New rules on concerts soon

Having a good time: Local artist DJ Ice Cream from Sibu performing at the first Borneo Music Festival Live at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Kuching on Friday night. — ZULAZHAR SHEBLEE /The Star

 PETALING JAYA: The spotlight is on concerts again, with the government set to unveil new guidelines by the end of this year for international acts taking the stage in Malaysia.

The updated guidelines will take into account all sensitivities of the Malaysian public, said Communications and Multimedia Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Mohammad Mentek.

It is now being finalised by the committee in the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (Puspal), which is under the ministry.

“We have actually been working on the new guidelines since 2019 to make them more relevant to the current industry’s needs to keep up to date with the present situation and trends,” Mohammad told Sunday Star.

Currently, all concerts in Malaysia by foreign artistes must follow Puspal guidelines, which include conditions for organisers and a code of ethics for performers, including how they dress and behave on stage.

The issue of concerts by foreign acts took centre stage last month when PAS Youth urged the government to cancel all upcoming concerts featuring international artistes or they would hold protests, claiming that such events encourage hedonism.

This led to the Association of Arts, Live International Festivals and Events (Alife) and other event organisers calling for politicians to stop using concerts for political leverage at the expense of business.

To better facilitate applications, Mohammad also revealed that a new system is in the works to handle the application process for permits for performances by foreign artistes and filming by foreign film crews.

The system, which is currently being developed by Puspal, is expected to be ready by the end of 2023.

“The system will be able to handle the whole application process for foreign filming and foreign performances from the beginning of the planning stages until the end.”

Mohammad said the ministry is also helping to promote Malaysia as a choice destination for filming and concerts by producing an application guidebook to be distributed worldwide.

On the soon-to-be updated guidelines for concerts, Alife chairman R. Para said he hoped that they will be clearly spelt out and industry-friendly.

“The live events industry in Malaysia is recovering, but for this year, the total revenue is only expected to reach 50% of pre-pandemic times.

“Before the Covid-19 pandemic, combined business and entertainment events contributed almost RM1.2bil to the economy in 2019.

“We are projecting that it will at least hit half this number this year (RM600mil) and surpass RM1.2bil in 2023,” he said, adding that joint efforts from all parties are needed to achieve such numbers.

An example of a successful international music event in Malaysia is the recurring Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak.

At its return after two years since the pandemic, over 7,000 tickets were sold, while more watched the live performances online at the event in June this year.

The festival featured 60 local and international acts, including from China, Australia, India, Singapore, Indonesia, Canada, Estonia, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, and the United States.

Malaysian Artistes Association president (Karyawan) Datuk Freddie Fernandez called on state governments and local authorities to permanently remove the entertainment tax that is imposed on concert organisers and the arts industry.

Currently, some local authorities have temporarily waived the tax to help the industry recover.

“Such a move will translate into lower ticket prices, make shows more affordable, and aid the industry’s revival after two years of the pandemic,” he said.

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