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Interview with Maybe Mars label manager Lolly Fan

Maybe Mars is an independent music label founded by economist Michael Pettis in Beijing. Since 2007, the label contributed to the consolidation of the indie music scene in China.

After the opening of the nightclub and venue D-22, Pettis convinced the leaders of the historic bands Carsick Cars and PK14, Zhang Shouwang, and Yang Haisong, to found a music label.

Over the years, Maybe Mars has grown into the leading independent label in the country.

Related article: Interview With Michael Pettis: MAYBE MARS

When did the Maybe Mars project start?

Maybe Mars was started in the fall of 2007, a year after the D-22 club’s opening. Back then, D-22’s unprecedented success made our founder Michael realized that there should be a proper music label to record and spread this great music to bigger audiences. So many great bands playing at the club but there was no such label that accept them. 

Michael-at-Maybe-Mars

How has the underground music industry changed in China over the past decade?

In early 2000, going to gigs/ festivals was a rebel and rock n roll behavior. It’s a cool thing that only belongs to the minors. Now, going to gigs or music festivals has become regular entertainment for young people. So we can see the tremendous growth of the market.

Also, the policies and laws are more and more complete. Almost all music platforms have finished copyright legalization. Music creators have also realized the importance of protecting their rights. Thanks to these, the income of musicians has significantly grown.

Comparing to the scene 10 years ago, now we have more new and different music, more professional venues, more chances for musicians to be seen and heard (including variety shows), more audiences, and more royalties.

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What are the upcoming Maybe Mars releases?

Guangzhou indie rock band Nouvelle’s debut album Baby, Don’t Be Too Sweet, Vladimirs’ new single (Vladimirs is formed by three mysterious Maybe Mars’ musicians).

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What are the characteristics you look for in a band?

Creativity and personality.

Thought and care of the society/ humanity.

How has COVID-19 changed the music industry sector? How did you adapt?

Due to the decrease in lives, the ticket price has risen sharply, about 50%. 

After COVID-19 started, we put more focus on online and social network interaction (WeChat fan base management).

Venues are even harder to book. Before Covid, we just need 3 months ahead. Now we need 4-5 months ahead. And we have to shorten the tour to 6-10 cities, to lower the risk of canceling shows due to the irregular sudden outbreak.

Has the importance of virtual concerts grown in this period?

I don’t think so. At the early stage of the pandemic, we all didn’t know what to do. And virtual shows seem a good solution. So we all gave it a try. But the result was not ideal either for us nor for the audience. 

Not to say the atmosphere can’t compare, the virtual show has many restrictions on the environment, equipment, and network. It’s much harder to make a perfect virtual show than a normal offline show. If you shoot in the house or rehearsal room, it’s very hard to collect a good sound. If you shoot in the livehouse, you need to hire a team which income from the virtual show can’t cover their cost. 

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How has the perception of Chinese underground music evolved abroad?

I think in the past, Chinese underground music was brought by students who studied in China. And the music back then was mostly old-school rock. Then Chinese bands started to get an invitation to play abroad. Like Maybe Mars’ bands played at ATP, SXSW, and Levitation, etc. Obviously, it’s a great chance for a foreign audience to know Chinese music. We always got feedback like “Oh, I don’t know there’s such music in China.” Now, I think the boundary is even more blurry. Our music can be found on Apple Music, Spotify, and Youtube, etc. They will say “good music” instead of “good music from China”.

What is the Chinese public’s response to MAYBE MARS ‘musical proposal?

Maybe Mars’ music is still minority music in China. It may be a little obscure and avant-garde to the public. 

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