not need Hong Kong fans any more. This is probably why she posted an article on the internet to compliment Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in September 2013, as well as issue another "I love China" message last year.

The Love China messages would ensure that her mainland shows can go without a hitch, at a time when some of her Hong Kong peers have faced trouble for supporting the democratic movement in the city.

Now, returning to the issue of ticket pricing, some Hong Kong media have ridiculed the charges as "space prices". They point out that Alan Tam, Hong Kong's most famous singer since the 80s, hasn't charged more than HK$1,200 per ticket for his hugely popular Lunar New Year concerts.

G.E.M.'s agency can be credited with smart branding, judging by how much the 24-year-old has achieved so far.

I doubt if the 47-year-old Mongolian singer Han Lei, who beat G.E.M. in the "I am a singer" contest last year, will be able to match his runner-up in any London concert in terms of ticket pricing.

Talent alone is not enough for success in showbiz. Clever marketing and emotional appeal often count for more in these modern times – a fact proven by G.E.M.

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EJ Insight writer