Future Music fest promoted before getting approval

Future Music fest promoted before getting approval
South Korean rapper Psy at the Future Music Festival Asia at Sepang International Circuit last year.

The organiser of the dance music festival that has been twice denied a licence says it is normal to promote events before securing official permission.

Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) 2015, which made headlines last year when six of its concertgoers died from drug overdose in Kuala Lumpur, has been denied a licence for the show to be staged here next weekend.

Its organiser told Life! that its application for a licence has been rejected by the police twice - on Jan 29 and Feb 27 - and it is appealing the decision.

About 15,000 tickets have been sold for the show slated to be held in Singapore for the first time on March 13 and 14 at Changi Exhibition Centre. The capacity is 20,000 a day.

The line-up of dance music stars include Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy and hip-hop group Public Enemy.

Mr Iqbal Ameer, group chief executive of The Livescape Group, which is organising the festival, says he understands that "it is normal for event organisers to promote their events without a permit as it takes a long time".

He adds: "If we were to wait for a permit, we would not have enough lead time to promote a show, especially one as big as FMFA."

Malaysian company The Livescape Group also organised the five-day, four-night music cruise It's The Ship last November.

The dance festival started in Sydney in 2006 and has since expanded to other cities to become one of the largest electronic dance music events in South- east Asia. The annual festival, which has been held in Kuala Lumpur for the past three years, is jointly organised by Livescape Singapore and Future Music Group Australia.

Livespace has budgeted $5 million for the event and has spent about half of it so far. This includes setting up an office here and Mr Iqbal says there are plans to expand the business here to turn Singapore into its regional office.

Tickets to the festival range from $148 for an early bird one-day pass to $388 for a VIP weekend pass.

In response to media queries, the police say a Public Entertainment Licence was not issued because of "serious concerns with potential drug abuse at the event, in the light of the drug-related activities that had taken place at past Future Music Festival events, including its March 2014 event in Kuala Lumpur that resulted in drug-related deaths and hospitalisations, including several Singaporeans".

As a result, the third night of the festival in Kuala Lumpur was cancelled. Otherwise, an estimated 85,000 people would have attended the event.

According to Mr Iqbal, the second application addressed the drug abuse concerns by saying that security personnel will conduct random drug tests and the number of medical staff members at the festival will be boosted. The number of closed- circuit television cameras on site will also increase to 33 from six last year.

The police said Livescape Singapore appealed to the Minister for Home Affairs on Tuesday and "the appeal is being considered".

Voice-over artist Audrey Lim, 28, paid $148 for a one-day pass and she thinks the police concern is exaggerated. She says: "Just because it happened at one place doesn't mean it'll happen all the time."

Concert promoters Life! spoke to suggested that it would be prudent to sort out the permit early, particularly in the case of a big or new event.

Mr Michael Roche, managing director of concert promoters Live Nation Lushington, says: "For something like a big festival, it's worthwhile getting the permit sorted well ahead of time, or at least engaging with the police or licensing, so they can be a part of the process."

Mr Ngiam Kwang Hwa, managing director of concert promoter One Production, says the usual practice is to apply for a permit at least two months before the event date. Asked if the permit has to be approved before tickets go on sale, he says: "Apparently not."

But he adds: "In our contract with the ticketing agent and venue, it is the promoter's responsibility to make sure we obtain all the necessary permits."

All is not lost for the festival, says Mr Iqbal. "The appeal is still under review. One of the main reasons the Future Music Festival came to Singapore is the country's no-tolerance stance on drugs."

In a bid to get the festival going, the organiser has turned to social media and started a hashtag #KeepFMFAAlive on its Facebook page.

Stas Madorski, 27, one half of local DJ duo Rave Republic, who is slated to perform at the festival, says that cancelling the event would go against Singapore's attempts to position itself as an entertainment hotspot in Asia.

Should the appeal fail, Mr Iqbal says: "We are in the process of planning contingencies, which we will share in due course."

bchan@sph.com.sg

Additional reporting by Eddino Abdul Hadi & Melissa Kok


This article was first published on Mar 6, 2015.
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