Live events industry needs incisive recovery plan

It has a significant impact in job creations and providing livelihoods for the entire ecosystem 


THE live events industry has been at a complete standstill for more than a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Arts, Live Festivals and Events Association president Rizal Kamal the estimated number of losses the industry incurred in 2020 is RM250 million. 

The figure does not include income from the multi-layer effect that live events convey by bringing in tourists to spend on hotels, transport and food and beverages. 

Rizal stipulated that the live events industry has a significant impact in job creations and providing livelihoods for an entire ecosystem. 

“It is very tough for all of our members because to remain in the industry equates to no income. 

“About 80% of us are no longer in this field, as everyone is doing jobs not related to live events to survive either by selling food, doing construction or digital marketing. 

“If we do not receive any help at all, I would say about 90% of the industry will die,” he told The Malaysian Reserve recently. 

Facing Key Challenges 

Rizal said one of the biggest challenges is not knowing when the industry can start operating. Unlike other businesses, live events need time to develop. 

The cycle of business for live events is a minimum of three months while planning usually takes from six months to one year. 

“One of the things that people need to understand is that we are not like restaurants where we can rush into operation once we are allowed to. 

“It takes months to get things going because we need to book artists and venues; the artists have to rehearse and we need to sell tickets which could take a long time. Similarly with business events, we cannot immediately do an expo in three days,” he said. 

Another key worry is that when artists have not performed live for more than a year, they might get rusty without enough time to practice. 

“Practicing their craft at home is not the same compared to when they are actually on stage performing in front of an audience,” he said. 

Financial challenges during this time have been imminent. Live events need upfront capital to book venues and artists. Selling tickets is when industry players get to recoup their investment. 

Rizal noted that although industry players have received some form of help or funds, it is not specifically for the live events industry. 

The help falls under the creative industry from bodies like MyCreative Ventures Sdn Bhd, the Cultural Economy Development Agency and some directly from the Communications and Multimedia Ministry. 

“There are funds coming out from these forces to help support us but it is minimal. 

“Ours is a high-risk industry so getting a loan from banks is troublesome, which we are still not looking into because that would mean we must have a solid business plan going forward. 

“We are lucky to have funds like MyCreative which give up loans at a good rate to industry players. To a certain degree, we turn to Malaysia Digital Economy Corp, depending on the kind of business,” he said. 

On top of that, sponsors are not coming in which Rizal said was understandable as sponsors need to have certainty when they invest into a project. 

Do Not Take Away The Stage 

“We have a strange system, if you were to think where live events fall under. Sometimes we are placed under tourism, communications, entertainment, and other times social gatherings,” Rizal said. 

To him, whichever category one wants to put the live events industry under, it is a legitimate commercial business that contributes to the country’s GDP, tourism and overall creative production. 

“We are an integral part of the entire creative eco-system. The key output for a lot of art is the stage, so when you take away the stage, the entire ecosystem breaks down. We need the government to realise this. 

“When you look at the plans of other countries, they put spectator sports and live events as a key part of their recovery programme and are central to the recovery of other integral industries. 

“In Malaysia, all entertainment aspects are always the last and we are not seen as a whole system. I think that is a huge mistake,” he said. 

With live events, although stringent standard operating procedures (SOPs) are in place to manage crowds in a controlled environment, it is still a cause for concern with fears of another Covid-19 cluster. 

“What we do not understand is, now that the vaccination rollout is in full swing, why can’t we allow vaccinated people to go to events? 

“It looks like the government is not taking this into account yet and not considering that things will be different as many people will be fully vaccinated soon,” he opined. 

According to the National Security Council, the creative industry will be allowed to operate, for example live shows, but without an audience. 

Rizal clarified that such a condition is not a live performance but a broadcast, where industry players could not make profit from ticket sales which is their key source of income. 

“We were asked to do virtual shows but we cannot simply go to an artist’s house to shoot it, we can only do a Zoom show and it is very difficult to get people to pay for a basic Zoom show. 

“It has to be at least of a medium quality which requires stable connection, lighting and sound. So far in Malaysia, virtual ticket sales have been very poor,” he added. 

Industry Outlook 

With the vaccination programmes in Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Selangor, Rizal said the industry is overall hopeful that the National Recovery Programme phases move faster. 

In one of his briefings, National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme Coordinating Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said the entire 80% target of KL and Selangor populations will be vaccinated by the end of August or early September. 

“If we can achieve the target, the government should allow us to do activities for people who are vaccinated at the earliest. We are also asking to do test shows to collect data on whether the SOPs are working for those who have been vaccinated. 

“As sports events are asking for the same thing, I think we should make decisions based on data,” said Rizal. 

For the most part, he wished that people could come back and watch live shows to start the recovery process and rebuild the ecosystem.