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Things You Need to Know to Do a Concert in Malaysia in 2024: A Comprehensive Guide for International Singers

Key Takeaways: 

  • It’s important to note that foreign artists WILL need to collaborate with or designate a local organiser to facilitate a concert in Malaysia.
  • Consequently, the government has introduced measures to control undesirable behavior by foreign performers that could impact cultural sensitivity, known as a “Kill Switch.”
  • Amid national turmoil, Coldplay managed to host a successful concert despite ongoing debates within the political sphere.
Fahmi Fadzil-Ministry of Communications
Image by fotoBERNAMA

In 2023, Fahmi Fadzil, the Minister of Communications in Malaysia, emphasised the necessity of revising concert guidelines to prioritise cultural sensitivity, and as such, new regulations were developed with the input of religious scholars across the nation. Simultaneously, the minister acknowledged the challenges faced by foreign artists in adhering to these guidelines while expressing appreciation for Malaysian fans. While some may question the importance of cultural sensitivity, the minister underscored that cultural values form the bedrock of a nation’s identity, and it is the responsibility of authorities to uphold and nurture these values.

Although the country’s unique guidelines may confound those  Although Malaysia’s unique guidelines may raise eyebrows in Western countries, where many of these artists originate, they are essential for appreciating the maintaining harmony within the cultural melting pot of a nation, that is MalaysiaPUSPAL (Central Agency for Application for Filming and Performance by Foreign Artists) is moderating these guidelines, an organisation tasked with authorising, assessing, and regulating Malaysia’s arts and entertainment industry to ensure compliance with cultural norms and regulations. While the process and procedures may seem intricate at first glance, closer inspection reveals their comprehensive nature.

In this article, we will provide a concise explanation of the process for organising a concert in Malaysia, shedding light on the necessary steps and factors to consider.

Understanding PUSPAL

PUSPAL (The Central Agency Committee for Application for Filming and Foreign Artists Presentations) is an entity established following a cabinet decision in 2001 to oversee performance and film applications in Malaysia. Its formation and legitimacy are sanctioned by pertinent laws and regulations governing the arts and entertainment sector in Malaysia.

The specific legal framework delineating PUSPAL’s responsibilities, functions, and modus operandi is typically stipulated in legislation or government directives regarding the regulation and management of performances and filming activities involving foreign artists in Malaysia.

However, PUSPAL’s recent inclusion in regulations concerning certain dates associated with religious festivities has confused some parties, leading to unfounded speculations that the entity operates as an Islamic department. This addition to the regulations sparked controversy back in 2020, with claims of bias toward Islamic sentiments.

Image by Al Kaff Zamsari

Concert Regs

Following concert application procedures is essential for legal compliance, honouring cultural sensitivities, preserving social harmony, ensuring safety and security, maintaining professionalism, and fostering collaboration among stakeholders. It’s important to note that foreign artists will need to collaborate with or designate a local organiser to facilitate a concert in Malaysia. By adhering to these procedures conscientiously, organisers can guarantee the success of their events while showing reverence for local customs and laws.

1. Application Forms

Application forms can be completed online or submitted in person or by mail to the PUSPAL Secretariat along with the relevant physical documents.

2. Submission Timeline

New applicants are advised to submit their complete applications at least 30 days before the scheduled date, while regular applicants should aim to submit their forms at least 14 days in advance.

3. Required Documentation

Applicants must include documents such as the formal application form, venue approval stamp, PUSPAL Secretariat office address, entertainment license, business registration certification, and signed contracts.

4. Prohibited Sponsorships

Sponsorships for performances must not be affiliated with alcohol, tobacco, gambling, intimate products, or any religious or cultural sentiments.

5. Restricted Dates

Certain dates are prohibited for performances, including those during Independence Month (25th August – 16th September), Ramadan, religious public holidays (unless authorized by the relevant authority), the demise day of the King or Sultan of any state, or any days declared by the government.

6. Cancellation or Modification

In the event of cancellation or changes to the date or the performing foreign artist, the appointed organiser must submit a written application explaining the reasons for such alterations, and provide supporting documents.

Kill Switch

One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel, as demonstrated by the unfortunate incident at the 2023 Good Vibes Festival. This music festival, celebrated by local event organisers aims to inject vibrancy into Malaysia’s music and festival scene. Despite the halt in concerts and festivals due to COVID-19, the revival of the Good Vibes Festival offered Malaysians a chance to revel in music for three euphonic days.

However, the festival was abruptly cut short, lasting no more than half a day, owing to Matt Healy’s bold and contentious attempt to advocate for LGBT rights to the local government. While opinions may vary, it’s widely agreed that such actions are disrespectful to Malaysian cultural values, which are deeply cherished by the nation’s populace. Consequently, the government has introduced measures to restrict undesirable behavior by foreign performers that could offend Malaysian cultural sensibilities, known as a “Kill Switch.”

The Kill Switch grants absolute authority to PUSPAL, the overseeing body, permitting the Ministry of Communication to terminate a performance immediately in the event of any misconduct.

