In a press conference today (July 27), Good Vibes Festival’s organiser Future Sound Asia (FSA) held a press conference with the Arts, Live Festivals and Events Association (ALIFE) to “set the record straight”.
Present at the conference was ALIFE chairman Para Rajagopal, ALIFE president Rizal Kamal, FSA founder Ben Law, and FSA director of entertainment, Wan Alman.
The press conference’s goal was to shed light on the recent cancellation of the Good Vibes Festival 2023, as well as to discuss the impacts of the event on the Malaysian live events industry.
Clarifying the incident
Saying that he felt “a profound sense of sadness”, Ben Law started off the conference with a personal statement.
“Good Vibes Festival’s aim has always been to foster a platform where music lovers can connect and share meaningful experiences,” he said. “It is a tremendous setback for us that our festival was cancelled due to the actions of one individual.”
Ben went on to explain that the festival was cut short because of The 1975’s Matty Healy’s “unruly conduct, which included the use of abusive or provocative language, destroying equipment, and engaging in an indecent act on stage”.
“He blatantly contravened local performance guidelines and violated our country’s laws and regulations,” Ben said. “We do not accept or condone such behaviour, and Matty Healy’s conduct deserves to be condemned. His display has left a trail of consequences for Malaysians.”
Following Healy’s actions on stage, FSA shared that their team had not immediately stopped the performance as that is often seen as a last resort.
Instead, they first communicated with The 1975’s tour manager that they had to stop Healy and the band. However, when they didn’t heed, FSA went ahead with authorities to pull the performance.
Alman later clarified that FSA is considering legal action against the band.
An isolated incident?
Over the duration of the conference, the speakers repeatedly reiterated that what had happened was an isolated incident, not one that reflects the festival or industry as a whole.
However, given Healy’s controversies regarding racism, Islamophobia, and general problematic behaviour over the years, it’s arguable that the singer’s actions aren’t isolated or unforeseen.
Responding to a question about why FSA proceeded with platforming The 1975 despite Healy’s track record, Alman said it may be easy to point out one’s problematic history in hindsight.
“Yes, they had an incident in Dubai which was four years ago, but they’ve played many, many shows since then without incident,” he said. “They played Good Vibes Festival in 2016 without incident, and the [performance] laws in Malaysia haven’t changed since 2016.”
According to FSA, every artist it contracts undergoes a clear discussion regarding local performance guidelines, which involves no smoking, no drinking, no swearing, and no indecent acts on stage, among other rules.
FSA claimed that they had The 1975’s management team’s assurance in writing that the band would adhere to local laws and regulations. Prior to their performance, these expectations were once again reiterated with the tour manager, Ben said.
“We have done our best to ensure that no incidents occur, and I think it’s solely the fault of Matty Healy and The 1975,” he said.
Alman also added, “Do we really want to go down that route where we immediately ban artists for something they have done in other countries a few years ago? Because if we go down that route, a lot of artists won’t be able to perform.”
However, while Healy hasn’t had other on-stage incidents recently, his actions off-stage may have been a sign of potentially problematic tendencies.
On that, ALIFE chairman Para later added on that organisers engage with professional musicians for their musical abilities for their fans, not necessarily because of what they do in their private life. However, he did acknowledge that musicians’ personal actions may also be a reflection of their values.
“I’m telling you, every promoter walks on a very tight rope from the time we book the event until we deliver the event,” he said. “We have a very tight job to do. Every day we hope that nothing pops up.”
Rizal also stated prior to the Q&A that “while it is true that certain rock bands may have had previous notoriety, it is essential to recognise that such incidents should not hinder the opportunity for artists to perform in Malaysia”.
“Thousands of international performers have graced our stages with no issues, and we are committed to welcoming more in the future.”
Impacts to the local live entertainment industry
According to Rizal, government and industry representatives from ALIFE and FSA have engaged in constructive dialogues following the incident and have reached a unanimous agreement to move forward positively.
“The Minister, YB Fahmi Fadzil, has responded by pledging increased cooperation between the government and organisers to solidify the industry further.”
However, this doesn’t mean that the incident would not affect international artists’ perception of Malaysia as an ideal performance destination. Over the past few days, netizens have shared worries that artists may start rejecting Malaysia as a concert venue due to the incident with Healy.
“The immediate thing we did as ALIFE and FSA was to engage with the authorities that are governing our industry and we have created a working team with them to ensure the momentum we have built up in the last couple of months after the pandemic [continues],” Para said.
He also proceeded to share that the industry has to become a lot better at screening artists, and by that, he doesn’t mean stricter, but rather, clearer.
He shared that previously, guidelines had been quite clear, but as time went by, more and more regulations were implemented and it’s become more difficult for them to screen what is right and what is wrong.
He continued, “It’s a work in progress. We will keep updating the industry on how we’re going to create a safer environment for all the fans and the music industry.”
For now, refund mechanics for individuals and relief for vendors and artists still have not been confirmed. Alman shared that FSA plans to announce this in the next few days.
While this problematic occurrence has been greatly regrettable, hopefully the silver lining is that it may be able to spark positive change for the live entertainment industry.
As Para said, “The industry has to go on. We have to move from The 1975 and come back to 2023, and forward.”