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Published on 26 November 2017

What it takes to put together a thumping music festival.

By Marcus Goh

Even as ZoukOut returns for its 17th year of revelry in December, this legendary dance music festival is now one of many music festivals playing out in Singapore. Today, music fans here can look forward to a rich and varied calendar of international music festivals, with Sing Jazz, Ultra and St Jerome’s Laneway Festival being some of the top draws. But what exactly goes into the organising and staging of these crowd-pulling mega events?

“It’s not as simple as just booking a deejay and putting him or her on stage. It requires massive planning,” says a spokesperson for Zouk and ZoukOut. “We’re essentially building a small city within a festival — multiple stages, a food village, and various viewing decks.” Executive director for Sing Jazz, Alfredo Castillo, concurs. “A lot of people underestimate the moving parts and level of detail that goes into staging a festival.”


Last December, ZoukOut saw a turnout of 41,000 over two nights. “It takes between nine to 12 months of preparation,” shares a Zouk and ZoukOut spokesperson, “and a team of close to 300 people.”

Sing Jazz, which attracted over 15,000 people last year, takes about a year to plan with some 300 people working at full strength.

As for the Esplanade-organised free music festival Baybeats, the team starts planning the next edition almost immediately after the festival ends every year. Says a spokesperson, “Everyone in the Esplanade gets involved in Baybeats, from the programmers to crew to logistics to our on-the-ground teams.”


ZoukOut and Sing Jazz need licences like the Ad-Hoc Public Entertainment Licence and Temporary Liquor Licence. ZoukOut organisers also apply for the Temporary Change of Use Permit, Trade Fair Permit, and Trade Fair Foodstall Licence for their food village.

“We do not need to apply for a separate entertainment licence for Baybeats as Esplanade is exempted from the Public Entertainment Act,” says the Baybeats team. However, other licences might still be required.

All three outdoor music festivals engage with the Singapore Police Force and National Environment Agency for their events. They also sometimes involve the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Urban Redevelopment Authority and Public Utilities Board. In certain cases, the Central Narcotics Bureau may need to vet the artist list to ensure they’re cleared, explains the Zouk and ZoukOut spokesperson.

According to the Zouk and ZoukOut spokesperson, applications are made via LicenceOne (an online government portal for the application of such licences), with the exception of Sentosa-specific licences.

Castillo acknowledges that compared to other countries, Singapore is excellent when it comes to applying for licences. “You just go online and do a submission. It’s extremely smooth and efficient.” It takes about three to four months to apply for the requisite licences.


Licences aside, music-festival planners also have to sort out nitty-gritty technical details. “Where possible, we use weather-related equipment — sometimes referred to as IP-rated equipment,” says the Baybeats crew. IP, an abbreviation for Ingress Protection, is an international standard that defines how well protected electrical equipment is from exposure to moisture, dirt, water and so on.

“As Singapore is a tropical country, weather protection of our equipment is a major consideration,” highlights the Baybeats team. “When it’s not possible to use IP-rated equipment, we must ensure our stages and venues are weather protected.” Good weather is also a concern for the ZoukOut organisers. “It is an open secret that a day or two before the event, we would pray for good weather, along with performing a specific ritual.”

ZoukOut also uses line array sound systems, which consist of a line of usually identical loudspeakers, to create music that sounds like it comes from a line, as opposed to from a single point. LED screens, lasers, fireworks, pyrotechnics and special effects like carbon dioxide jets (a jet of smoke effects that disappear on cue), flames, confetti and streamers  are all used during ZoukOut to rev up the party atmosphere.


For Baybeats, crowd-control measures include bag checks for patrons who enter, armed and unarmed security patrols as well as surveillance and monitoring. The Esplanade also works with the Home Team and the Singapore Police Force to enhance security efforts.

“That being said, the Baybeats audience comprises very seasoned local-music gig goers and they generally take care of one another,” say the organisers.

Effective crowd control ensures everyone has a good experience. “This starts with a smooth crowd flow in which our guests can feel safe and comfortable without necessarily feeling like their space is being invaded,” says the Zouk and ZoukOut spokesperson.

ZoukOut uses its own in-house ticketing solution. “We deploy various tracking methods on each ticket to ensure authenticity and to prevent unauthorised reselling and fraud,” says the spokesperson. “We have been able to detect frauds either before the event or at the door.”

For Sing Jazz, MBS Ticketing and Apactix serve as principal ticketing engines. Tickets are scanned to ascertain authenticity. “Once a ticket is scanned, its unique ticket number is taken out of the system so that it is no longer valid. Fake tickets are not recognised as valid by the system,” reveals Castillo.


Photo: Zouk and Colossal Photos

ZOUKOUT, the only dusk-to-dawn music festival that takes places across two days in Singapore, has become Asia’s largest electronic dance music festival.

8-9 December, Sentosa,

Photo: Sing Jazz

SING JAZZ is a jazz music festival that also features jazz-inspired and jazz-derived music. It commemorates its fifth edition next year.

6-8 April 2018, Marina Bay Sands,

Photo: Hoong Wei Long and Esplanade — Theatres on the Bay

BAYBEATS is a free music festival offering a variety of sounds like folk, pop, metal, post-rock, emo, punk and electro. It’s also a platform for young, up-and-coming Singapore musicians to showcase their talents.

Baybeats has been a regular programme at the Esplanade since 2002.

ST JEROME’S LANEWAY FESTIVAL celebrates some of the best new and established live acts in the music scene.

27 January 2018, The Meadow, Gardens By the Bay,

ULTRA is dedicated to the best of electronic dance music and features a line-up of homegrown and international acts.

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