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Malaysia’s Good Vibes returns after The 1975 furore

Malaysia’s Good Vibes Festival (GVF) is set to return in July after the controversy surrounding The 1975’s set during last year’s edition.

The British band were headlining the first day of the festival’s 10th-anniversary edition when frontman Matty Healy hit out at the country’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage.

The set was cut short, and promoters Future Sound Asia (FSA) were ordered by the government to call off the rest of the three-day festival at Sepang International Circuit.

FSA described Good Vibes Festival’s cancellation as a “catastrophic financial blow” and demanded £2 million in compensation from The 1975. Legal proceedings are ongoing.

Today (8 May), Good Vibes has announced its comeback, albeit in a different location than last year and with one less day.

“Immediately after what happened last year, we thought the world was ending”

Set to take place on 20 and 21 July at the Resorts World Awana in Genting Highlands, the 2024 edition features J Balvin, Peggy Gou, Joji, BIBI and more, as well as returning Malaysian acts who had their performances cut from the 2023 event.

“Immediately after what happened last year, we thought the world was ending,” Future Sound Asia’s Wan Alman told NME in a new interview. “We were left thinking about what was going to happen, were we still going to be working in this industry and things like that. But as time went on and we dealt with the situation, our heads became clearer.

“Towards the end of last year, we realised that the government was not going to ban us and we’ve got a good thing going here – we’ve been doing this for 10 years.”

According to Alman, the government has supported the return of Good Vibes: “They want to work with us hand-in-hand to make sure that that sort of thing doesn’t happen again and that the live music industry and the festival industry isn’t adversely affected by what happened.”

FSA and the government have also been working with PUSPAL (Central Committee for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes) to refine and improve its guidelines and standardise responses to incidents.

“The kill switch is always a nuclear option, it’s the very last resort”

Alman says that the incident has not put booking agents off the festival, but that domestic promoters are “more careful in which acts they want to book and probably more diligent in clearly informing the artists that these are the things you can and cannot do when performing in Malaysia”.

In the months following the controversy, promoters were ordered to install a “kill switch” to end performances by international artists that breach government regulations. Alman says the kill switch has not been standardised and says each promoter and organiser has their own version of it.

“For us, the kill switch is a system where we can immediately cut off audio, video and lights on the stage,” says Alman. “Of course, this is always a nuclear option, it’s the very last resort. We have other protocols in place about who can call for stage closure and when we can call for it.

“We’re not going to call for it if an artist starts smoking a cigarette onstage; we’re just going to stop them and tell them they can’t do that. There will be various scenarios and degrees of severity, and what happened last year would be the most severe, where we cut everything off.”

Ticketholders for last year’s event could either defer their tickets or donate the money to the festival. As the festival is shorter this year, those who opted to defer 2023 tickets will be entitled to two full festival passes for 2024 plus a RM100 F&B voucher. See the full lineup here.

 


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Our House… Behind the scenes of The 1975’s tour

As one of the biggest arena acts on the planet, The 1975 have been making headlines wherever they go for the past 20 years. Having just brought the curtain down on their third consecutive year on the road, their fanbase continues to grow, making their efforts to rewrite the rulebooks on sustainable touring all the more impressive. Derek Robertson learns just what it takes to take such a cultural phenomenon on the road.

Can you have too much of a good thing? Clearly, The 1975 think not. For an A-list arena band, they have been remarkably prolific – aside from releasing an album every two years since 2016, they’ve also toured behind them relentlessly: 18 months and 150 shows for I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It; a 24-month world tour behind Music For Cars; and a seven-leg, 96-date stint doing their At Their Very Best show. And barely a month after that wrapped on the 13th of August 2023, they were back on the road in Atlanta starting Still… At Their Very Best – another 66-date, worldwide jaunt – in support of their fifth studio album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language.

Even taking into account the enforced breaks during the pandemic, that’s quite a workload – particularly when you consider some of the bands’ struggles with mental health and the pernicious effects of fame. Yet manager Jamie Oborne says that after the Music For Cars tour was interrupted by lockdowns (while first rescheduled, the remaining shows for that tour were ultimately cancelled), “we collectively had a desire to tour, and Matty (Healy, frontman) was very excited about doing a show that was ‘different’ to what people expected or had seen in an arena before. It felt like the right time to get back on the road.”

Work it real good
“The boys love to work,” says Maarten Cobbaut, tour manager. “The first real break they had from their intense schedule was the pandemic, but within a week of restrictions being lifted and everything, they were back in the studio working on new music. They are just so passionate about what they do and put so much of themselves into the music and these shows.”

And these shows for Still… At Their Very Best are, unsurprisingly, fairly close in terms of concept, setup, and logistics as the At Their Very Best show. “An evolution, not a revolution,” as Oborne puts it. “It was part of the same cycle, but so much had happened since the tour commenced that Matty felt a creative need to highlight this evolution. The plan was always to use this tour cycle to market Being Funny In A Foreign Language, so we didn’t really see it as two separate tours.”

“The Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle”

“Both UK runs were all part of the global touring for Being Funny In A Foreign Language, and weren’t seen as separate projects,” adds Matt Bates of Primary Talent, the band’s agent. “Of course, the first run was billed as At Their Very Best, with the second run having a slightly different name, but they very much coexisted together. And there was a lot of demand – the Finsbury Park show sold out instantly, and it was clear the fanbase was still growing on this cycle.”

Treading the boards
The show itself was certainly “different” – both from what you’d expect from an arena band and from their previous bombastic show for Music For Cars. That tour was “really big and ambitious,” says creative director and show designer Tobias Rylander. “We really went for size and technology with massive LED screens and automated cubes. But for At Their Very Best and Still… At Their Very Best, we wanted to be very analogue – Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and really show them as a band.”

Healy is, says Rylander, always very conceptual in the approach for each era and tour. While the design for the previous tour reflected social media and internet behaviour, “This time around Matty wanted the show and design to be more personal and show them as a band,” explains Rylander.

“Matty wanted it to reflect their history as friends and a group, while also focussing on them as a live act and musicians. He wanted the stage to reflect how they recorded this last album live, together in the studio. He knew he wanted a house, and some sort of living room. And he wanted it to be focusing on the I-mag camera. No video content: just live camera. That’s how I started to design and look at the house. To always have a good background and setting for the camera shots.

