CEO Series

After The FMFA 2014 Disaster, His Event Company Was Supposed To Sink—It Didn't

  • The CEO of Livescape Group Iqbal Ameer talks about the FMFA crisis of 2014, about how his company managed to find opportunity with It’s The Ship!.
  • He’s also now involved with an NGO created to champion the growth of the local events and entertainment industry.

It’s been approximately four years since Iqbal Ameer, founder and CEO of Livescape Group, was faced with the unenviable task of steering his company through the Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA) debacle in 2014.

On day two of a three-day music extravaganza that promised the likes of Pharell Williams, Knife Party, and Porter Robinson live on stage, six attendees were found dead from supposed drug-overuse. This led to a knee-jerk reaction from the authorities that saw the third day getting cancelled.

While eventual coroner reports pronounced heatstroke as the primary cause for the deaths, Iqbal—in the middle of the crisis—made the decision to refund the price of tickets for the third day of the festival to would-be attendees.

“We could have chosen to do nothing and make a huge amount of money,” Iqbal explained. “But we chose to do it anyway because it wasn’t fair on those who’d travelled far to attend the event.”

Iqbal’s decision—while a potential detriment to his company in the short run—ended up a shrewd one that managed to redeem Livescape’s public image as a company with a somewhat dependable moral compass.

Deadmau5 performing during the first day of FMFA 2014 / Image Credit: Livescape Group

“Also, what happened was that many of the artists and sponsors saw what was happening and they decided to forgo their payments,” he added. “So that helped us quite a bit.”

All Aboard For A New Venture

While FMFA is sadly no more, Iqbal’s penchant for seeking out fresh opportunity has led his company to its latest crown jewel called It’s The Ship!—a 4-day-3-night getaway featuring international music acts and full-on partying aboard a cruise-liner that typically begins and ends in Singapore, with destinations such as Phuket, Langkawi, and Penang.

Among some of the star personalities who have graced It’s The Ship! since its launch in 2014 are acts such as Lil Jon, Dash Berlin, David Hasselhoff, and Tyson Beckford just to name a few.

“In hindsight, if FMFA had continued, we’d never have discovered It’s The Ship!,” Iqbal explained.

“We found that it was the best way for the company to move forward, as it was an opportunity to combine our target market with something that was usually associated with older audiences.”

Image Credit: Livescape Group

With its fifth incarnation happening this year, It’s The Ship! has proven to be a real winner for the Livescape Group. Starting out with 2,500 attendees for their maiden voyage in 2014, the annual cruise event has managed to attract larger crowds every year, with last year’s cruise completely sold out at 4,000 attendees.

And Iqbal explains that while FMFA was all good in roping in attendees in the tens of thousands (earning them millions in revenue) It’s The Ship! represented a real opportunity for his company to enter a space that hadn’t yet been touched.

“Our business model for It’s The Ship! is essentially running on a Blue Ocean Strategy, and not just because it’s a ship on a blue ocean,” he half-joked.

“With so many other electronic music festivals happening in the region, it seems that everyone is trying to grab a slice of the music festival pie.”

“But It’s The Ship isn’t competing with any of them,” he explained. “Instead of trying to accommodate 20,000 people, we’re out at sea catering a smaller bunch of 3,800. This allows us to now be more selective of who comes on board, and enables us to craft the most unique experiences for our guests, which is what we set out to do in the first place.”

Iqbal then also went on to explain how compared to FMFA, It’s The Ship! was able to make equally impressive profit margins despite the lower number of attendees.

“Many people don’t see this, that’s why we’re actively pushing and expanding It’s The Ship! to new markets.”

All this is telling of Iqbal’s keen business acumen—something he personally cultivated early in his youth.

From renting out comics to his friends in primary school, to selling football t-shirts during World Cup season during his college days, and to eventually owning and operating a restaurant in Melbourne, Iqbal’s knack for entrepreneurship has led him to becoming the brainchild behind a company with a presence in Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia, as well as many an entrepreneurship accolade.

So far, Iqbal has been named in Prestige’s Top 40 Under 40, in the SME Top 100, and has been a finalist for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year 2016 as well as a nominee for the Asia-Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards in 2017.

“It’s been almost an addiction for me to seek out what I want, and then find the solution to fulfill that want,” he explained as he talked about his motivations and passion for all things business. “I think it’s also the same for many other entrepreneurs—finding that urge to solve a problem or fulfill a need can be very addictive.”

Busy With Other Things

Currently, Iqbal is also actively involved with the growing of Malaysia’s events scene, with his involvement in ALIFE (an NGO created to champion the growth of the local events and entertainment industry) and his participation as a speaker in the recently concluded Wired Music Week (a conference to develop the electronic music community in Malaysia).

These are all part of his efforts to help the Malaysia’s entertainment ecosystem become more conducive as far as music and events—especially EDM-related ones—are concerned.

Image Credit: Livescape Group

“Honestly, I believe that electronic music has all the talent it needs to become successful in Malaysia,” he said while mentioning the improvements—both legally and creatively—seen by the local scene over the past few years. “It’s only a matter of time before we get there.”

As for future plans, Iqbal says that his quickly-expanding company (which he fondly refers to as his familia are working on a number of things, including developing their other verticals such as Rockaway Festival and their corporate events operations (they’ve been involved with the Standard Chartered KL Marathon and Asia’s Got Talent among others).

Livescape Group have been involved with many other high-profile events throughout the years such as Electric Run Malaysia. / Image Credit: Livescape Group

But above all, Livescape is committed to pushing It’s The Ship! as far as they can, with Japan slated as a port of call for the near future. In the meantime, the original It’s The Ship! embarking from Singapore will return in November this year.

  • For more information about Livescape Group, visit their website here.
  • You can also get more information about It’s The Ship! on the official website.

Feature Image Credit: Malaysia.my

 

 

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