JAKARTA (Reuters Life!) - Kylie Minogue cavorted amid indigo lights as thousands clapped and cheered. An ordinary concert scene -- except that this was Indonesia, the world’s most populous Islamic nations, and tickets cost more than an average month’s pay for many.
Yet Minogue is far from alone in playing Jakarta, capital of Southeast Asia’s top economy. Artists including Justin Bieber, Janet Jackson and Bruno Mars have all held concerts here in recent months, with the Cranberries, Linkin Park, and Lady Gaga set to come.
All are aiming at Indonesia’s young population, the world’s fourth-largest, with its rapidly-growing middle class that is able and eager to splash out for tickets.
“Indonesia is on the radar of artists in Asia because the market potential is huge and people don’t mind spending more on tickets,” said Jakarta-based music expert Bens Leo.
Farid Dermawan and 14 friends shelled out 1.5 million rupiah ($176) each for their tickets, about 15 percent higher than the capital’s monthly minimum wage peg. Tickets ranged from 1 million to 4.5 million rupiah.
“The amount I paid is fine because I am a Kylie fan since I was born. I‘m excited,” said the 34-year-old Dermawan, a video clip director, as the silvery wings attached to the back of a black vest he made for the occasion flapped up.
About 90 percent of the tickets for Minogue’s concert sold, said promoter EC Entertainment, which added that the ticket price range was “affordable.”
Yet even steeper concerts do well. A recent concert by David Foster sold out, despite tickets ranging from 1 million rupiah up to 25 times that price.
Leo said the big name rush is sparked partly by slower demand in countries such as the United States after the economic crisis. Merchandising possibilities are also appealing, allowing artists to rake in still more money.
With slowing global demand for CDs and cassettes worsened by the digital age, artists are looking to gain more from a much broader range of products, music expert Leo said.
“You don’t see CDs on sale in concerts anymore, they offer merchandise now because that’s what’s selling,” he added.
At the Minogue concert, fans lined up to buy t-shirts, jugs and books featuring Minogue’s costumes and make-up.
Jakarta’s success on the concert circuit is all the more surprising because the mammoth city of 10 million faces a number of hurdles, including a traffic situation Minogue herself described as “traffic drama” and caused the concert to start 30 minutes late. It took some fans three hours to arrive.
Until a few years ago there was also the threat of attacks by Islamic militants against “Western” symbols, which in the past resulted in the sudden cancellation of concerts, much to the disappointment of concert-goers.
But successful crackdowns on in recent years have helped brought reassurance to the far-flung archipelago.
“In the last 1 or 2 years concerts take place at least once a month, and the key draw is improved security,” said Wiradi, the production general manager at EC Entertainment.
Despite Indonesia’s Islamic majority, it remains a secular country and more welcoming to artists than neighbor Malaysia, where criticism of a planned Beyonce concert for its possible “inciting of moral issues” led to the event’s cancellation.
Still, some doubts linger.
Intan Hafsanida, who came in a Greek-goddess style white dress and garland of golden leaves in line with the theme of the concert, said she first thought of seeing the concert in Singapore due to concerns it might be tamed for moral reasons.
But in the end, Minogue’s revealing dresses and the gyrating crew of buff men cavorted on stage as planned.
“I know it’s so expensive, but it’s still Kylie,” said Hafsanida. “She has never been here before so this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Reporting by Elaine Lies