Post pandemic, many acts are now returning back to performing on live stages and touring the world once again. Malaysia however is notorious for being overlooked when it comes to these ‘world tours’ with our fellow neighbours Singapore and Thailand getting all the attention. But in 2023, Malaysia has started to get the recognition we deserve with acts like Blackpink, Coldplay and NCT Dream including Malaysia as a tour stop.
However, with the rising number of concerts and live performances, the government has made the choice to implement more guidelines for these international acts to abide by. These guidelines can have an impactful force on the future of the music and performance industry of Malaysia.
The introduction of new concert guidelines by the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (PUSPAL) in March 2023 sparked a flurry of discussions among Malaysian concert goers and concert organizers alike. Despite the heated discussion, there are benefits that have come from the soon to be implemented policies.
Most prominently, foreign acts have been prohibited from performing during national Islamic holidays. This block out includes the full month of Ramadan, Awal Muharram, Maulidur Rasul, Isra’ Mikraj, Nisfu Sya’ban, Nuzul Al-Quran, Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha. This ban also extends to the night before these religious occasions.
Additionally, the blackout dates also include notable public holidays like the National Day, Malaysia Day and the day of the demise of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the Sultan or the head of state or country.
Although there is an increase of blackout dates for religious occasions, the number of blackout dates during the independence month has decreased from the whole month to four days. These changes have the ability to positively impact the concert and music festival industry in Malaysia.
Pertaining to religious occasions, the change in blackout dates can positively affect the safety of concert goers and citizens alike. Religion is a topic that can bring many different opinions to the limelight. Thus, by prohibiting entertainment concerts from happening on important religious dates, the chances of misunderstandings and dangerous situations occurring can be lowered.
This change also becomes a plus to fans who celebrate these occasions. By avoiding big celebration dates like Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Independence Day, fans are able to focus on the occasions rather than choosing between one or the other. Artists are also then, given the opportunity to perform for an audience with the best turn-up rate they can get.
Not only that, the increase of open dates in August to September can benefit the economic development of the tourism industry in Malaysia. It is no secret that concerts are able to draw in music fans across the globe to the country. This is due to the fact that international fans may visit Malaysia to watch their favourite artist live, especially if they are not visiting their home country. In turn, the tourism sector is able to improve due to this influx of tourists being harcore fans of some artists.
While the updated concert regulations do have their plus side for concert organisers and the tourism sector of Malaysia, since the announcement back in mid March, many Malaysians have been curious as to whether this will attract or disinterest foreign acts from performing in Malaysia.
This is in line with PUSPAL announcing stricter rules on performers’ dress codes. Rules such as ‘no widely exposed chest area’ and no skirt or shorts that are ‘too high above the knee’ for female performers as well as prohibiting male performers from cross-dressing or wearing only underwear during performances have been brought forward. While these do sound like sensible dress codes to implement, there’s no doubt that some performers may find these restrictive. Many foreign acts will be forced to rethink their stage costumes to adapt to these new regulations or avoid Malaysia for a tour stop as a whole.
Fans have also taken to social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to not only voice their concern for these new policies but also to criticise ticketing systems. Most recently, many fans struggled to acquire their tickets for the upcoming Coldplay concert in November. Complaints were made regarding the long queue time and the inadequate capacity of website servers. As many fans flooded the site to purchase their tickets, the website crashed countless times, causing fans to lose out in the so-called “ticketing war”. While many were left disappointed with the circumstances, many also questioned if the struggle would be worth it due to the increase of restrictions for concerts in Malaysia.
Aside from the fans, politicians are also divided on their stance on the latest PUSPAL regulations. Some politicians have called to lessen foreign acts like BlackPink and Jay Chou from performing in Malaysia saying such events encourage ‘hedonism’ whereas other parties like the Sarawak Government have stated that they will not adapt to the new regulations and instead establish their own guidelines. In doing so, it reflects on their independence and autonomy to make their own decisions.
With all that being said, many foreign artists are headed our way in the months to come, especially with music festivals like Good Vibes Festival bringing over 15 foreign performers and numerous local acts out on stage this July. Could these new guidelines possibly mean Malaysia can look forward to more concerts? Or will these new rules force foreign arts to look the other way? Only time can tell the fate of the concert industry in Malaysia.
Written by: Ally & Trezshur
Edited by: Poorani