As media, we get breaking news about what shows are coming, and particularly in KL, what shows are being cancelled or who’s objecting to who performing in KL. But we don’t see the processes (and red tape) involved in bringing these international artists to KL and the elaborate work behind the shows. This discussion panel has not only enlightened me on the inner workings of the industry, but more importantly kept me abreast of the latest developments implemented to improve our tarnished image in the international press (thanks to several high profile cancellations), and the support system created to help local production companies and promoters put on world class shows in KL, ie the establishment of International Events Unit.
As a quick rundown, we now know about the existence of IEU to help expedite the application and approval process, and in certain cases funding and sponsorship as well. We also found out about a list of pre-approved artists who get express lane access to performing in the city. The two promoters on the panel talked about this improved, more transparent system, but also highlighted the need for more quality venues to put on big shows. For me, coming from a media/outsider point of view, I talked about the city needing more variety in the type of shows we put on or bring in. The appeal of KL as an entertainment destination for tourists was briefly discussed with credit to our favourable currency exchange rate but we also agreed that we need to improve our infrastructure to create a total tourism package that complements the concerts and shows.
But it wasn’t until a member of the audience brought up the issue about law and regulations that we finally addressed the elephant in the room. In short, he asked if anything is being done about the regulations as we have seen a flurry of cancellations by the likes of Beyonce and Rihanna, and most notably the ban of Erykah Badu’s show last year. Granted, we have often taken the moral/religious high horse when it comes to certain international artists. But like it or not, that’s the thing about democracy, you have to give people space to object or protest. (Whether there’s a reasonable or believable claim behind these protests, well, that’s another issue altogether.)
To be fair, this is an issue bigger than the promoters, bigger than the IEU. It boils down to who we are and who we want to be as a nation. It will take an objective examination of our national policies and collective mindset, so that we can decide as a nation whether we want to be more secular or lean more towards religious/moral fundamentalism. It’s a top down approach, and whichever way we decide will affect everything we do in this country, from education policies, censorship and press freedom right down to shaping our entertainment scene. Whether this will happen anytime soon, well, that’s another can of worms bigger than the stars we bring in.
Lim Chee Wah was a panelist at the Economic Transformation Programme’s Industry Speaks event titled ‘Can KL Entertain’ held on 1 March 2013. Other panelists at the event included general manager of International Events Unit Tony Nagamaiah, founder and chief executive officer of LOL Events (M) Sdn Bhd Rizal Kamal and director of Livescape Asia who is also the co-organiser of Future Music Festival Iqbal Ameer. Among topics discussed at the event included the challenges and way forward for industry players and relevant government agencies in making Kuala Lumpur a truly attractive destination for international acts. government has identified that this industry has potential to create greater economic opportunities for the nation.