How the Covid-19 pandemic is changing the landscape for live event companies in Malaysia

Arif Zikri
·5-min read
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the live event sector as large scale mass gatherings and public events have had to be halted indefinitely. —Picture courtesy of pexel.com.
The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to the live event sector as large scale mass gatherings and public events have had to be halted indefinitely. —Picture courtesy of pexel.com.

KUALA LUMPUR, November 30 — Since the implementation of the Movement Control Order (MCO) in March, mass gatherings and public events have come to a grinding halt.

Some relief came in the form of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) set by the government which meant a gradual and scaled down reopening of the live events scene, however there is no denying that the pandemic has changed how the industry operates.

Local event company Event Plus (EP) Marketing Malaysia usually handles brand activations and marketing for shopping malls, pharmaceuticals and properties but they’ve since had to move their business to virtual events and digital marketing since the MCO.

EP Marketing Malaysia's directors Alan Thoo (left) and Simon Leong (right). — Photo courtesy of EP Marketing Malaysia
EP Marketing Malaysia's directors Alan Thoo (left) and Simon Leong (right). — Photo courtesy of EP Marketing Malaysia

Director Alan Thoo admitted that the move has resulted in EP Marketing Malaysia to recruit more people in their technical team such as videographers as video productions are in demand.

Graphic designers and 3D artists have also become an essential part of the company as they play a huge role in the setting up of these virtual and digital events.

“Compared to last year, our company has lost around 70 to 80 per cent of our businesses.

“In order for us to maintain our income, the only way is to evolve.”

“We are going digital, creating new products to maintain ourselves in order to be competitive,” he said adding that austerity measures like pay cuts were put in place as well.

Thoo said that in terms of profitability, it was a lot lower for virtual events compared to physical live events because of the difference in cost for setting up.

The Livescape Group CEO, Iqbal Ameer. — Photo courtesy of The Livescape Group
The Livescape Group CEO, Iqbal Ameer. — Photo courtesy of The Livescape Group

EP Marketing Malaysia which had just received The Golden Bull Awards 2020 for emerging SMEs in September have worked with many prominent clients such as Publika shopping gallery, Gamuda Land and telco provider, Digi Telecommunications.

For one of Malaysia’s top entertainment event companies, The Livescape Group, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in them losing USD$170,000 (RM691,985) in three markets, namely Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

The company had to downsize their team by half as well as cancel multiple events this year such as the Rockaway Festival and Its The Ship.

The Livescape Group CEO Iqbal Ameer said the company will keep on creating events and looking into what could be the ‘next’ normal for events in the future.

The Livescape Group is currently pivoting their platform to a new project called the ICEBOX.

Defined as an ‘In-Car-Experience’, it offers an immersive drive-through experience combined with live actors and LED technology in compliance with the SOPs, with the first ICEBOX event to be held next year in the ICEBOX Karak Haunted Highway.

Iqbal sees the ICEBOX as a platform that can go beyond the Covid-19 pandemic as the platform is rich in content and low in terms of risk.

Iqbal pointed out that virtual events are very challenging technically, creatively and financially.

Virtual events have opened up the market to bigger audiences, resulting in more competition, meaning live event companies would need to have a differentiator.

“On paper it would seem that virtual events are cheaper but you have to remember that you’re competing with another 10,000 virtual events that are happening worldwide.

“Because I could buy a virtual ticket in Japan if I wanted to, so the audience suddenly got a lot bigger so now in order to make sure your virtual event stands out and special, you’ll have to be able to provide something that competitors can’t provide in a virtual landscape.”

“Then it becomes expensive,” Iqbal told Malay Mail.

2Spicy Entertainment Sdn.Bhd Director Arvin Randhawa. — Photo courtesy of 2Spicy Entertainment Sdn Bhd.
2Spicy Entertainment Sdn.Bhd Director Arvin Randhawa. — Photo courtesy of 2Spicy Entertainment Sdn Bhd.

Event organiser 2Spicy Entertainment Sdn Bhd meanwhile said the pandemic had forced them to re-strategise their approach and scaling down from bigger events.

Director Arvin Randhawa said they are now looking at providing experiences to private events for as small as catering to two persons and they’re also redirecting their efforts in virtual reality.

“Because we don’t know how long this pandemic will be and that’s how we cope, the target market is no longer big groups but small groups or individuals.

“We are trying to change from events to experience, for example, before this we focus on events like Plane In The City and Dine In The Sky but now, we are trying to change to virtual reality.

“Because for virtual reality, two or three people is enough because they’re not interacting with anyone else but themselves,” he said.

Arvin pointed out that virtual events couldn’t make as much profits as live events and that is mainly because of the ancillary revenues that live events have such as income from parking space, merchandises and food and beverages.

2Spicy Entertainment has seen a 90 per cent drop in their revenue since March this year and they also have to let go some of their team members apart from taking pay cuts in order to stay afloat.

Arvin said that collaboration with other sectors is key for the sustainability of event companies in the future.

“Collaboration is the new word.

“In these markets, we will need more collaboration between event companies because standalones won’t work anymore.”

“Maybe event companies can collaborate with the tourism sectors or maybe multimedia and communication sectors can cooperate with event companies.”

“They’ll have to collaborate or risk losing their businesses,” he said.

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