The aftermath of the incident was brutal. The organiser was demonised; and the issue was used for political gain—which frankly, shocked no one. And in the debris of it all lie the hopes of a better entertainment industry, which were tarnished by an imperious individual with a white saviour complex.
While most were still digesting the event, Muse Live in KL is still happening at the end of this week. The stage and tour props are being built as we speak at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium and Muse, the band, just touched down in Langkawi, probably looking to bask in a bit of tropical fun, vitamin ‘sea’ and duty-free chocolates.
Muse in Langkawi ?? pic.twitter.com/qa0BdDXunb— Qimdodol (@qimdodol) July 24, 2023
The million-ringgit question persists: will the events at Good Vibes affect Muse or even Coldplay? Should we be ready for a potential cancellation?
I reached out to Adam Ashraf, one of the three founders of Hello Universe, the group responsible for Muse’s only Will of the People tour stop in Asia.
Personally, I first heard about Adam after the success of the Dewa 19 show. Videos of him hanging out with the likes of Ahmad Dhani circulated around Facebook, which led to a post that raised so many questions.
“That’s where I knew you from! You made me viral on Twitter, that’s the first time I heard about you, Ze” said Adam. Adam Ashraf started out as an auditor, with an incredible passion for music and live events. Together with his partners, Hello Universe has a combined portfolio of 10 years in the music industry.
According to Adam, he has always been a fan of Muse. “I come from a family with a musical background. Coincidentally, the first song I learned on guitar is Hysteria by Muse. I remember telling my family that, one day, I want to bring them here. Who knew that the faithful day is approaching, together with my team and partners, we hold Muse’s touring rights for the whole of Asia. The feeling is surreal!”
Muse’s Exclusive Asian Touring Rights: How It Happened
It’s not every day you get to see a Malaysian company, owning the rights of a legendary A-list band in Asia. The story that led to that, however, sounded even more simpler than it actually is.
“Actually, the story is simple. The intention was to get them through the direct channel, no sub-contractors. So we wrote an extensive email to CAA, and they wrote back. We flew to the UK, had a chat with them. Who knew that chat opened doors to a network of other artists (who shall not be named)."
Adam during Muse Will of the Tour Live in KL press conference.
For context, most regional organisers buy or share the rights among each other. This way, organisers can decrease the cost and maximise on value (for some, just profit). In Muse’s case, Hello Universe acquired for the rights to their stops in Asia and decided to only organise one concert instead, in Malaysia.
“When we received that blackout opportunity, we didn’t think twice. The result was massive. We spawned interest and ticket sales from neighbours Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Brunei, India and more.”
Such opportunities don’t just benefit the organiser and the fans. In Texas, the South by South West Festival (SXSW) turns the city of Austin into a tourist playground every year. In 2022 alone, the economic impact of the festival totalled up to $280.7 million, helping local businesses strive and grow on an annual basis.
Adam said he’s eager to make such an impact as well. “That has always been the idea. It’s nice to see hotels in surrounding areas are booked and other potential benefits during the day. We hope this opens doors for other organisers to acquire exclusive rights of other touring artists as well. We can help grow this together. It’s just, everything’s happening so fast."
On the change of venue: from Bukit Kiara to Bukit Jalil
When Bukit Kiara was announced as the official venue of the show, many fans were disgruntled due to past experiences at the location. Infrastructural problems such as lack of parking spots and facilities were only a handful of concerns raised. Adam explained the rationale behind choosing Bukit Kiara as the venue.
“Initially, we saw Bukit Kiara as an ideal place for a concert like this. The place has a European feel to it.” When asked if he’s trying to replicate Glastonbury, he instantly agreed. "I wanted to build a festival ground, where patrons would feel like they’re in their own world.”
However, due to requests from fans and other reasons, the group decided to move the concert to Bukit Jalil National Stadium. “I hear them and I understand the concerns, hence why we decided to move it. Thankfully, the response has been positive.”
Ed’s Note: Personally, for me, I’d love to experience Knights of Cydonia at the Bukit Kiara Equestrian Park. That’d be the stuff of dreams, no? Pure poetry
On the 1975 incident and their first reactions
“I recall seeing the post the day after. At the time, I was beside my partner and we were in complete shock. Of course we were worried. Who wouldn’t be?
“But thankfully, we got assurance from authorities that the show will go on and as long as the band (Muse) behaves appropriately, everything should be smooth.”
When asked about his take on the matter, Adam felt that everyone tried their best in their own capacities.
“I personally believe the Good Vibes team (Future Sound Asia) has done their best, the authorities did too. No one’s happy that the festival got cancelled. It’s a risk they took and unfortunately it backfired.
“The Good Vibes team are my heroes. They did what every organiser wanted to do, getting the best acts all in one festival. That’s why we feel for them. The Good Vibes brand has built a strong reputation over the years so we hope they come back stronger.”
Measures taken for Muse
As fans know, Muse is popular for their politically-charged tracks. They might not be known for kissing bandmates or getting hammered on stage, but their arena rock songs inspired many to be in touch with their local political spheres, hence why Muse holds a special place in the hearts of fans.
Proactively, Muse’s own management team reached out to Hello Universe after The 1975 incident to ensure their set complies with Malaysia’s guidelines.
“They called us shortly after the incident went global. After discussions, they decided to pull one song out of the setlist due to the title of the song. It’s nice to know they’re eager to entertain while also respecting the guidelines.”
For Hello Universe, the company has always taken active steps on that front. For instance, the organiser persuaded UK band Cigarettes After Sex to be promoted as CAS for their shows in Malaysia due to sensitivity issues.
Future projects: Out Loud Festival
Before we wrapped up the chat, Adam managed to spill some exciting news for fans. According to him, Hello Universe is planning a massive Southeast Asia tour series called ‘Out Loud Festival’ featuring a number of international and regional acts.
“We’re planning to get 5 in-demand bands as the main acts performing 5 different genres for each country.”
Adam also admits it has always been his goal to promote local music on an international scale.
“8 Malaysian acts will also participate in the regional tour, together with 8 local acts native to the country of the tour stops.”
You heard it hear first folks!
Muse: Will of the People 2023 Tour’s Malaysian stop will be happening this weekend at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.