Dance music event organiser optimistic of getting go-ahead
The first Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) in Singapore is hanging in the balance after the police twice rejected applications by the organiser, Livescape Singapore, to stage the event on March 13 and 14.
Its last hope now lies with its appeal to the Minister of Home Affairs to give the go-ahead for the dance music event at Changi Exhibition Centre.
The New Paper speaks to the people behind the festival.
Why were tickets sold before a permit was granted for the festival?
"Any event organiser can tell you this: you can't wait to get your permit to announce the show," Livescape Group CEO Iqbal Ameer, 28, said.
"It's not commercially viable. You won't know when you get it - it could be two weeks or two days before the show."
Midas Promotions director Steven Woodward agreed that for large festivals, the process of applying might take longer because of the amount of information needed.
The local concert promoter, with more than 30 years of experience, has stepped in as a consultant to provide expertise and advice for FMFA.
"In many cases, most promoters sell well before licences are approved, which might take two weeks or even three months," said Mr Woodward.
"I know a number of events still awaiting approval, yet tickets are on sale. You don't organise a show thinking it will be cancelled."
Ideally, he said, applications should be submitted as soon as possible.
The police said they would not issue a public entertainment licence "because of serious concerns with potential drug abuse at the event". What has been done to address their concerns?
Mr Iqbal said that Livescape Singapore has ramped up its anti-drug measures this year in light of last year's tragedy of suspected drug-related deaths linked to A State Of Trance at Bukit Jalil Stadium, near Kuala Lumpur.
Mr Woodward said: "To have that level of security and safety measures for a first-time festival here is unprecedented.
"If the appeal is rejected, that means the Singapore standard is going to be too high and will impact future events and future bands coming to Singapore.
"Concert promoters in the future will think twice and people might take a step back."
Mr Woodward also stressed the site, management, security and medical plans for FMFA this year are "commendable and thorough".
Lawyer Samuel Seow, who is acting on behalf of Livescape Singapore, said that "assessments must be made reasonably".
"Unless it is clear that it is a drug-taking event, it's unfair that a pure music event is tinged with drug abuse because of an isolated incident elsewhere," he said.
Referring to last year's event, Mr Iqbal said: "Things like that are scars in your life and again, it's not something any of us foresee happening.
"It is unfortunate. Our objective has always been to provide a safe and secure environment for patrons."
What contingency plans are in place in the event the festival has to be cancelled?
Mr Iqbal said he is still optimistic and working to pull off the event as planned.
"To be honest, we've done everything we can and we've gone above and beyond what we normally do to make this happen," he said.
He added that the Singapore event has a budget of $5 million and has incurred an expenditure of $2.4 million to date.
As the biggest edition yet, it has more than 50 acts, including rap group Public Enemy and popular DJs Avicii and Afrojack.
He said that he has signed a three-year contract with Changi Exhibition Centre.
While waiting for the appeal decision, he said there is no time to "sit down or sulk in a corner".
He is hoping for the best as he works to make sure the show goes on.
"We moved to Singapore because of its anti-drug policies and strong stance against drugs," said Mr Iqbal.
"If we held the event and there was a case of drug abuse, then we will work closely with the relevant bodies to see what we did right or wrong.
"But this is something that hasn't happened."
It's fine to be optimistic but what if the festival doesn't get the go-ahead?
Mr Iqbal said: "We have plans but the show must go on and we're committed to making sure we have a show. I'll keep it at that.
"I hope for a favourable response from the authorities so that we can put forward what we intended to in the first place: the best show on earth."
"I’m not aware that the permit applications have been rejected. Our manager usually handles this. For now, I don’t even know the story.”
— Blink of Malaysian DJ duo Goldfish & Blink
- THE NEW PAPER, YESTERDAY
The organiser is confident that the safety and medical precautions in place for Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) are sufficient and will mitigate the concerns of the authorities.
"What we did last year was above and beyond what anyone in the country has done for a festival. What happened was unfortunate and was an isolated incident," said Livescape Group CEO Iqbal Ameer.
"This year, we have even stricter measures in place."
Livescape Events managing director Darren Waide said that the measures to stamp out drug use include a comprehensive anti-drug campaign to spread the message.
Large screens displaying anti-drug messages will be placed at the venue.
On site, every patron will be subjected to a pat-down and bag check, with restrictions on bags of a certain size.
Random drug tests - oral swabs and breath tests - will be done at the front entrance.
Once permitted into the double-fenced venue, re-entry is not allowed.
Double fencing prevents anyone with drugs getting into the event.
The number of patrons has been capped at 20,000 for security reasons.
BY THE NUMBERS
1:100 security personnel to patron ratio
88 Aetos officers
33 CCTV cameras on-site
4 medical posts
1 medical centre
2 on-site doctors
1 consultant doctor
12 roving paramedics
STB: S'pore still a vibrant leisure destination
Future Music Festival Asia's (FMFA) entry into Singapore was a commercial decision by its event organiser, which is responsible for liaising with the relevant authorities to obtain the necessary permits, said the Singapore Tourism Board.
Its executive director, arts, entertainment & integrated resorts, Ms Carrie Kwik, was responding to The New Paper's queries whether it was aware that applications to hold the festival had been rejected.
She said: "Singapore has a diverse calendar of entertainment events. Its cancellation does not affect our standing as a vibrant leisure destination."
The police confirmed on Wednesday that they rejected two separate applications - received on Jan 12 and Feb 16 and rejected on Jan 29 and Feb 27 - for a permit to hold the festival.
In response to media queries about the rejections, the police mentioned "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".
A Malaysian died of a suspected drug overdose at the event and five others died later, also from suspected drug overdoses.
Fifteen foreigners and 14 Malaysians were arrested on site and 16 people were taken to hospital for suspected drug overdose.
Nine people, six of whom were believed to be Singaporeans, were treated at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre after they collapsed.
Festival-goers contacted by TNP were concerned that there is still no permit for the Singapore event.
About 15,000 out of 20,000 tickets have been sold.
Yesterday, the organiser issued a press release to encourage the public to use the hashtags #KeepFMFAAlive and #DrugFreeFuture on social media to spread the anti-drug message in the hope that the festival will go ahead.