“We looked at anything from Ingmar Bergman to Steven Spielberg for inspiration and references,” adds Rylander; Stanley Kubrick and avant-garde theatre were other touchstones (one review described the show as being: “part performance art, part stage play, part Charlie Kaufman movie about a rock star in crisis.”)

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band”

Our house
The design eventually started to take on a life of its own as it developed – it literally became Matty’s “home,” housing his memories. “It’s monochromatic and anonymous at the same time; it can reflect and take the shape of anyone’s childhood memories or their new memories leaving the show,” says Rylander. “It’s a very inviting and inclusive set.”

The first half of the show has almost no “effect” lighting and looks more like classic theatre than a rock show. “That’s something we’ve never done before, and something that’s not very common these days – I think we are the only rock band tour out there that brings a whole ‘Broadway’ set,” says Rylander.

And for the second leg of the tour, they kept all the theatrical parts and added a large, curved video screen behind the set that allowed them to add set extensions and environmental backgrounds. “We could go from night to day in a very beautiful way, but also play some really fantastic bits of video content reflecting older tours and eras from the past,” he adds. “And using the upstage video screen as a theatrical set extension like we do – I don’t think I have seen that on stage before.”

“I always remain amazed by the creative ideas of Matty and the band,” says Matt Bates. “The show was brilliant theatre while not losing the ethos of what makes the band so special in the first place. It truly showed a band at the top of their game creatively and musically, and, in their own words, ‘at their very best.’”

Boys on film
As noted above, video – shot live and intimately – was key to the whole look and feel of the show. Head of video Ed Lawlor has been with The 1975 since 2016 and was tasked with turning concept into reality while ensuring the solution was practical enough for a world tour. “We didn’t want to compromise on providing the best IMAG show possible for the budget – the design brief was ‘cinematic’ – so it was an easy decision to focus on one thing and do it well,” he says.

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED”

“It was clear early on that the band and management wanted larger than normal IMAG screens, and we wanted the classic projection look rather than LED. On the initial US tour, we specified two Panasonic PT-RZ31K projectors per side on a 24’ Stumpfl screen from PRG rental stock, which was the largest off-the-shelf option available,” he adds. “On returning a year later to larger venues, the management requested a bigger option – at that point, we commissioned a 32’ Stumpfl screen, which was the largest practical option in a fast-fold product. This required an increase to 3x PT-RZ31K per side, which is the brightest arena IMAG projection I’ve heard of in a while.”

As for the cameras, Lawlor decided to do 3G well rather than 4K on the cheap, so specified four Sony HDC-2500 channels and a Ross Carbonite 2 M/E PPU from PRG UK. This was augmented with four Panasonic AW-UE160 and an RP150 control panel, with additional fixed shots from Marshall CV503-WPs.

Screen time
Those IMAG screens are very much larger than normal for arena touring, and so Lawlor and his crew worked closely with both PRG and AV Stumpfl to find a solution that allowed for rear projection in a fast-fold type frame with no central member that would obscure the beam. PRG have also been working with The 1975 since 2016 and, says Stefaan Michels, sales director for PRG UK, “our partnership has grown stronger over the years – we’ve fostered a close relationship with their tour and production management team, and one that extends beyond their time on the road.”

PRG’s brief was scalability, and the integration of new equipment tailored specifically for this production. Michels had to ensure the duplication of rig setups between Europe and the US, as well as customising equipment to meet the tour’s unique requirements. “Implementing A-B-C rig configurations was essential for maximising efficiency and flexibility throughout the tour,” he says, “and we made specific equipment choices based on detailed specifications provided.”

For example, one significant consideration was the need for different sizes of projection screens to suit the dimensions of various venues. For larger arena shows in the US and UK, they incorporated a large USC Hi Res LED wall to deliver high-resolution visuals that could effectively engage the audience across expansive spaces. Additionally, custom-made, large projection screens equipped with additional 31K laser projectors were also used, particularly in venues with specific lighting conditions or sightline challenges.

“We had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist”

Another specific choice was the decision to utilise Ereca Stage Racer 2s, a decision driven by the need to minimise the deployment of copper cabling on a daily basis. “This choice not only reduces setup time but also enhances flexibility, allowing for swift adjustments as tour requirements evolve, as they inevitably do over the course of an extensive tour like this one,” says Michels. “Moving multiple 3G video signals even over medium distances caused problems on the first leg of the tour, as it required coaxial cable to be both modern and in good condition, which is a challenge to maintain on tour when local labour is in use,” adds Lawlor. “This was another factor in the decision to adopt the Stage Racer 2s.”

Hanging about
All in all, this setup provided a modest challenge for head rigger Simon Lawrence – “simply 120 points going to the roof and a relatively small weight of 50 tonnes.” But there was one area of concern – at one point, Healy climbs upon onto the roof of the “house” to perform a song, on top of the front apex. “Like any artist, Matty wants to be as free as possible when performing, and initially, he felt he should have no safety systems at all, but when he is nearly six metres up in the air above the stage, this is not possible,” says Lawrence. “So we had to come up with a system that kept Matty safe but also ensured that, if the worst happened, it was safe for a rescuer to go out and assist.”

Rounding out the suppliers, All Access provided the front of house mix position stage (a B stage set piece) and built a custom lift for this, while TAIT provided a TAIT Mag Deck rolling house stage. “The Mag Deck design incorporates magnetic corner blocks for alignment and a shear keyway to reduce the number of legs needed to support the decking structure,” says Bullet,
TAIT’s business development manager – UK. “This reduced the amount of product that needed to travel on the road and the time needed to load in and load out, ultimately saving on costs.”

On the road again
Moving all this around was the responsibility of Natasha Highcroft, director of Transam Trucking. “We supplied 15 low-ride height production trucks, plus one merchandise truck for the UK, and eight production trucks plus one merchandise truck for the European leg of the tour, all superbly handled by our lead driver, David Isted,” she says. “As with most tours, keeping to the EU legislation on drivers’ hours and statutory weekly rest periods can prove difficult when parking and access is restricted. Fortunately, with an understanding production and accommodating promoters, we were able to facilitate breaks whilst keeping to budget.”

Bussing was provided by Beat The Street; in total, they ran four 16-berth double-deck Setra’s for the crew and two 12-berth Van Hool Super-highdeckers for the band. “Plotting band bus moves can be a bit of a challenge when day drivers are mixed in with overnight drivers, as it becomes difficult to get the drivers their required weekly breaks,” says Garry Lewis, the company’s transport manager. “So, it was agreed to add a second driver to each band bus, which gave us the flexibility to make it work as seamlessly as possible for the band party.”

“Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment”

Sustainability has long been an issue dear to the band’s heart, and on this tour, they were determined to do all they could to lessen its carbon footprint and impact on the environment. “The set design put a real focus on the structural elements being reusable or recyclable, and many of the items that make up the set-build will end up back in stock at the supplier end – this is quite unique,” says Oborne. “Our focus, as a community of creatives, is always to try and limit the negative impact touring has on the environment. It’s by no means a perfect solution, but we are pretty committed to chipping away at our impact on the environment.”

Indeed, the modular nature of the set is something of a first. “It’s a renewable scenic technology, and this is the first time this product has been taken out for a live touring show,” says production manager Josh Barnes. “We wanted something that would really give us the aesthetic finish that we were looking for, in terms of being robust and feeling like the walls are actually the walls of a house and not just a flimsy, flat set. But also, be something that could be transported in the most sustainable, cost-effective way possible and be renewed or recycled at the end of the campaign.”

He goes on: “We ended up partnering up with PRG scenic through their Belgium and Las Vegas offices and worked with them on creating the house out of a product called InfiniForm – basically, it’s a 50 x 50 mil aluminium box section that allows you to cut it and add corners, reels, braces, fixings, or whatever you need. Then, once the frames are made, they were clad in aluminium honeycomb, which is a lightweight, hard-wearing wall surface.

“And, at the end of the campaign, they’re just going to be stripped back into component parts and used by the next project. There’s no ongoing storage needed, and there’s no waste in terms of bits and pieces that would just normally get thrown away if it were a custom build.”

This also meant that the band was able to drop their air freight requirements from 40 pallets down to just 17 for the entire show. Coupled with the decision to carry a smaller production around mainland Europe, requiring only eight trucks instead of 16, this allowed the production team to significantly cut the tour’s carbon footprint and make some impressive cost savings.

“One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health”

Take a break
Looking after the planet is a noble endeavour, but the band are also at pains to look after people – specifically, their people. “One of the things that we’ve really focussed on for this tour is crew welfare, and trying to look after people’s mental health,” says Barnes. This effort started before the tour even hit the road – after rehearsals, several training days were scheduled with an American organisation called Safe Tour, covering topics such as wellness on the road, mental health first aid, pronoun training, and some bystander intervention training. “It was really beneficial to everybody involved in the project to set them up for success on what was, and still is, quite a long run,” he adds.

Crew rest was another priority, something that’s always a struggle given the nature of long days on the road. “Getting the right amount of rest between shows is really important,” says Barnes. To that end, they’ve been careful not to set loading times for arrival or very early in the morning, instead choosing “about an hour after we expect to arrive, to give the crew enough time to actually plan their mornings. We can also adjust show and door times as well, to assist if we need to leave slightly earlier one night or start later the next day.”

The quality of crew rest has been improved, too. “So not just a single day off where you arrive at a hotel, but a day where you can sleep in a bed and not set an alarm,” says Barnes. “Effectively, two days off, or one full day off, every few weeks – that was a real win being able to work that into the schedule.” Hotels are pre-booked, so people can access their rooms direct on arrival at 10am or whenever and are required to have a number of amenities to help the crew unwind; a gym, a sauna, a pool, spaces to relax, and convenient access to nature, parks, or wildlife. “Options beyond just sitting in a bar drinking.”

And this emphasis on physical health extends to the available food, with nutritionally balanced meals available on the buses and through catering, plus plenty of non-alcoholic beverages and 0% beers. Crew members can make individual food choices through an app, and while the band themselves tour with a personal trainer to keep them in shape, things like being able to walk to a venue from the hotel, and that downtime is actually downtime, are prioritised. “These things help in a number of ways – it’s financial, it’s sustainability, and it’s improving welfare,” adds Barnes. “They’re all important aspects to us.”

Much in demand
As one of the most popular acts of the new millennium, the band is in tune with its global fanbase, striving to make its touring activities as sustainable as possible and speaking out on issues on behalf of underrepresented communities. An infamous onstage kiss in Malaysia between Healy and bassist Ross McDonald last July continues to have repercussions, but that hasn’t stopped promoters internationally from booking the act.

“We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone”

Unsurprisingly, given the stature and popularity of the band, Still… has been a roaring commercial success, too, with sold-out shows all across the globe. “We sold out four O2 Arena shows this time, plus 40,000 tickets on this album campaign in the UK alone,” says Bates. “Their fanbase continues to grow year on year, and while that does make the tours easier to sell, we like to launch the show with significant marketing for the first announcement,” says Luke Temple of SJM Concerts. Both Arena Birmingham and the two Manchester dates sold out in a weekend; Temple says the plan was always to do two at the latter, “but I’ve no doubt they could have sold out a few more.”

It was a similar story north of the border, in Glasgow. “The band played Glasgow Hydro in January 2023, then headlined TRNSMT Festival in July 2023,” says Dave McGeachan of DF Concerts. “We were thinking we would leave Glasgow off the 2024 tour, but we decided to add a show at the OVO Hydro. Then we had to add a second night due to demand, which also sold out – quite incredible sales within 13 months.”

In Sweden, the band sold out Stockholm’s Tele2 Arena – “their biggest show in our territory yet,” says Natalie Ryan-Williams of Luger. “Over the years, their fanbase has expanded, and with them being the phenomenon they now are, we knew people were going to travel in from all over Sweden – and even some internationally.”

The possibility of multiple shows in Spain was considered, but, says Cindy Castillo of Mad Cool, venue availabilities and logistical constraints prevented it. “The demand was certainly there, indicating the band’s strong draw in this area,” she says.

Two nights were possible at Amsterdam’s AFAS Live – even if they were nearly a month apart – and, says Friendly Fire’s Roel Coppen, “they were the band’s fastest-selling arena headline shows to date. They played Best Kept Secret in 2023, but we had no issues with these new dates – we could cater to different audiences with different shows within 12 months.”

“You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations”

Even in more developing territories, these shows have really connected to local fans. “The situation in continental Europe is quite different from the UK, especially in Central Europe,” says Anna Vašátková, head of marketing and PR for Rock For People in Czechia. “The band isn’t played on the radio very often and there’s not as much media coverage, so we’ve had to do all the heavy lifting ourselves. We did quite a massive marketing campaign, including outdoor, radio spots, and extensive use of online media.”

