Vietnamese musicians test waters abroad

By Ngoc Dinh   March 11, 2019 | 10:57 pm PT
Vietnamese musicians test waters abroad
Vietnamese pop diva My Tam sang in her concert in Seoul, South Korea last October. Photo acquired by VnExpress
More and more Vietnamese artists are performing live overseas, especially in the U.S. and East and Southeast Asia.

Thanh Thao, a Vietnamese pop star, organized a live concert on Monday in Anaheim, California, in the U.S. to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her singing career.

Other Vietnamese women stars like Le Quyen, Hong Ngoc, My Tam, and Ho Ngoc Ha also plan live concerts in the U.S. this year.

Today Vietnamese singers are increasingly reaching out to foreign markets.

Thao wants to do the show to repay the affection of her fans in the U.S., where she has been performing frequently for the last 12 years.

Vietnamese artists see the U.S., East Asian countries, especially Japan and South Korea, and Southeast Asia as potential markets, industry insiders said.

Since these Asian countries share cultural similarities with Vietnam, the artists are likely to resonate with audiences there.

Pop singer Vu Cat Tuong, who sang in Vietnamese in her live show in Japan last March, said she would like to introduce modern Vietnamese music to Japanese audiences.

With modern Vietnamese pop music being influenced by Japanese, South Korean and Thai music, it could get audiences in these countries interested.

Pop singer Dong Nhi hosted a mini show for her fans in South Korea in September 2017, singing Vietnamese hits.

Noo Phuoc Thinh performed live in Japan last September, while pop sensation Son Tung M-TP held a fan-meeting concert in South Korea in March 2017.

The most notable of such shows was My Tam’s live concert last October in Seoul, South Korea, at a venue with a capacity of 8,000 where famous Korean artists frequently perform. Tickets were sold out a few days before the show.

Game for big stars

Only famous singers with a large fan base and financial resources are able to have their own concerts. 

Hong Ngoc, who organizes concerts for Vietnamese artists, says the most difficult task is to attract audiences. Only top stars can sell enough tickets for show organizers or invite them.

In the U.S., casinos usually buy tickets to live shows as gifts for their customers, and the rest is sold by the show organizers and singers.

Because of the high costs, especially for the stage and light and sound equipment, many shows are organized at small art centers or casinos.

Experienced show organizers said sound and lighting for a concert could cost up to $100,000, and added to this are the cost of stage design and artists’ wages.

"Holding shows in the U.S. costs 10 times more than in Vietnam," local media quoted Hoang Tuan, a show organizer, as saying.

"The cost of staff, dancers, backgrounds and led screens is very high. Holding a concert abroad can be risky, but it would provide great happiness to an artist."

Because of the high costs Vietnamese artists usually collaborate with singers living abroad to do a live concert.

Some concerts are also hosted at a request of sponsors who foot the bill.

Live shows are often advertised months before to sell tickets, and the people who buy them are mostly Vietnamese. Vietnamese artists often sing in Vietnamese, mainly targeting ethnic Vietnamese. Many sing romantic songs or songs about their homeland.

For her show in the U.S., Thao sang her hit songs from 20 years ago, when she first achieved success. Romantic songs like Co quen duoc dau (I can't forget) and Ta chang con ai (I have no one) are the songs associated with Thanh Thao from the 1990s.

Vietnamese singers perform few English songs and so do not attract many foreign fans.

With language still being a barrier, it might be long before Vietnamese music wins the hearts of foreign audiences, said industry insiders.

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