Artist manager Michael Lambert gives a 'younger' professional's view on the importance of live shows and the way we approach the most essential people: the fans
Sign up for IQ Index
The latest industry news to your inbox.
Future Sound Asia director Ben Law is bidding to "set the record straight" over the Good Vibes Festival controversy
By James Hanley on 28 Jul 2023
The promoter of Malaysia’s Good Vibes Festival (GVF) has attempted to set the record straight over The 1975’s aborted headline set, which resulted in the event’s cancellation.
The band’s performance last Friday (21 July) was cut short and the Future Sound Asia (FSA)-promoted festival’s remaining two days cancelled after frontman Matty Healy slammed Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed bassist Ross MacDonald on stage. Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia, punishable by 20 years in prison.
In a press conference held last night (27 July), FSA founder Ben Law said the set was curtailed due to 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,” said Law. “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. This incident was isolated and unforeseen, and contrary to the agreement we have with the band.
“Every artist, local or international, that we contract undergoes a clear discussion regarding these guidelines. We had The 1975’s management team assurance that they would adhere to local laws and regulations — in writing. We even further reiterated it with the tour manager prior to their performance.”
“We are looking forward to possibly devising a framework which would specifically cater to the unique characteristics of multi-day and multi-act music festivals”
FSA described the festival’s cancellation as “a catastrophic financial blow”, while the band could face a class action lawsuit from Malaysian artists and vendors.
Healy’s sole public comment since the incident came via an Instagram post on Saturday, which said: “OK, well why don’t you try and not make out with Ross for 20 years. Not as easy as it looks.”
GVF’s 10th anniversary edition was scheduled to run at Sepang International Circuit from 21-23 July and feature performances by the likes of The Strokes, The Kid Laroi and Dermot Kennedy. The controversy has reportedly led Sepang Municipal Council to rule that only local artists will be permitted to perform in the district “for the time being”.
International acts must apply for a permit through the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (PUSPAL) before they are granted permission to perform.
“We will learn from this isolated incident and together with PUSPAL, we are looking forward to possibly devising a framework which would specifically cater to the unique characteristics of multi-day and multi-act music festivals,” added Law, who pointed out the 1975’s previous GVF performance in 2016 had passed off without incident.
“We advocate for proportionate solutions that ensure safety and cultural sensitivity without hampering our thriving international events scene”
“We strive for a safer, more harmonious future for live music in Malaysia and we advocate for proportionate solutions that ensure safety and cultural sensitivity without hampering our thriving international events scene here in our beloved country,” he added.
The Arts, Live Festival and Events Association (ALIFE), the coalition representing the Malaysian live performance industry, has come out in support of FSA.
“Over the past decade, the Good Vibes Festival has maintained an exemplary track record of organising exceptional contemporary festivals in Malaysia,” said ALIFE president Rizal Kamal. “The festival has consistently featured a diverse selection of artists, attracting both local and international attendees, all while ensuring excellent organisation and safety standards.”
ALIFE, FSA, and the government say they have engaged in “constructive dialogue” in the wake of the controversy, while minister of communications and digital Fahmi Fadzil has pledged increased cooperation between the authorities and event organisers. ALIFE says its members hosted 152 ticketed events in 2022/23, selling more than 500,000 tickets and generating RM210 million (€42m) in gross revenue.
“Our commitment remains steadfast in working collaboratively with the government, festival organisers, and all stakeholders to learn from this incident and implement necessary improvements,” added Kamal. “We firmly believe that this setback serves as an opportunity for growth and development, rather than warranting stricter regulations and guidelines.
“We are confident that the Malaysian live events industry will recover from this incident and continue to thrive. Our determination lies in building a stronger, more sustainable live music scene in Malaysia.”
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.