Coppen also noted something else on this run – a broadening of their fanbase. “I do see there’s been a steady, growing interest from other demographic groups and also journalists have been getting more excited about the band in recent years,” he says. Ryan-Williams has noticed something similar. “You can just about see anyone attending a The 1975 show nowadays – they really attract people from all backgrounds and generations, which is a beautiful thing to see.”

“The 1975’s appeal spans various age groups and genders, and their music has definitely attracted a diverse audience transcending age and gender boundaries,” adds Castillo. “It resonates with listeners across generations, from teenagers to older adults, probably thanks to its relatable themes and catchy melodies.”

Success is no accident
Beyond the accolades and acclaim, beyond the facts and figures, this tour has been a resound- ing success. And not just for the legions of happy fans. Everyone IQ speaks to has high praise for the way the band and their team have gone about everything and how they treat all those who encounter them. “Over the years, The 1975 has evolved into more than just a client; they have become like a second family to me,” says Michels. “The professionalism, collaboration, and welcoming spirit displayed by everyone involved transcend mere business relationships.”

“It is always our pleasure to work with The 1975, their production, and their management teams,” says Meegan Holmes of 8th Day Sound, a sentiment echoed by Roy Hunt, Christie Lites’ global account manager. “Every individual involved has demonstrated a high level of professionalism, commitment, and passion that has made this journey memorable,” he says. “The synergy between the band and the crew created an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, while management has been nothing short of supportive, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable tour. Overall, it has been a remarkable experience that speaks volumes about the dedication and talent of everyone involved.”

Fittingly though, band manager Oborne attributes the success to all of those who work so hard to make the shows happen – and who help the band shine. “When I think about The 1975 touring, I can’t help but think about how dedicated and committed to the show our crew are,” he says. “The professionalism and dedication are something we simply could not be without. I am very grateful to all those behind the scenes who turn up day in day out and make the entire thing work. It’s quite something to witness.”

 


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O2 removes 500+ tonnes of carbon during The 1975 gigs

The O2 in London has announced that more than 545.9 tonnes of carbon were extracted across The 1975’s four headline concerts in February.

The shows marked the world’s first carbon-removed arena events and took place in collaboration with carbon removal experts CUR8 and sustainable event specialists A Greener Future (AGF).

Using a portfolio of “scientifically verifiable” carbon removal methods (including enhanced rock weathering and biochar), The O2 (owned by AEG Europe) and CUR8 physically extracted the 136.46 tonnes of carbon generated by each event from the atmosphere and durably store it out of harm’s way.

The pilot events have resulted in a blueprint for a more sustainable live event model utilising carbon removals, which is being offered to all incoming promoters at the venue and is being planned to launch across several other AEG venues.

“With the success of this world-first pilot series of arena events, we’ve proven that it’s possible to run an arena-size live show which doesn’t compromise on a great fan experience but still accounts for the impact it has on the environment,” says Sam Booth, director of sustainability at AEG Europe.

“We hope this serves as a wakeup call to the wider industry that carbon removals are a viable solution that can be used to operate live events but they need buy-in from everyone in the live ecosystem in order to be a success – from venues and promoters right the way through to artists themselves. We’re fully committed to continuing to innovate and find even more ways to make our world-class events across AEG Europe more sustainable, as we strive for a low-carbon future for the live industry.”

Mark Stevenson, co-founder and chief impact officer at CUR8, adds: “The real heroes here are the teams at AEG Europe and AGF, who are working to reduce emissions as much as possible and then committing to remove the rest – and in doing so, helping fund the carbon removals operating system that the planet (and every organisation on it) will need to reach net-zero. Importantly, The O2 and AGF have demonstrated the art of the possible. We cannot have a live music industry where the only route to net-zero is to not exist. By using carbon removals to mitigate the complex ‘audience travel’ or ‘scope 3 emissions’ problem, all within the existing business model of live events, these concerts demonstrate a possible future – one that speaks to life well lived on a planet well loved.”

“We hope this serves as a wakeup call to the wider industry that carbon removals are a viable solution for live events”

The O2 has revealed that 75.7% of emissions from the concerts came from fan travel, which was covered by a combination of venue investment and a 90p contribution from fans, incorporated into the original ticket price.

Just 3.95% of the nightly carbon footprint came from arena operations, driven predominantly by electricity usage and staff travel. The low emission figure is thanks to The O2’s significant investment in energy efficiency, with the recent installation of LED lighting and screens across the arena saving over 300,000kwh of energy in 2023 alone.

The O2’s hospitality partner, Levy UK + Ireland, accounted for the removal costs across their operations, with carbon emissions for food and beverages across each show coming in at 7.46%, of which 85% was down to beverages. The overall figure was aided by the introduction of several recent initiatives, including a new food menu which generated 30% less carbon compared to the regular offering, as well as the launch of Notpla serveware. This 100% biodegradable product has a 70% lower carbon footprint than standard serveware and can be processed in The O2’s on-site biodigester and wormery.

In addition, The O2 has invested in a permanent reusable cup scheme and cup-washing machines powered by electricity from renewable resources, further reducing waste and emissions at the venue.

Alongside hosting the pilot events, The O2 and CUR8 each donated an additional 1% on top of the cost for each tonne of carbon removed to EarthPercent, a climate foundation geared towards identifying and funding impactful climate solutions in the live entertainment industry.

The O2’s other green initiatives include launching its own Green Rider in 2023 – a document intended as a blueprint to make incoming tours and productions at the venue more sustainable.

The 20,000-capacity venue was also the first arena in England to receive Greener Arena accreditation, awarded by AGF. Work is now underway at AEG Europe’s Uber Arena and Barclays Arena in Germany to undergo similar accreditation.

 


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IQ 126 out now: The 1975, Country, Mid-level touring

IQ 126, the latest issue of the international live music industry’s favourite magazine, is available to read online now.

The April/May edition goes behind the scenes of The 1975’s Still… At Their Very Best tour, examines the rapid rise of country music around the world, and explores the difficulties facing the mid-tier of the live music touring business.

Elsewhere, the issue marks Mercury Wheels co-founder Barnaby Harrod’s 25 years as a promoter, dives into Switzerland’s thriving industry, and reports on the 36th edition of ILMC.

