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Mel Tyler from Midas Productions Manila.

A Sporting Start

Hosking's first brush with music promotion was with The Hollies in Bahrain in 1983, but through the ‘80s he was more involved with sports promotions, including the Harlem Globetrotters and the Annual Champions Cup soccer match in Dubai featuring the champions of England and Scotland, which lasted until the Gulf War in 1990. In 1986 Midas took UK football team Manchester United on an end of season tour to Asia, with stops in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong, Football still ranks highly in the directors' lives, and Hosking has been known to fly back to Europe for the weekend to watch a game.

Peters and Hosking knew each other as teenagers in England - they dated two sisters - and in 1986 Hosking invited him to come and work in Bahrain, when the company diversified into promotional goods and took on its current name, Midas Promotions. A year later, Peters was made a shareholder and director of the company and the two remain the only directors. Midas T-shirts still exists in Bahrain, but was sold to its staff, with Midas Promotions retaining a small interest.

Storm Brings Growth

The Gulf War helped pick up the tempo for them. Desert Storm and Desert Shield memorabilia were selling healthily and Peters relates, "We contacted USO (United Services Overseas) and said that if they were planning to come to the Middle East we could help them. We became consultants and set up the USO bases and then they took over." USO organizes various entertainment and support services for American troops stationed abroad.

Paula Abdul was troops' favorite at the time, so Midas planned a concert on the deck of an aircraft carrier, but hostilities ended before the show happened. However, TOBACCO COMPANY RJ Reynolds (RJR) to organize an Asian show with a leading artist had approached Hosking. A deal was put and she toured through Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong and China, where she was the first Western female artist to stage a concert (Feb 1993). Hosking had already worked with RJR and the Harlem Globetrotters in 1989. RJR came back for more and so Midas opened its Hong Kong operation in 1992, with offices in the Philippines and Singapore following in 1994. The accent has been on Asia ever since, although Middle Eastern shows still features regularly in their tour itineraries.

Westlife's $1 million grossing, eight show Asian tour in 2000 also featured a sell-out show at the 3,000 capacity Dubai Country Club; Midas promotes events in Abu Dhabi, Bharain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Unauthorized Lighting

Bryan Adams was Midas first Hong Kong promotion in 1993 and, in 1994, was the first Western artist to play in Vietnam, since the war. Roxette gave Midas three first in 1995, launching the company's concert promotions in Singapore and in Manila (Midas had promoted musicals and opened regional offices in both cities the previous year) and being the first Western act to play in Beijing in over 10 years, the Chinese government had not allowed international artist to play in the city since Wham! Made deprecatory remarks from the stage in 1984. Midas's production supervisor Peter Loh remembers it well. "The front row of every block of seats was full of policemen and we had to bring the house lights up eight times because the audience were waving lighters and that was not approved behavior."

Many premier-division concerts followed. The area's most prosperous year was probably 1995. "In Singapore alone during the year's first quarter we had Cliff Richard, REM, Bon Jovi, Phil Collins, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston and more,' says Hosking.

Thriller In Manila

Then came the big one, Michael Jackson on 8 and 10 December 1996. There wasn't an appropriate facility in the Philippines, so Midas selected a site and began preparations. "We had a lot of problems with the government people asking for unaffordable entertainment taxes - I reckon some competitors were involved behind the scenes. They thought they could hold us to ransom, because we were already building and digging," says Hosking. But a mere two weeks before the gigs, Midas backed up its threat to move the show and the partners found themselves flying around the island in a helicopter looking for a new site. They found a place owned by a wealthy Chinese near the ocean. Having overcome the difficulty - and pacified Jackson's people, who were jittery at the late change of venue - Hosking and Peters then had to cope with the effects of allegations of child abuse by a Filipino couple who looked after Jackson's Neverland ranch and threatened to expose Jackson after they were fired.

