Building a new Malaysia – Part 4: The Arts

Building a new Malaysia – Part 4: The Arts

You say you want a revolution…
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Group CEO, The Livescape Group

Malaysia’s live entertainment scene is chaotic at best. Certainly, the negative influence of third-party agencies and the current state of our country’s economy have resulted in a significant decrease in the number of events that are being organised.

One of the main hindrances to our industry is our current exchange rate, which is currently at MYR4.05 against the American dollar. Most of the offers we receive are handled in USD or EUR, which makes it difficult for us to ensure our event tickets are affordable to the public.

I believe that the recent change in government will give all the respective bodies an opportunity to fine-tune the current processes needed to execute a live event. In order to achieve this, our country needs to diversify its content offering, not only to ensure our success, but also to help create a tourist boom that will help us achieve the Prime Minister’s newly changed vision projected for the year 2025.

Censorship and the freedom of expression has always been a growing issue in our country, and I believe the new leadership will definitely bring about winds of change. What we lack in Malaysia is the acceptance for different views and opinions. For example, we can’t stop rock music fans from going to rock concerts, as this is what they are interested in. I hope that, this time round, Malaysians finally receive the freedom that they deserve, whether it’s in regards to expressing their passion or opinions on specific topics that may or may not have been considered as problematic before this. Our freedom of expression is what makes us different from the person standing next to us and, without it, we can’t truly express ourselves. It’s about time that this change takes place.

Gobind Singh has been appointed as our new Minister of Communications and Multimedia, and this, in itself, is about to bring about a big change in the way live events in our country will be accepted and executed. What many are unaware of is that PUSPAL (the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Foreign Artist Performances) falls under this ministry, and we see this as an opportunity for the new minister to ensure everyone’s interest is met as he is not bound by legacy. I hope that he will approach issues by focusing on keeping our industry’s content and experience alive, and make sure there is no influencing of opinions that takes place. For example, the previous Mentri Besar of Selangor, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, chose to stand his ground and let the Selena Gomez concert go on as planned, even though there was an uproar of protests. Actions like this will help keep our local art and cultural community alive and, hopefully, flourish to be on par with other communities across the globe.

I believe that the current change in government will bring hope to a lot of Malaysians that positive change for a lot of things is imminent. This will create an opportunity for us to finally be judged on our merits, instead of our social standing. It is extremely important that our new government puts its best foot forward and begin to treat people as an asset, instead of an entity to push aside – only then will open mindedness grow.

Yes, we will certainly benefit from a more clear-cut system, with more transparency. This would definitely help make applications and permit processes involved with organising live events even smoother. Throughout the years, we have received support from independent bodies such as the Arts, Live Festivals and Events Association (ALIFE) and Malaysia Major Events (MME). ALIFE plays a role in ensuring accountability among various parties, such as event promoters, the local police and PUSPAL, while MME facilitates our efforts in bringing globally renowned acts to Malaysia. These two bodies are integral in ensuring the longevity of the local live events scene.

Livescape’s entertainment brands like It’s The Ship and Rockaway will go a long way in encouraging the value of creativity in Malaysia, especially by providing unique platforms and recognition for talent to thrive on. We are showing our support and – at the same time – instilling the importance of having creative outlets within the larger society. For example, through Rockaway, we were able to give local rock acts an opportunity to share a stage with some of the biggest international names in rock music. The festival attracted close to 20,000 fans. Another example would be the success of The Major League – a Livescape e-sports platform in collaboration with Iskandar Investment Berhad that took place last year. Opportunities like these are important not only for local talent, but will also provide exposure to the Malaysian public on how creativity is able to bring our country forward.

I am optimistic about the newly-formed Cultural Economy Development Agency’s (Cendana) efforts to empower the local arts and cultural scene, especially under the helm of Izan Satrina. She is a good friend and I believe the perfect person to drive Cendana’s ambitions forward. Through the education, collaboration and safeguarding that Cendana carries out – coupled with the constant support by the government, private sector and rakyat – I do believe Cendana will be able to unearth Malaysia’s best talents that have been waiting for recognition.

Malaysia WAS on that track to becoming the go-to destination for live entertainment and the like. However, the lack of proactiveness in addressing pressing issues has definitely haltered our progress. With the new government, Malaysia now has the opportunity to put our best foot forward and, if we work towards success together, we can even rival big entertainment hubs such as Singapore and Japan.

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