For this edition’s comments and columns, Pembe Tokluhan shares the inspiration behind launching a company that strives to increase representation of women, trans, and non-binary people working behind the scenes of live events.

In addition, creative comms guru Ella McWilliam (Full Fat) monitors the rapidly changing media landscape and provides tips on how festivals can entice Gen Z to become ticket-buying customers.

As always, the majority of the magazine’s content will appear online in some form in the next four weeks.

However, if you can’t wait for your fix of essential live music industry features, opinion and analysis, click here to subscribe to IQ from just £8 a month – or check out what you’re missing out on with the limited preview below:

 


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Malaysian org threatens legal action over protests

Malaysia’s live music trade body ALIFE (Arts, Live Festival and Events Association) has threatened to take legal action against those who call for the cancellation of concerts in the country.

The government strengthened guidelines but rejected a blanket ban on gigs following The 1975’s infamous headline set at Sepang’s Good Vibes Festival last July, which led to the cancellation of the event.

However, ALIFE’s president Rizal Kamal says there remains opposition regarding performances by certain international acts.

“With recent successes like Taylor Swift’s groundbreaking tour in neighbouring Singapore showcasing the economic potential of live events, ALIFE is committed to overcoming barriers hindering Malaysia’s global entertainment competitiveness,” he says.

“Despite recent triumphs, ALIFE faces opposition from political and religious groups calling for the cancellation of concerts”

“Despite recent triumphs, ALIFE faces opposition from political and religious groups calling for the cancellation of concerts featuring artists associated with ‘sinful’ activities or supporting certain communities. Calls for such cancellation of acclaimed acts like BlackPink, Billie Eilish, Coldplay, and Ed Sheeran highlight this issue.”

Moreover, Kamal says that ALIFE is prepared to pursue legal action to protect the business against “baseless claims and discriminatory acts”.

“This stance champions cultural diversity and individuals’ right to access entertainment freely in Malaysia’s dynamic live performance landscape, plus the right to protect Malaysia’s reputation in the international landscape,” he says.

“As Malaysia aspires to become a global live events hub, ALIFE’s unwavering resolve against external pressures underscores the significance of this issue both domestically and internationally.”

“We have the opportunity to bring much needed external income into the country through music tourism”

Promoters in Malaysia were ordered to install a “kill switch” to end performances by international artists that breach government regulations to avoid a repeat of the Good Vibes fiasco, which saw The 1975 singer Matty Healy criticise Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kiss a male bandmate on stage – leading to the cancellation of the festival’s remaining two days.

However, that was the only incident reported out of 296 acts granted a permit by the Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artistes (Puspal) in 2023. And Kamal points out the economic benefits of bringing global stars to the region.

“Live events are pivotal in boosting Malaysia’s international reputation and driving economic growth. However, bureaucratic inefficiencies and political pressures threaten to hinder our industry’s potential,” he says.

“We have the opportunity to bring much needed external income into the country through music tourism. Our infrastructure, cost structure and value of ringgit makes Malaysia an attractive destination for concerts and shows. We cannot allow certain groups to derail Malaysia’s effort to be more competitive in the region, especially if it’s just to boost their own individual or political standing.”

 


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GEI16 report: Sponsorship and carbon-removed gigs

A host of top names within the live entertainment and environmental sectors gathered for the 16th edition of the Green Events and Innovations (GEI16) conference at London’s Royal Lancaster Hotel.

Organised by AGreenerFuture in partnership with ILMC (International Live Music Conference), the leading conference for sustainability was held today as part of ILMC week.

The opening Presenting Ecosystem Collapse: Sponsored by Oil and Gas panel aimed to educate audiences on how to distinguish sponsors’ intentions and ways major music and sporting events can avoid tarnishing their reputations. Moderated by Serendipity PR & Media’s Sangeeta Waldron, the panel’s goal was to emphasise the importance of maintaining values when choosing sponsors.

Citing BP’s sponsorship of a festival in Basingstoke (in which BP Pulse’s EV chargers are advertised for festival-goers with electric cars), Luke Howell of Hope Solutions wondered whether there would be pushback from NGOs and charities towards outdoor events that sign up to such partnerships.

“I would always advocate for avoiding partnerships with such companies, but the fact that it’s such a tough market for events and the music industry these days hasn’t gone unnoticed by oil and gas companies,” he said. “They’re aware that there is a funding deficit, which makes it easier for them to segue into this space.”

GEI16 also saw a conversation about the game-changing potential of The 1975’s recent landmark “carbon-removed” gigs at London’s The O2

Howell reckoned that large-and-small scale music festivals represented the “last bastion of independence” from the clutches of oil and gas companies.

“It’s highly critical to be aware and not fall into the trap of praising BP for offering EV charging stations or Shell for offering HVO fuel, even though in a vacuum, they’re good things,” he said. “But these companies collectively made over £300 billion worth of profit in the last couple of years from extracting fossil fuels from the planet.”

He also referenced a collaborative study between the Guardian and Greenpeace that showed only 0.3% of renewable energy was produced from those sources.

Despite Howell questioned the motivation behind companies using the medium of entertainment to “push themselves into the limelight”. However, he emphasised that open dialogue and transparency between event organisers and potential sponsors — especially when they’ve made billions from the practice of extracting fossil fuels.

GEI16 also saw a conversation about the game-changing potential of The 1975’s recent landmark “carbon-removed” gigs at London’s The O2. Chaired by AEG’s John Langford, the session brought together AEG Europe’s Sam Booth, Mark Stevenson of CUR8, and Claire O’Neill from A Greener Future.

“For us at AEG Europe, a carbon-removed event essentially means measuring everything that goes on in the duration of these events”

“For us at AEG Europe, a carbon-removed event essentially means measuring everything that goes on in the duration of these events,” Booth explained, further elaborating that massive amounts of audience data — including the food & beverage consumed, the merchandise sold, the types of cups used, and the energy & water in the arena — must be collected before the agency can then pay to have the carbon “physically removed” from the atmosphere.

Booth also confirmed that AEG Europe uses the “offsetting” method, which allows them to compensate for their events’ emissions by supporting projects that reduce, avoid, or remove emissions elsewhere.

“The plan is to remove an equivalent amount of emissions created by fans heading to The O2, which would equal an estimate of 100 tons per show,” he said.