The artist was later found not guilty, but in the Philippines the couple and others were trying to stop the shows. There was a death threat too, but Jackson's security said that death threats weren't too unusual for him. The 60,000 capacity concert went ahead and were sold out each night. "It must be the best show the Philippines has ever seen," says Hosking. There were a couple of large tower blocks near the site: "Imelda Marcos bought an apartment specifically to see the show and there was a party with a lot of high rollers up there," Peters remembers, "Both buildings were heaving by the second gig, as guards has been bribe to let more people in."

Catching The Moment

Choosing the right time for an artist to tour in Asia most important. Hosking and Peters say that, in general, an act only has one shot at touring in this region, "Not many people do well the second time around the region has a thirst for novelty, "explains Hosking. Disposable Income is low, so once people have seen act they often don't want to see it again," adds Peters. They cite Alanis Morissette's dates in 1996 and 1999. Admittedly the early shows coincide with a successful album, Jagged Little Pill, and she sold out 15,000 seat venues including Araneta Coliseum, Manila. But the October 1999 tour played to 60 percent houses, despite using smaller venues such as Manila's 8,500 capacity Folk Arts Theater, Stadium Shah Alam (cap. 8,000) in Malaysia capital Kuala Lumpur and Singapore's Harbor Pavilion (cap. 5,000)

Visual Indicators

The first indications of an artist suitability concert from MTV and its Asian rival Channel V, but it took more than a few video plays to balance the books live appearances. I'd like to work with more developing acts, because currency fluctuation is the problem," Hosking said." "Advertising is the biggest expense - up to half the budget, so even if the act walves all its performance cost, a tour may not be viable." Sometimes Midas covers local expenses if the act can ge t to the show for nothing. This happened with Ocean Color Scene in 1998, who were touring in Japan and wanted to play in Hong Kong, so Midas booked them into the 1,400 seat Ko Shan Theater. They sold 1,200 tickets and the venture made sense. Ticket prices were kept low at HK$ 320 (US$ 35 and $ 41).

"There's always the balance of variables: the fees, the advertising spend and the ticket price. Tickets will go for $20-50, but if you lower the ticket price or the fees, you can often sell out and the publicity helps the album sales. Up-and-coming artists are more likely to go for that argument," says Hosking. On the other hand, if an early opportunity to play live slips by, Asian album sales mat take off for other reasons and undermine the potential benefits of the tour to the record company, "We propose perhaps 20 tours in a year but only seven or eight will happen," Hosking says. A frequent irritant is ‘cowboy' promotes offering big money and then pulling the shows when it's too late to organize anything else, which means a lost opportunity for Midas as well as the act.

The big exception to the one-tour-only rule comes from a perhaps surprising source, Denmark, Michael Learns to Rock (MLTR) are a band who have become massively successful far from home, their soft-rock style has brought them sustained success around Asia and in South Africa, as well as Scandinavia, MLTR have sold 10 million albums in Asia, more than Celine Dion and Michael Jackson combined according to Hosking, who was introduced to them when they went to Singapore to collect a radio award. MLTR have done over 50 dates in 14 countries with Midas, they were headline act at the Celebrate Hong Kong Concert on 6 July 1997, which was part of the ceremony marking Britain's hand-over of the colony to China, it was also the occasion of Hosking's wedding.

Rain Stops Play

Hosking now co-manages MLTR. Their 1995 gig in Bali is his favorite concert memory. "The show was in a beautiful amphitheater with a temple as backdrop. It was a great gig with one problem - the seats were under cover but the stage was in the open, "he remembers. "We were assured in never rains in Bali in November and the venue supplied a holy man to perform a ritual to make doubly sure it wouldn't. Of course, it did and the band left the stage. But the holy man pointed out that the gig had been delayed by an hour due to crowd congestion and had everything happened on time the gig would have been over before the rain started."

