Just as the band goes up on stage, and I’m standing there at the side looking at the crowd go wild – that feeling is simply amazing. – Qisthina, Talent Executive of Freeform Untitled
We could totally sense Qisthina’s passion for what she does as she reflected on what keeps her going in running music events with Freeform Untitled as its Talent Executive. Qisthina, together with the team at Freeform Untitled enable folks to get up close and personal with some of the hottest live acts around the world in Kuala Lumpur through the apt moniker Upfront. They’re also the group behind homegrown annual music and creative arts festival, Urbanscapes, where you could experience Singaporean music while taking selfies with an art installation produced by an Australian and eating Malaysian food! Urbanscape’s unique and equal focus on both music and the creative arts means festival goers get to enjoy live acts by comedians, theatre performers, artists and musicians all at the same time.
The amount of legwork that goes behind putting these events together must be massive, but judging from Qisthina’s responses, not insurmountable. Read on to find out how she overcomes logistical, budgeting and marketing challenges when hosting music events in Kuala Lumpur, and her motivation for doing even more for the music community despite these challenges!
What’s the one thing that excites you most when you get up each day?
Getting to write ‘to-do’ lists in my planner! Haha. Everyday tasks are usually not the same, so it’s cool to see on paper what I have to accomplish day-to-day. It helps that I have a very cool planner.
What inspired you to kickstart the Upfront music series and what do you hope to achieve from organising them?
I didn’t exactly kickstart the events (credit goes to my boss, Adrian Yap), but I had the privilege to grow the Upfront series and assist with other types of cool events alongside Adrian. Our hope, aside from contributing to the local music scene, is to sell the entire experience – it’s not just about seeing an artist, but it’s also about meeting with friends, that awesome drink you had while groovin’ to one of the songs, getting to buy a drink for that cute bassist, or simply having a fun evening. If concert-goers generally had a good experience, that alone should be an indication of a successful event (of course, realistically speaking financials also determine the success of an event).
Share with us three challenges you’ve faced in organising music events in Malaysia. How have you overcome each of them?
Finance takes up 2 of the 3 challenges. Haha. We’re finding it very difficult to stick to a healthy a budget for shows these days, sometimes it’s almost impossible to do so. The only way to overcome that is to have a good relationship with brands/partners who believe in and support our mission wholeheartedly. I also feel that music venues are limited in Malaysia, especially when we’re looking at bigger scale events. I suppose this is why The Bee, Publika doubles as a music venue with quite a decent capacity – Adrian (owner of The Bee) must’ve thought this through.
Last but not least, getting more people to the event can be quite a challenge. The bands we book oftentimes have a very niche audience and so, this is where the media come into play. With support from the media, hopefully we create enough hype to get the word out and potentially reaching out to more people to support Upfront. We’re building up quite a bit of following, and would like to see this expand further.
What keeps you going in running your events?
Just as the band goes up on stage, and I’m standing there at the side looking at the crowd go wild – that feeling is simply amazing. I truly believe music fosters connections and propels people forward, and getting to share that connection with the rest of the concert-goers is what keeps me going.
Last but not least, as we approach Hari Merdeka, what are your wishes for Malaysia?
My wish for Malaysia is for people to see it beyond its, err, craziness. If you peel the onion gently, you’ll find beautiful layers that make up Malaysia – oftentimes overlooked. We’ve got awesome local bands, youth-led movements and small enterprises with big potential.
Join the Freeform Untitled music community – experience it live at one of their gigs or win a pair of tickets worth RM156 to an upcoming gig featuring Yumi Zouma, an indie band hailing from New Zealand whose music has been characterised as undeniably stylish, underplayed and honest.