When quizzed by Langford on providing a snapshot for future carbon-removed gigs, O’Neill suggested it was a “mixed bag”, where responsibilities are divided between different entities.

“In the case of The O2, the venue is responsible for anything to do with electricity and gas within its confines, the food & beverage is on the catering company that brings them to the venue, the performers are responsible for their movements to and from the venue, and so forth,” she said, adding that 90p of the ticket price has gone towards the initiative.

CUR8 is in talks with other acts about incorporating carbon-removed concerts as part of their upcoming tours

“During the ticket process, we talked to [The 1975], who were thankfully on board, and attendees were already notified of this move, so there were no pushbacks from the fans either,” said Booth.

Stevenson also confirmed that CUR8 was in talks with other acts about incorporating carbon-removed concerts as part of their upcoming shows and tours.

“We’ve been in touch with Metallica, and Lars Ulrich is very keen on this,” he shared.

Another innovative concept pored over at GE116 was the use of mycelium as sustainable material for building props and sets for touring acts. Hosted by Louder Than War’s John Robb, the Greening the Stage panel – which featured Stufish Entertainment Architects’ Zarya Vrabcheva, Pauline Bourdon from Team Love, and TAIT’s Carol Scott – highlighted the necessity of sustainable practices in the live entertainment industry.

Bourdon’s Team Love have already explored the use of mycelium panels as an alternative material for creative industries to use. The Arts Council-funded project has Bourdon visualising a “beautiful ecosystem”, given mycelium’s function as a network of fungal threads that help trees survive.

“I think we’re truly the first generation to fully comprehend what sustainability really means”

“In one instance, we mixed a mycelium strand with hemp, and managed to construct panels of a larger size,” she explained.

Vrabcheva’s extravagant set designs were noted, which help to eliminate the notion that stages made from sustainable materials are usually “austere”. Admitting that it was “challenging” to constantly abide by the practices, she said the long-term rewards are worth it.

“We want to keep creating these experiences, but with added focus on educating our audiences of the massive advantages of working with sustainable materials while they’re enjoying themselves too,” said Vrabcheva.

It was a sentiment that’s shared by Scott, who is a firm believer that music is a driving force to help spread the word of sustainable practices.

“I think we’re truly the first generation to fully comprehend what sustainability really means,” she said. “We’re actually a part of nature itself, and we need to understand that sustainability must be a key part of everyone’s life. There’s no music on a dead planet. We’re actually here to create music on a planet that’s alive and thriving, so I am very optimistic that we’re going to make good choices going forward.”

Across GEI, ILMC, and related events on the schedule, over 2,500 professionals will take part at the Royal Lancaster between 27 Feb and 1 March. GEI’s dedicated website is here.

 


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The biggest live music stories of 2023

As we prepare to wave goodbye to 2023, IQ offers a snapshot of the biggest live music business stories from the past 12 months. From Taylor Swift’s record-shattering Eras Tour to mergers and acquisitions, catch up on some of the year’s most newsworthy moments below…

 


Taylor Swift’s Eras becomes first $1 billion tour

Taylor Swift’s planet-conquering Eras Tour officially became the first tour in history to surpass $1 billion in revenue. The American superstar came out on top in an unprecedented year for the concert industry, with business up double-digit percentages in virtually every metric, according to Pollstar’s 2023 Year-End charts.

Total grosses for the Top 100 Worldwide Tours were up 46% to a $9.17bn (2022’s total was $6.28bn) and attendance was up 18.38% in total tickets sold to 70.1 million (2022’s total was 59.2 million). Swift took in an estimated ticket gross of $1.04 billion, with 4.35 million tickets sold from 60 shows, with Pollstar projecting that Eras Tour ticket sales will again hit $1 billion in the next box office year, taking its overall total to more than $2 billion.

The run dominated the conversation right from the start of the year, with Live Nation CFO Joe Berchtold defending Ticketmaster’s practices in a US Senate antitrust panel in January, spurred by the fallout from 2022’s Eras presale.

The list of 2023’s Top 10 Worldwide Tours was completed by Beyoncé (No. 2), Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band (No. 3), Coldplay (No. 4), Harry Styles (No. 5), Morgan Wallen (No. 6), Ed Sheeran (No. 7), P!nk (No. 8), The Weeknd (No. 9), and Drake (No. 10).

 


U2 launch Las Vegas Sphere to rave reviews

U2 ushered in “a new era in live entertainment” with the premiere of their 40-night U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere residency.

The Irish legends opened Sphere Entertainment’s $2.3 billion Sphere in Las Vegas to rave reviews in late September. The futuristic venue features a 160,000 sq. foot LED display inside the main venue, which wraps up, over and around the audience for a fully immersive experience in cutting-edge 16K x 16K resolution.

American rock band Phish are the next major act to be confirmed and will deliver a four-show run from 18-21 April,

However, plans for a London replica hit the buffers when London Mayor Sadiq Khan rejected the proposals on the basis they “would result in an unacceptable negative impact on local residents”. Levelling-up secretary Michael Gove has since ordered a six-week pause as he considers whether to call in the application for the development.

In the meantime, Sphere Entertainment/Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan is reported to be in “serious talks” to build a second Sphere – this time in Abu Dhabi.

 


Legends announces acquisition of ASM Global

Legends confirmed its long-rumoured acquisition of venue management giant ASM Global in November, creating a premium global live events company.

Founded in 2008, premium experiences specialist Legends – which is backed by global investment firm Sixth Street – provides venue planning and project management, premium sales, sponsorship, hospitality and merchandise services.

ASM, which was formed in 2019 following a merger between arena operators AEG Facilities and Onex’s SMG, operates buildings including ICC Sydney Convention Center, Avicii Arena in Stockholm and OVO Arena Wembley.

The reported $2.4 billion deal is designed to enhance Legends’ services portfolio, positioning it to “meet the expanding needs” of sports organisations, venues and attractions around the globe, while “supporting its vision to deliver exceptional live experiences for fans in the digital age”.

 


Supernova attack ‘the biggest ever disaster at a music festival’

At least 364 people were killed and dozens of others abducted at Israel’s Supernova Sukkot festival 7 October in what is believed to have been the deadliest-ever assault on a music event.

Staged under the Universo Paralello brand, the Brazil-hailing festival was being held in Israel for the first time. Acts included Artifex, Aladin, Astral Projection, Flare, Jackalon, Jumpstreet, Kido, Libra, Man With no Name, Noface, Protonica, Rocky Tilbor, Shove, Spectra Sonics, Swarup and Wegha.

