In April we attended the Sound of the Xity Expo Conference in Beijing. During the event, we were able to catch up with China Youthology Chief Operating Officer Kevin Lee (李国忠), who gave a presentation (as per the article title above) focusing on how we can redefine music events to better meet the needs of post-90s kids.

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(China Youthology)

Lee began by creating the usual juxtaposition between the 80’s and 90’s youths; unlike most foreign research, China Youthology focuses on those from 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier cities, giving a more accurate general picture. While the two generations have both been born during a time of great modernity, a time pregnant with previously unfounded opportunities, there is a contrast in their respective temporal orientations.

While Post-80’s are oriented toward the future, fighting the good fight to realise their dreams, Post-90’s have been born into a world where they are uniquely positioned to live off the fruits of their elders’ labours. As a result, they are more inclined to enjoy the moment and make the most of their youths. But that’s not to say that the Post-90’s are necessarily lethargic. Lee describes both generations as being:

  • Directors of purpose
  • Conductors of meaning
  • Creators of culture

Those who haven’t been born into favorable circumstances have found that life has become risky, and their aspirations (or perhaps those inherited from their parents) have been shaken. As a result, young people are more willing to pursue activities that enable self-improvement and cultivation including:

  • Online courses
  • Positive / inspiring online programming e.g. TED talks
  • Gap years
  • Internships to explore future possibilities and variations in their career paths.

An interesting theory Lee proposed was that Post-90s like to construct their own ‘tiny worlds’ that allow them to realize a deeper level of individuality. The blueprint for this tiny world is made up of principles that include, as we’ve alluded to, focusing on the present while finding joy in the process, calculating risks and returns in a rational way (which may go hand in hand with the mass of information and data that is now available to them), emphasizing self-perception and experience, and satisfying needs through consumption (consuming one’s way out of problems).

Despite the comfort-inducing imaginary that accompanies the act of creating these ‘tiny worlds’, there is a tension between the way people articulate their own sense of individuality, and the privatizing tendencies of the market and wider society. The desire to be oneself comes with a proviso that this doesn’t come at the cost of alienation or loneliness; it is very much part of a social process that expresses itself through social media, like tendons extending the self outward. And this is where music events and other social gatherings play an essential role.

Music forms an exquisite part of the present; it brings people together, and enables independent expression without the risk of loneliness. Lee calls music events experiential explorations, and the need to explore is integral to the motivations behind creating individual ‘tiny worlds’.

Drawing on some of the nuances that exist between the Post-80’s and Post-90’s, Lee suggests we can reframe music events according to the following series of statements:

  • From “best in show” to “collaborative-creative”
  • From “open spaces” (scary) to “games and rituals of interaction”
  • From “consumption exploration” to “creation exploration”
  • From “escape and release” to “encourage and equip”
  • From what fans “take away” to what they “bring in”

The presentation closed with three critical questions:

  • How can pre-creation become it’s own kind of experience?
  • How can IP be extended to include or account for remaking and reappropriation?
  • How can content and the forms content take be adapted to enable some of the things referred to above?