Nothing brings a crowd together than a feel-it-in-your chest pounding music. Your favourite artist rocking it out on stage. Light shows and visual art adding to the emotion and energy. The smell of festival food lingering in the air.
All the above contributes to creating a once in a lifetime experience for festival goers – and the job to put it together is not for the faint-hearted, says Wan Alman Wan Ariffin, Head of Content & Marketing for Future Sound Asia.
We try to achieve a great line up but also want to keep tickets affordable for everyone.
“My team is in charge of whatever content that goes into the festival. From the lineup to artists booking, from logistics to marketing and partnerships – and everything that happens during the festival.”
A balancing act, says Wan Alman, as it all comes down to dollar and cents. “Managing budget is one of the biggest challenges that we face.”
“We try to achieve a great line up but also want to keep tickets affordable for everyone. This is especially (difficult) when the cost of booking an artist rises every year.”
Wan Alman, who has been organizing Good Vibes from the start says the most important thing in running a festival is to have a clear target audience and identity.
“We’ve established quite a strong following of fans. As festival organisers, we need to know our music because fans can tell if you don’t know what you’re doing,” says Wan Alman.
Future Sound Asia has made its mark in the local festival scene through Good Vibes Festival – a yearly two-day event held on the chilly slopes of Genting Highlands. Some of the big acts they have brought in include Dua Lipa, Kodaline, Lorde, G-Eazy and many more.
“Because we are all the way in Malaysia, booking the artists can be a bit tricky. We don’t always get who we want.”
“There’s a number of things to consider when planning a music festival. The most crucial thing is of course the budget of the event. The Malaysian currency is not so great against the American dollar. So, it can get very expensive for us.”
Wan Alman was coy when asked about how much money goes into running the two-day event, only to say that the it surpasses ‘eight digits’ in Ringgit.
“Everyone wants the best acts like Beyonce or Drake but those performers cost millions of ringgits. We try our best to curate the (festival) with best acts and still keep the tickets pricing as low as possible.”
“So, you can enjoy the show without having to pay RM2000 for a ticket,” he adds.
Tickets for Good Vibes Festival start at RM360, and up to RM600 for VIP passes. Its upcoming event is on 20th and 21st July. Half of the 18,000 tickets have been snapped up, says Wan Alman.
The highly-awaited festival is also bigger this year; they are catering to a larger crowd compared to its usual 15,000. It is also bringing in additional stages.
Good Vibes made its debut in 2013 with a one-day festival in Sepang. It took a break in 2015 due to slump in the market, compounded by a major cancellation of another festival, Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) – spooking organisers, sponsors and festival-goers.
“When we started, the scene was mostly dominated by electronic dance music (EDM) festival. So, we wanted to create something different that comprises more live acts and bands. We do still have some DJs perform (at Good Vibes).”
“When 2016 came around, we held the event in Genting for the first time and we expanded into a two-day festival.”
“We got really good reviews - people enjoyed the environment. It was much cooler as we were high up in the mountains.”
So far, we’ve not encountered any artists who do not want to come because they worry it will be cancelled.
While show cancellations are sometimes initiated by artists themselves (“Mostly due to scheduling conflicts and budget disagreements”), Wan Alman says the team go through great lengths to make sure all the requirements are met.
The process of bringing in international artists can be tedious; it requires approval from three difference government agencies – Central Agencies Committee for Applications for Filming and Performances by Foreign Artistes (PUSPAL), local councils of where the event is held, and finally, the police.
“The process can take a few weeks till three months,” says Wan Alman.
When asked if Malaysia is ‘unfavoured’ among international artists due to past even cancellations by authorities, he says the effects aren’t apparent.
“I think that’s a misconception. So far, we’ve not encountered any artists who do not want to come because they worry it will be cancelled.”
“For an artist, if they booked for a show, they’ll still get paid whether it goes on or cancelled.”
Apart from FMFA, EDM trio DJs Cash Cash also had their showcase abruptly cancelled in 2015 when police raided the event venue without any notice. The same year, another music festival had its permit revoked at the eleventh hour; authorities cited objections from citizens as reason for the revoke.
“I think in 2015 festivals were cancelled because they were more primarily focused on dance music. Good Vibes is a completely different beast,” says Wan Alman.
When asked about the essential steps required in running a successful music festival, he says it begins with good planning, often a year in advance.
“Firstly, to start a music festival, you need to decide what music direction -whether it’s Rock, Hip Hop or EDM.”
“You need to curate an artist lineup that suites your image as a music festival - and always be sure it’s in your budget range!”
“Next up, is the venue, stage suppliers and brand sponsors. It’s crucial to have a good on-ground staff which includes the security and medic team as well,” adds Wan Alman.
Good Vibes Festival has been a staple brand within Future Sound Asia, and it is expanding year-to-year, with hopes to bring the festival into neighbouring countries.
“We sold out in 2017. That was really encouraging, and we have been expanding since.”
“Good Vibes Festival is a home-grown brand. I think it’ll be really great to have a Malaysian festival being franchised into other countries.”