The psy-trance gathering was being attended by around 4,000 people in the desert near Kibbutz Re’im, not far from the Gaza Strip, when Hamas stormed the event on motorcycles, trucks and paragliders as part of a surprise offensive.

More than 1,400 people were killed in a series of coordinated attacks, leading Israel to formally declare war on the organisation the following day.

 


French tycoon secures majority stake in CAA

Artémis, an investment firm led by billionaire French businessman Francois-Henri Pinault, acquired TPG’s majority stake in Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in September. Financial details were not disclosed but Bloomberg previously reported the deal would value CAA at US$7 billion.

Private equity company TPG upped its 35% stake in CAA to 53% for a reported $225 million in 2014.

Pinault is chairman and CEO of Paris-headquartered luxury goods company Kering, owner of brands such as Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent. He has been president of Groupe Artémis – the Pinault family’s investment company – since 2003.

CAA’s Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane and Richard Lovett remained as co-chairs in the wake of the agreement.

 


The 1975 cause uproar in Malaysia

The Malaysian concert business united in its condemnation of The 1975 after the band’s controversial Good Vibes Festival headline set resulted in the event’s cancellation by officials. The British band’s opening night performance was cut short just 30 minutes in after frontman Matty Healy launched into an expletive-laden tirade against Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT rules and kissed bassist Ross MacDonald on stage.

Organiser Future Sound Asia described the festival’s cancellation as a “catastrophic financial blow” and demanded £2 million in compensation from The 1975. The promoter claims it was reassured by The 1975’s management team that Healy and the band “would adhere to local performance guidelines” prior to the group’s set.

Healy addressed the controversy in a 10-minute, pre-written speech at the band’s October concert in Dallas, Texas, alleging that “the Malaysian authorities… briefly imprisoned us” and criticised the backlash against theband.

In the wake of the fiasco, promoters in Malaysia were ordered to install a “kill switch” to end performances by international artists that breach government regulations, but authorities stopped short of issuing a blanket ban on overseas acts.

 


American agencies merge to form Independent Artist Group

US talent agencies APA and Artist Group International (AGI) merged in June to form Independent Artist Group (IAG). New York’s AGI was founded in 1986 by Dennis Arfa and is owned by the Yucaipa Companies, the private-equity group controlled by billionaire investor Ron Burkle, which also made a strategic investment in LA-headquartered APA (Agency for the Performing Arts) in 2021.

The merger announcement saw Arfa appointed chair of IAG’s music division, with AGI president Marsha Vlasic named vice-chair and APA president Jim Osborne becoming CEO. The new full-service agency promised to intensify competition in the international live music agency landscape, which had been largely consolidated by just four companies – CAA, Wasserman, UTA and WME.

The deal brought AGI’s roster, which included the likes of Billy Joel, Rod Stewart, Smashing Pumpkins, Linkin Park, Metallica, Noel Gallagher, Motley Crue, The Strokes and Iggy Pop, and APA clients such as 50 Cent, 2 Chainz, Fetty Wap, Deep Purple, Mary J Blige and Lauryn Hill, under one roof.

“We wanted to be able to offer our artists a full suite of services beyond our touring expertise in TV, film, lit and branding in order to help facilitate their interests in other artistic outlets and further enhance the value of their brands and intellectual property,” Independent Artist Group (IAG) EVP, head of global music, Jarred Arfa told IQ.

 


Primary Talent returns to independence

Primary Talent International returned to being an independent music talent agency following a management buyout. Primary was sold to ICM Partners in 2020, which was subsequently acquired by CAA. The deal to re-establish Primary’s independent status was led by managing partner and CEO Matt Bates along with former ICM founding partner and COO Rick Levy.

The UK-based booking agency, whose roster includes almost 460 clients including The 1975, The Cure, Lana Del Rey, Noel Gallagher, Jack Harlow, alt-J, Dropkick Murphys and Patti Smith, has continued to operate from London while maintaining a presence in Los Angeles and New York.

“The pandemic changed the landscape of the music touring business, and we felt it was beneficial to return to our roots as the UK’s largest independent music talent agency,” said Bates.

Former Primary MD Peter Elliott recently announced his retirement and will depart at the end of the month after 28 years with the company.

 


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Malaysia decides against blanket ban on concerts

The Malaysian government is strengthening guidelines for promoters but has decided against issuing a blanket ban on concerts following The 1975 controversy earlier this year.

Overseas 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 in the Southeast Asian country.

The New Straits Times reports that Puspal approved 296 international acts this year with just one incident reported – July’s Good Vibes Festival fiasco in Sepang.

The 1975’s headline set was infamously cut short at the event after singer Matty Healy criticised Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage, leading to the cancellation of the festival’s remaining two days. Promoters in Malaysia were subsequently ordered to install a “kill switch” to end performances by international artists that breach government regulations.

“The 1975 flouted several guidelines and we are in the midst of strengthening the guidelines to avoid reoccurrence”

“The 1975 flouted several guidelines and we are in the midst of strengthening the guidelines to avoid reoccurrence,” said deputy communications and digital minister Teo Nie Ching. “Just because of one incident, how can we cancel the others? Out of 296 artists only one happened. How is this fair?”

However, speaking at the debate, opposition leader Datuk Seri Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man called on the government to take preemptive measures by blocking artists who uphold values against the country’s policies.

“The government must make sure [concerts] have high moral values,” he added. “Do not simply leave it to the people to make choices, the government must have policies and regulations.”

Coldplay performed their first ever concert in Malaysia last month, attracting more than 75,000 fans to the National Stadium Bukit Jalil.

“It is disheartening to witness concerts being politicised… concerts have the power to unite diverse communities”

Meanwhile, Malaysian live music trade body ALIFE has urged MPs to stop “politicising” concerts.

“I would like to stress the transformative impact of live music events on our society,” says the organisation’s president Rizal Kamal. “However, it is equally crucial that organisers ensure proper permits.

“Beyond this, it is disheartening to witness concerts being politicised. The government and opposition must refrain from using these events as political tactics and redirect focus to pressing national issues.

“Concerts have the power to unite diverse communities, let us prioritise issues that enhance the well-being of all Malaysians, fostering a harmonious and prosperous nation.”