Matt Healy at Mad Cool 2023
Image by Jaime Erice Toran

Why the Scrutiny?

The perceived stringency of Malaysia’s concert regulations frequently leads to the query: “Why skip Malaysia one lah?” Yet, it’s imperative to recognise that such scrutiny isn’t exclusive to Malaysia alone. Numerous nations adhere to comparable standards to safeguard cultural authenticity and foster societal cohesion. This could be observed in our neighboring country, Indonesia, which notably shares a similar cultural makeup to Malaysia – wherein, a Coldplay concert faced protests from the public for the band’s pro-LGBT stance. Through compliance with these regulations, organisers not only exhibit reverence for Malaysia’s rich cultural legacy but also play a pivotal role in shaping a conducive environment for an enriching concert-going experience  

The essence of cultural sensitivity in Malaysia is deeply rooted in its kaleidoscope of ethnicities, religions, and traditions, which collectively form the tapestry of its national identity. This rich diversity is not just celebrated but serves as the cornerstone of Malaysian society. However, it also demands a nuanced approach to public events, particularly concerts.

Malaysia’s concert guidelines are intricately intertwined with the nation’s diverse cultural fabric. They serve as a safeguard, preserving cherished traditions and upholding communal values. Adhering to these regulations signifies a commitment to nurturing cultural sensitivity and safeguarding against any actions that may potentially offend or disrupt societal harmony.

Furthermore, organizers who diligently adhere to Malaysia’s concert regulations contribute significantly to the creation of a positive and inclusive climate for concerts. By respecting the intricacies of Malaysian culture, they facilitate an environment where attendees from diverse backgrounds can come together in celebration of music, fostering a sense of unity and mutual respect.

It’s essential to recognise that cultural sensitivity is not a hindrance but rather, an opportunity for organisers to demonstrate a commitment to promoting cultural understanding and appreciation. Through adherence to Malaysia’s concert regulations, organisers pave the way for memorable and harmonious concert experiences that resonate with the nation’s rich cultural tapestry. While the stringent regulations may pose challenges, PUSPAL ultimately serves to elevate the concert landscape, ensuring that each event embodies the essence of Malaysia’s cultural vibrancy.

Coldplay Concert 23'
Image by Sabrina Zafri

Coldplay in Malaysia

Amid national turmoil, Coldplay managed to host a successful concert despite ongoing debates within the political sphere.  On the one hand, within the purview of Malaysian sensibilities as an Islamic country – the band has been a proponent of Palestine in the cause against Israel’s illegal occupation and genocide on Palestinian soil. On the other hand, much like in Indonesia, a significant point of contention arose from Coldplay’s advocacy of the LGBT community, which the band refrained from explicitly addressing during their performance in Malaysia. Instead, Coldplay’s presence not only entertained Malaysian fans but also subtly conveyed messages of hope and solidarity.

As part of their world tour, the renowned British band Coldplay graced Malaysia with a spectacular concert, drawing a massive crowd of fans from all corners of the country. The event was meticulously organized, with careful attention paid to adhering to Malaysia’s stringent concert regulations and cultural sensitivities.

The organizers of the Coldplay concert collaborated closely with local authorities and agencies like PUSPAL to ensure all necessary permits and licenses were secured well in advance. Furthermore, they took into account the cultural nuances and respected local customs throughout the planning process, ensuring a seamless and respectful experience for attendees.

The concert itself was nothing short of spectacular, featuring Coldplay’s trademark energetic performance style complemented by captivating visual effects. Despite the immense turnout, there were no reported incidents or reprimands during or following the event.

The success of the Coldplay concert in Malaysia stands as a testament to the power of meticulous planning, strict adherence to regulations, and cultural sensitivity. It serves as a shining example of how international artists can perform in Malaysia while demonstrating respect for the country’s cultural values and regulations, paving the way for future memorable and incident-free events.

The Mash Comeback Show 22'
Image by Angguk Studio

Don’t Skip Malaysia Anymore Lah

Organising a concert in Malaysia in 2024 demands scrupulous attention to various elements, including legal compliance, cultural sensitivities, and logistical arrangements. Guidelines provided by entities like PUSPAL are geared towards preserving Malaysia’s rich cultural heritage while ensuring the seamless execution of events. By adhering to these regulations, organizers can cultivate a welcoming and inclusive concert environment that honors local values and fosters unity among attendees.

The successful Coldplay concert in Malaysia serves as a prime example of the significance of thorough planning, collaboration with local authorities, and cultural sensitivity in hosting international events. Despite facing challenges and opposition from various parties, Coldplay’s performance has made its mark as a symbol of aspirations and solidarity, uniting fans from diverse backgrounds to revel in the power of music. 

To manoeuvre Malaysia’s complex socio-political landscape, it remains essential to prioritise compliance with concert regulations and cultural considerations. By embracing these principles, organisers can contribute to the vitality of Malaysia’s music and festival scene while promoting mutual understanding and respect. Through collective endeavours, future concerts in Malaysia can continue to showcase the nation’s diverse cultural fabric and uphold its identity on the global stage.

Edited by: Nico A. Lee