Starting year: March 2002. Zhuning says about it “Vox first opened in March 2002. We were only open for the first six months. Then we started again in March 2005 and have been going on ever since.”
Capacity: 500 people
Location: Zhuning explains “We started doing shows in the year 2000 under the name of Vox. That time we didn’t have a specific place for a show, we did shows in various bars around the city. In 2002 me and some friends found a definite place in Wuhan and started doing shows. When 2005 came along, we found a place and me and my band members started Vox. These were 3 american guys living in Wuhan at that time. I really thank Trey, Bill and James. They don’t live in Wuhan anymore.”
First address: 343 Wu Luo Lu, Wuhan.
Actual location: 118 Lumo lu, Wuhan.
Signature Drink: Mojito
Beer Tab: “We have a good beer collection and it’s cheaper than most of the places in the city.”
Idiosyncratic Feature: A wall with wooden plaques drawn by each band that has played at Vox.
The band they dream to have playing there: “Not a specific band I wish all the bands in China and abroad could play at Vox”
Sound quality: Great! Vox takes good care of having a sound system in good shape, and their sound engineer, 秦阳 Qin Yang is armed with a tool that controls every detail about the sound from his tablet.
Working days: “We are open for business everynight. We have atleast 3-5 shows a week”.
Average entrance fee: 40 rmb
Vox smells like rock. The heart of Vox is its stage, everything in the place is dominated by the stage, on its wall is Vox’s logo and its slogan “Voice Of Youth – Voice Of Freedom”. Six simple words in English, nothing complicated or heavy, but very assertive and unforgettable.
The other famous wall there is covered by hanging wood plaques with draws made by each one of the bands that have played in Vox since 2005. Zhuning, founder of Vox, says about it “this is just for memories and helps us remember all the bands that have played at Vox until now”. A collection of memories that has become a totem of music’s power.
Vox is one of the strongest epicenters of rock in China, it was the first venue for live rock in Wuhan, and it has become one of the most classic spots for live music in China. This is the materialization of Zhuning’s vision who has had the dedication to manage this livehouse with conviction and intelligence. Zhuning explains it, “Vox started out of a fundamental need, the need to have a place where to go for live music.” Simple.
The main element that has brought Vox to the position of leadership where is now is an effective management, it’s an organization where things work well. Staff that cares, from the door management to the bar. And all done with a fluent communication that starts from the management of the concerts and the bands, to the promotion.
Dostav Dixit who now works with Split Works, was introduced to the underground music scene of China working for Zhuning at Vox. Dostav said that was under the wing of Zhuning where he learned to deal with bands and to put on a proper show. Now on Split Works he has toured bands around China uncountless times, after over four years dealing with venues from all over China he knowledgeably says “To be honest, Vox is probably one of the few venues in China which have their organization together. When I am touring, I’m sure that Vox will deliver – in terms of backline, sound, and the audience. Zhuning is one of the unsung heroes of China. He likes to work in the background and he is really good at what he does.” Anyone that knows China’s venues for music will agree with Dostav.
Since the moment the show is booked their machine works like a clock to produce a great show. You can feel the good management of the communications, and most of all the value they give to the bands and promoters that work with them the production of the concerts. The way they help the bands to find a good place where to stay in Wuhan, the welcome to the bar, the care for the sound. The sound! Leaded by their sound engineer Qin Yang who dislocates the jaws of musicians and promoters in wonderment with his ultra updated technology to control the sound from his tablet with master precision. A rare jewel if you know of all the horror stories about sound management among the venues for music all over China, and maybe around most of the world too when it comes to underground livehouses.
When you arrive to Wuhan, Li Ke, Vox’s booking manager receives you. He is also the one checking that you are safe on the way, and the one that probably will be helping you to prepare the concert with months in advance. Li Ke keeps the cool soul of Wuhan in fire. He takes care of details that the bands appreciate, a place to sleep that matches the size of their budget, the best place to eat, the place to rest while waiting for the sound check, the drink tickets delivered before the band members even remember to drink, the care for the bands’ guests, the attitude to transmit confidence about the success of the show. Li Ke is another star of Vox.
It is evident that each of the persons that is working at Vox is doing a good job, Zhuning explains how they accomplish this “I only hire people to work if they really love this place. I believe motivation will come by itself. At Vox we are like a family. Generally we don’t have any complications at work. Our love for rock music brings us together.” Sensible logic.
Zhuning reveals with ease his knowledge “I was in a band, I could understand what a band wanted and needed. So we had a commitment to provide everything to a band when they wanted to have a show.“ Elementary as it sounds, this is not knowledge commonly applied around the venues of China. Sure the lack of resources does not help, neither the lack of management experience, and definitely not the desperation for financial success. Sometimes simplicity of thinking and common sense are the most undervalued resource of them all.
Scarce as it is the comprehension of collaboration and friendship among entrepreneurs on a same industry, in China the competition for survival is wild and tough, the elements in action in the music industry are unique, this is an industry that has no model to direct its evolution, with a young market that is yet in development, driven by managers and promoters that are not educated in management, but by musicians or music lovers, with very basic or simply no knowledge at all on the strategies and tools to administrate a business. Add to that several restrictions from the market itself, the lack of resources for promotion, the current state of the economy, the evolution of culture in China, and the government, this is the environment where popular music is evolving in China, not as easy as your daily portion of rice.
It’s a difficult jungle, and mostly occupied by dreamers, not by trained entrepreneurs. Then is easier to understand the situation. Venues without sound engineers, ran by managers struggling to make money, breaking their heads to get more audience to come every day to the shows they are putting on, worrying to have money to pay their fix costs, trying to keep the idea of a music venue with faulty equipment, and a sound engineer that doesn’t really know the gig or worst, one that doesn’t even exist. It’s difficult to survive like that.
It also happens that many dreamers get into this business expecting to conquer the universe in a day and become millionaires in one month. What it does not happens very often, and should happen all the time, is the acknowledgment of the needs and rules of the game, Zhuning knows well this when he says “I think because I was in a band and played music, I could understand what a band wanted and needed. So we have a commitment to provide everything to a band when they want to have a show. If someone wants to open a livehouse, I will be more than happy to give them advice.”
Zhuning does not really reveals any mystical secrets when he talks about his management style, like when he explains his approach to manage his staff “I don’t really manage them. They manage themselves, if they accomplish what they have started then it’s cool.” It seems easy when he says it.
About the biggest challenge for music and live houses, Zhuning agrees with what they all know, “it’s still the promotion. I want more people to be aware that Vox hosts different types of music”. It’s because of his goal, “I really wish people get to know more about rock music through Vox, and I hope they get to learn about different genres and choose what they like.” With that in mind is that in April of 2012 he started Vox’s Music Academy where bands come to practice and exchange ideas. “I wish people can learn more about music”, that is his engine.
The slogan, the stage, the wall of wood plaques are all assertive elements. But none of them would have the power that they show today without the outstanding management directed by Zhuning. Probably there are days when things don’t work so well at Vox, as it’s life, but it’s just clear that those are the strange days in Vox. Simplicity could be the wisdom of Zhuning, and his talent maybe too.
If you are in love with music, then you are in love with Vox. Vox is a center of energy for rock in China, a leader in its industry, a place where voices can freely express and grow to become the new leaders of China.