 


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‘Kill switch’ order for promoters after 1975 row

Promoters in Malaysia are being ordered to install a “kill switch” to end performances by international artists that breach government regulations.

The move comes the wake of July’s Good Vibes Festival fiasco in Sepang, where The 1975’s opening night headline set was infamously cut short by officials after singer Matty Healy criticised Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws in a “profanity laden speech” and kissed a male bandmate on stage.

The remaining two days of the Future Sound Asia (FSA)-promoted event were subsequently cancelled and the band banned from performing in Malaysia, with The Star now reporting the furore has prompted the authorities to issue a new directive.

“The government has requested that concert organisers introduce a kill switch that will cut off electricity during any performance if there is any unwanted incident,” says deputy communications and digital Minister Teo Nie Ching. “This is a new guideline after the [1975] incident. We hope that with stricter guidelines, foreign artists can adhere to the local culture.”

Overseas 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, while the police are also involved. Teo adds that representatives from the authorities would attend music events to monitor them.

“During a performance, we ensure that the [relevant parties] such as the immigration department, Puspal, police and local authorities are at the venue,” she says.

The decision on whether to blacklist any artist falls under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry and Immigration Department

However, Teo stresses the decision on whether to blacklist any artist ultimately falls under the jurisdiction of the Foreign Ministry and Immigration Department.

FSA described Good Vibes Festival’s cancellation as a “catastrophic financial blow” and demanded £2 million in compensation from The 1975 – a settlement which IQ understands is still in progress. The promoter claims it was reassured by The 1975’s management team that Healy and the band “would adhere to local performance guidelines” prior to the group’s set.

“Regrettably, Healy did not honour these assurances, despite our trust in their commitment,” aid Law. “His actions took us by surprise, and we halted the show as promptly as feasible following the incident.”

Healy addressed the controversy in a 10-minute, pre-written speech at the band’s concert in Dallas, Texas last month, alleging that “the Malaysian authorities… briefly imprisoned us” and criticised the backlash against the group.

“It was the liberal outrage against our band for remaining consistent with our pro-LGBTQ stage show which was the most puzzling thing,” said the 34-year-old, who previously defied Dubai’s anti-LGBTQ rules by kissing a male audience member during a concert in 2019.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reports that Korean-American singer Eric Nam has cancelled his coming concert in Malaysia after receiving “threats” for liking a social media post linked to the Israel-Gaza war. Nam had been scheduled to perform in Kuala Lumpur in February 24.

 


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Matty Healy defends Malaysia kiss in speech

The 1975’s Matty Healy has defended kissing his bandmate onstage in Malaysia during a 10-minute speech delivered at their concert in Dallas, Texas.

The British band’s opening night headline set at Good Vibes Festival was cut short by officials on 21 July after Healy criticised Malaysia’s strict anti-LGBT laws and kissed a male bandmate on stage.

The Malaysian government subsequently cancelled the rest of the event and the organisers of Good Vibes Festival demanded £2 million in compensation from The 1975, a settlement which IQ understands is still in progress.

During The 1975’s performance in Dallas on Monday (9 October), Healy delivered a 10-minute pre-written speech about the incident, alleging that “the Malaysian authorities… briefly imprisoned us” and criticised the backlash against the band.

“It was the liberal outrage against our band for remaining consistent with our pro-LGBTQ stage show which was the most puzzling thing,” Healy said, according to Pitchfork. “Lots of people, who appear to be liberal people, contended that the performance was an insensitive display of hostility against the cultural customs of the Malaysian government and that the kiss was a performative gesture of allyship.”

“In fact, it was the Malaysian authorities who briefly imprisoned us”

In response to those calling the kiss “performative,” Healy said, “The idea of calling out a performer for being performative is mind-numbingly redundant as an exercise. Performing is a performer’s job.”

Healy also addressed criticism from Julian Casablancas, who was scheduled to perform at the Good Vibes Festival with The Strokes and said the frontman did not respect the country’s customs.

“For performers like Julian Casablancas, who took to Twitter to criticize us, this bizarre mangling of colonial identity politics merely served as an expedient way to express their own disappointment with the festival’s cancellation,” Healy said.

He also clarified that the kiss was “not a stunt simply meant to provoke the government.” The frontman had kissed the same bandmate, bassist Ross MacDonald, during many of the 1975’s American concerts.

“We chose to not change our set that night to play pro-freedom of speech, pro-gay songs,” Healy said. “To eliminate any routine part of the show in an effort to appease the Malaysian authorities’ bigoted views of LGBTQ people would be a passive endorsement of those politics. As liberals are so fond of saying, ‘Silence equals violence. Use your platform.’ So we did that. And that’s where things got complicated.”

“As liberals are so fond of saying, ‘Silence equals violence. Use your platform.’ So we did that”

Healy continued: “Naturally, the Malaysian authorities were irate because homosexuality is criminalized and punishable by death in their authoritarian theocracy. That is the violent reality obscured by the more friendly term of ‘cultural customs’.”

Healy previously defied Dubai’s anti-LGBTQ rules by kissing a male audience member during a concert in 2019. He wrote on Twitter at the time: “I don’t think we’ll be allowed back [in the UAE] due to my ‘behaviour’ but know that I love you and I wouldn’t have done anything differently given the chance again.”

Healy said on Monday: “If you truly believe that artists have a responsibility to uphold their liberal virtues by using their massive platforms, then those artists should be judged by the danger and inconvenience that they face for doing so, not by the rewards they receive for parroting consensus. There’s nothing particularly stunning or brave about changing your fucking profile picture whilst your sat in your house in Los Angeles.”

Toward the end of his speech, Healy compared “Malaysia’s militarised enforcement of laws” to other politicised issues in the US. “Even here in America, there are loads of states which uphold illiberal laws that restrict people’s bodily autonomy and gender expression,” Healy said. “But I suspect, I’ve got an inkling, that those who took to Twitter to voice their outrage over the 1975’s unwillingness to cater to Malaysian customs would find it abhorrent if the 1975 were to acquiesce to, let’s say, Mississippi’s perspective on abortion or trans rights.”

He concluded: “It should be expected that if you invite dozens of Western performers into your country, they’ll bring their Western values with them. If the very same things which made you aware of them could land them in jail in your country, you’re not actually inviting them to perform. You’re indirectly commanding them to reflect your country’s policies by omission.”

 


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