The most recent success story is Westlife's The East Meets Westlife Asian tour 2000, which doubled their album sales in the region from one million to two million after the tour. "There were no singles out so it was the 10-nation tour that brought the sales, "says Hosking. The tour was a sell-out at every show except one, at Taipei's 2,5000-capacity Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall in Taiwan, where the band did 90 percent business. The largest venue was Manila's Folk Arts Theater, with other venues ranging from Species in Bangkok (cap.2, 000) to the 7,000-capacity Istora Senayan in Jakarta. These were playback rather than full live band shows a type of event, which Midas handles quite often. The company has also ventured in theaters, promoting a total of 56 shows last year with Spirit of the Dance. In May-June it organized a 40-date tour with eight shows in Seoul, Korea, 16 in Japan (Tokyo, Shizouka, Nagoya, Osaka and Urawa), eight in China (Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou) and eight in Taipei, Taiwan. Earlier in the year Midas had promoted 16 shows in Singapore and Hong Kong. Plans are underway for a repeat tour in 2002.

Guardians Of Morality

The moral content of shows is closely scrutinized in Asia. To apply for a license, promoters must submit photos of the act on stage, a song list and CDs. Most government in the region insists on seeing lyrics. A typical license stipulates the "only songs that are approved by the licensing officer are sung. "In Singapore performers aren't allowed to smoke, make political statements or invite people on stage - and men aren't allowed to dress as women. The promoter has put up a $10,000 deposit, which is lost, if the conditions are broken. "But really it's like the tour ride, it gives the authorities a basis for acting if they think necessary, but they may not. Just because the brown M&Ms haven't been taken out it doesn't mean the gig's off, "Hosking observes drolly.

Local Expertise

Midas rationalized its office staff considerably in 1996, as rental rates in Hong Kong and Singapore were doubling yearly. Now there is just a couple of clerical staff in each regional office, with much of the concert business contracted out to trusted people. Bob Seweli's Ticketworld handles ticketing in the Philippines and elsewhere. "Asia is a tough market. The logistics and other conditions are very complicated. Midas are the only people I know who you can talk to for a good regional tour," he says.

Singapore based Peter Loh Productions and Alex Ng of Hong Kong based event production company International Fixer manage technical production for Midas throughout the region. Ng has been organizing production for rock and corporate events in Hong Kong since 1995. She has also worked on the MLTR tour in China and Ricky Martin's Asian shows and Midas represents about 10 percent of her company's rock business. "Hong Kong is an alpha city in a third world country. You can get all the things you need for a production in HK now. I talk with local contractors and co-ordinate. A lot can get lost between the language barrier and I can make good deals because I work with these countries all the time, "she says. As artists often bring a technical manager. Ng's role includes being a representative of the promoter and coordinating on the road. "Compare to other promoters, Midas are the most organized, I don't know how a lot of the other ever make any money. Midas are very hands-on, down-to-earth and honest," says Ng.

Loh finds the easiest countries to work in are Singapore and Hong Kong. "The production hardware standard in Singapore is good, most brands are available here. There are reliable freelance crews but the labor cost is a bit higher than the rest of Southeast Asia," he says. However, Loh is less keen on Vietnam, where he says there are no dedicated venues or decent equipment suppliers. He always tries to bring the whole show in from Singapore. Of Indonesia, he says, "Don't expect too much. The hardware is limited and equipment maintenance is zero. You have to stick alongside the key crew guy to get things done and the space work is slow. You have to be patient to achieve results."

Golden Oppurtunities

With continuing political instability in the region - there were bombs in the Philippines and Indonesia during a volatile Christmas / New Year period - Midas is cautiously expanding its range of territories and leading with reliable artists like Michael Learns to Rock. "If the predicted US recession happens, it might encourage artists to accept more modest fees," Hosking says. "The potential is here if artists can adapt their requirements to fit the market." In any event, Midas has established itself in an enviable position. With every new country it enters and with each show it produces the company's knowledge of and experience in one of the most complex regions of the world increases.

 
 

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