Last month, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said those protesting against the staging of live concerts and events in Malaysia were only a small group of people.
“The people who protest are a minority. I think we should cater to the majority,” the prime minister told journalists during the launch of the Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 campaign.
“But the majority must make their voices heard so that it doesn’t look like we are rejecting the people’s voices. It is not the people’s voices at all. It is just a group of activists who try to show that they are the majority in Malaysia. They are not.”
In response, an online petition on change.org (titled, Voice of Malaysian Arts, Live Festival and Events Community) has seen some 15,000 signatures collected so far, standing in solidarity with Dr Mahathir’s views on the issue.
Over the years, a number of live concerts featuring international acts were called into question by some quarters.
For instance, American pop star Selena Gomez’s maiden performance in Malaysia in 2016 faced opposition due to her sexy appearance initially. But the show went on smoothly eventually.
In 2013, American singer Kesha made headlines internationally when her Malaysian show was banned, saying it would hurt cultural and religious sensitivities.
R Para, the president of Arts, Live, International Festivals and Events Association (Alife) – a non-profit organisation representing companies managing, presenting and promoting live events in Malaysia – also shares Dr Mahathir’s sentiments.
He tells StarLifestyle that music events, for instance, have the ability to draw tourists to the country.
“Besides visiting tourist spots, the new generation of travellers want to be immersed in once-in-a-lifetime experiences like seeing Ed Sheeran live in concert, for example. We see more countries in our region using music to boost tourism.
“The power of music is more effective than ever.”
Para adds live events contribute an estimated RM400mil to the local economy annually.
“When there is a live event happening in Malaysia, it doesn’t only benefit the artistes and the promoters. It benefits various industries like security companies, sound and light vendors, people selling merchandise, F&B operators, hotels and so forth.”
Apart from bringing in revenue to the country, Para says holding live events have also helped groomed local talents in the process.
“There has been a lot of transfer of knowledge happening between our local production crew and the international team they’ve worked with over the years.”
Para hopes to see more live events in Malaysia. And for content that may not be suitable for younger audiences, instead of imposing a blanket ban, Para suggests authorities can introduce an age-based rating system.
“There may be material more suited for mature audiences featured in some events. Instead of a blanket disapproval on the foreign act, perhaps the event could be limited to audiences above the age of 18 or 21, for example.”