Singapore rocker inspires

Martin Donovan on how ‘indie’ entrepreneurialism from an unlikely source gives hope to business event organisers that live will be back… but different

MANY of you are looking back or even lamenting those days and evenings when event planners could transform a hotel ballroom into anything from a pulsating, light-swirling gala to a stage styled in a talk-show setting for a panel discussion

Whether those panels became too much like the plague of talk shops that soon cause delegates to scroll their phones, or the live-awards presentation that are now merely a blur, it is certain that we are missing them.

In whatever shape live business events – and all manner of conferences – will return, people will constantly feel the urge to “be there”. Hybrid, Zoom, Virtual all have their place, but they fall short.

Ask any ardent fan viewing world-class sport from their sofa: it’s not the real thing. Sponsors may gain some satisfaction at the TV or internet exposure, but the true customer base – the people – need live events with all the ritual of following, entering the venue, being entertained, learning… enduring the highs, along with the momentary lows of trivial disappointment.

I’ve long been fascinated by how the technology and showmanship of theatre and the music industry (particularly rock) have found their way into live business events.

Event organisers and their clients sign-off on ideas that get an audience wowing. But it’s the army of audiovisual technicians, stage managers, performers and creatives who actually execute a successful event. Those are the people, most of whom are likely to be freelancers, who are hurting right now amid the Covid downturn.

So like the stirring thrash of a power chord mixed with a fill-the-dancefloor “drop” from a top-notch DJ, it is time yet again for Asia’s MICE community to look to the world of rock, or rather indie rock, for inspiration.

Festival ’shot in arm’ for Macau events

It happens to be that this slice of inspiration hails from a country known more for being an exemplar of acumen in business organisation than nurturing shoe-gazing guitarists.

Yes, it’s Singapore again… sigh. The experience of Meng Ru Kuok’s BandLabs offers not only encouragement to like-event organisers or promoters, but also to publishers like me (and a few others out there)!

Last weekend saw Guitar.com Live, described by BBC World as a three-day event combining a trade show with panels, workshops and lots of guitar players – some world-famous ones too.

Movie and country music heroes turn up at planners conference

The way Meng is helping adapt the indie-rock scene to cope with Covid has granted a new lease of life to New Musical Express, the legendary weekly newspaper chronicling rock n’ roll and its evolution to arena bands, the punk backlash and groups who brought out their records on independent studio labels.

Journalists specialising in this still much misunderstood realm of MICE are also adapting and being inspirational too. Take Melbourne-based Adelaine Ng who has just started her Upon Arrival|Events & Incentives podcast for Asia Pacific’s in these trying times. Have a listen.

Thanks Meng and Adelaine. For those about to rock, we salute you.

Martin Donovan is the publisher of MIX




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