Facing The Music: Muhammad Iqbal Ameer On Getting Through The FMFA 2014 Crisis

Leadership

January 11, 2018 | BY Lily Ong

The CEO of The Livescape Group lists down three lessons he has accumulated throughout his journey as an entrepreneur.

Photo: Shaffiq Farhan / Malaysia Tatler
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When a crisis strikes your company, take the fall as a leader

“I won’t sugarcoat what happened when the news broke. I was demonised,” said Muhammad Iqbal Ameer, at the start of our interview.

We were talking about mega crisis that struck his company when news broke that Future Music Festival Asia (FMFA), the large-scale concert he was organising, was cancelled in 2014 after six festival-goers were reportedly found dead after a drug overdose.

A year later, it was ruled that the actual cause of death was heatstroke. By then the damage was done. FMFA—a dream music festival project conceived by Iqbal and his team with the endgoal of going international—had to be shelved aside in response to the furious backlash from the public after the incident.

Iqbal willingly allowed himself to the scapegoat for public condemnation. “I would rather my name was mentioned instead of Livescape so I took the fall. It was the first time I appeared all over the news, and it was brutal.”

Also read: Fellow entrepreneur Bryan Loo on overcoming a messy corporate divorce

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Facing The Music: Muhammad Iqbal Ameer On Getting Through The FMFA 2014 Crisis
Photo: Shaffiq Farhan / Malaysia Tatler
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When the going gets tough, keep calm and carry on

Was Iqbal hurt by the things people said about him? “Of course I was. The show must go on. There was no time to sit around and be a victim,” he said calmly.

To tide through the negative publicity, Iqbal worked hard to keep his company afloat. Morale was essential, he focused on ideation of events for the future. These sessions helped his team focus on survival mode, until the storm passed.


"I am upfront with anyone who comes to me for advice. Are you prepared to not make a single cent for two years? What if your sponsors pull out? What if your team leaves you? You really have to be prepared for every worst case scenario."


“People thought we would fold as a company. But we didn’t because we were determined to come out of this stronger than ever,” he iterated. It wasn’t an easy journey, but Iqbal was determined to pull through.

Their hard work and determination paid off because Livescape has since expanded its business into new ventures. Its latest project, It’s The Ship, is now a sensation. Dubbed as Asia’s largest festival at sea, this four-day, three-night music festival cruise has gained traction overseas for its cool concept.

Photo: Shaffiq Farhan / Malaysia Tatler
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Be creative and pragmatic at the same time

The son of Datuk Wira Ameer Ali Mydin grew up with tough love.

“My father was unconventional in how he raised me. For example, in school, he gave me very little pocket money. And as a kid, I loved comic books; he encouraged me to figure out how to earn money to buy my own. Thanks to him, I came up with the idea of using my pocket money to buy comics, and then rent them out for money in school, so I could double my income and buy more!” he relates.

Also read: Carmen Chua on the six realities of being a successful luxury developer

Now, Iqbal wants to share his journey with others. “I am upfront with anyone who comes to me for advice. Are you prepared to not make a single cent for two years? What will you do if you can’t sell any tickets for a show that must go on, because the act you booked is flying in for you? What if your sponsors pull out? What if your team leaves you? You really have to be prepared for every worst case scenario,” he says. 

“Also, as a leader, you have to just constantly improve, because there’s no one else who can bring you down, except yourself. If you fail at what you do, it is because of you, nobody else. It’s a crushing and sobering reality but once you own that, it’s empowering,” concludes Iqbal at the end of our inspiring interview.

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