The Jakarta Post
Canadian band Alvvays performs at We The Fest 2019 at JIExpo Kemayoran, Jakarta, on July 19. The music festival is one of the most prominent names on the country's live music scene. (JP/I Gede Dharma JS)
For music fans, concerts are a chance to experience the music they love firsthand. The sounds are more immersive, the performances of the musicians and singers more exciting. Since the 2000s, Indonesia has seen a rapid increase in concerts and festivals.
Music festivals attract large numbers of people seeking to indulge in the joy of music and mingle with others, and allow musicians to reach a wider audience. However, recent weeks have also shown that such events can be a source of annoyance and frustration for artists and fans alike. On two Saturdays in a row, Nov. 23 and 30, two music festivals in Jakarta ended in heartbreak and chaos.
One day prior to the Lokatara Music Festival 2019 at Kuningan City in Jakarta on Nov. 23, four international acts took to Instagram to announce their cancelations. They were Sales, Sophie Meiers, Gus Dapperton and Great Good Fine OK — all from the United States. On D-day, American band The Drums and Malaysian musician Alextbh also withdrew from the festival.
Mahsa Islamey, a former head of public relations at Lokatara, said visa troubles were to blame. “They got regular visas instead of work permits, which made things too risky to perform,” she told The Jakarta Post via text on Saturday, adding that the visas had been handled by the Lokatara founder.
On Nov. 30, a severe schedule delay and electricity outage put an abrupt end to Musikologi at Parkir Timur Senayan in Jakarta. Unhappy attendees started a riot, burning and looting the organizer’s property. The Post has reached out to the organizer, however a representative declined to comment.
The recent incidents add to the list of canceled or compromised concerts and festivals this year. Other high profile incidents include the poor management of LaLaLa Festival in February, a canceled show by American band Lany in August, the cancelation of Indonesian singer Ari Lasso’s concert in October and the furor over ticketing issues at a K-pop group EXO concert in November.
Speaking to the Post via telephone on Sunday, promoter Anas Syahrul Alimi of Rajawali Communication Indonesia shared that the key to a successful music show was to ensure everything was well-prepared in advance. “Promoters are obligated to figure out all the risks,” he said. “For instance, a music festival needs to have strong financial support and sponsors to rely on. It would be a mistake for promoters to depend on ticket sales alone.”
With annual festivals featuring international artists, such as Prambanan Jazz and JogjaROCKarta under his belt, Anas said it was essential for a promoter to have guts, a strong team and a solid concept.
On another note, two of the most prominent organizers on the independent scene, Studiorama and Noisewhore, have staged shows featuring lesser-known acts such as Mac DeMarco (Canada), Fazerdaze (New Zealand) and Mitski (the United States). Studiorama’s most recent feat was the Ornaments music festival. Held on Nov. 15 in Jakarta, it was headlined by Australian band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Canadian band BadBadNotGood and British band The New Puritans, among others.
Reno Nismara of Studiorama shared that the Jakarta-based collective, established in 2011, initially had no experience as promoters and learned as they went. “From sending emails to band managers or international booking agents to getting the hang of technical matters such as lighting, sound and artists’ riders,” he said.
With the growing popularity of festivals and concerts, Anas said it was only natural that new promoters would be attracted to the industry. But therein lies the risk of spectacular failure. He acknowledged that promoters in Indonesia had to learn to survive without guidance.
He expressed hope a music promoters association could be established in Indonesia, as a place for promoters to share experiences and learn about the industry so they could avoid future mishaps. “It will be very beneficial for all of us, I’m sure,” Anas said.
A small step in that direction might come from Jazz Forum Indonesia, founded by the late Djaduk Ferianto in 2018. The forum unites jazz festival organizers around the country, including the organizers of Jazz Bromo, Prambanan Jazz, Malang Jazz Festival, Ubud Village Jazz Festival and Ngayogjazz. Anas said the forum allowed promoters to build networks and share related information.
A number of musicians have warned that the recent blunders could damage the industry. Artists could become reluctant to perform in Indonesia and the public could come to distrust promoters.
Promoters should take note of Studiorama’s approach to organizing shows. “We treat every concert first and foremost as a fan. And as we position ourselves as fans, we try to find out every single thing needed for a successful show. If things go bust, we’d feel the same. It has always been that way for our shows. From music fans to music fans,” Reno said.
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