Malaysia’s karaoke industry faces pay cuts and losses

Karaoke was once an activity to go wild, sing our hearts out, and bond with friends for that 3 hour beach time you have in a cozy private room.

But since the pandemic hit, the KTV (karaoke and television) industry has been out of business for over a year now. Without any income, brands like Karaoke Manekineko and Teo Heng KTV have closed all of their outlets in Singapore due to COVID-19.

Returning to Malaysia, employees suffered up to 80% pay cuts, unpaid leave and forced dismissals. This is confirmed by this message to the National Security Council shared by Neway and Karaoke Manekineko Malaysia on their Facebook pages in February 2021.

“All karaoke operators are already in a serious financial crisis due to zero income for the last 12 [now 15] month. The government must seriously address this situation before pushing the family karaoke industry into bankruptcy, ”wrote Karaoke Manekineko Malaysia.

The only certainty is uncertainty

Of course, MCO’s first announcement in 2020 came as a shock to all industries, as it was the first time that gatherings and dinners had to be cut short. Many fell out, held emergency meetings and feared what was to come.

Right now we are over a year away and with 3 MCOs and a current average of 6K daily COVID-19 cases, this battle is far from over. It has gotten to the point where even citizens can probably predict at least a week in advance when the next AGC will take place.

While karaoke brands have been shut down throughout lockdowns and even CMCO, Red Box Karaoke group general manager Dr Giovann Ng said they too were used to it by now. He told Vulcan Post that the team recognizes when the next shutdown will be ordered and is already ready to close before the lockdowns are officially announced.

Karaoke Manekineko Malaysia even decided to voluntarily suspend the operations of a few of their outlets when they noticed a further increase in cases in January 2021.

Loud Speaker rooms were left empty for a total of 15 months / Image credit: Loud Speaker

But Damien Soh, founder and chairman of Loud Speaker, admitted his team is far from insensitive to OLS.

“Our fate is not in our hands and, ironically, the only certainty we can predict is uncertainty. Even when our Prime Minister assured us that there will be no more AGC coverage after MCO 2.0, we are now starting MCO 3.0 two months later, ”he recalls, frustrated.

“So yes, every MCO announcement is still a shock to us. And are we used to it? Maybe we get used to not having too much hope. ”

The president added that the persistent start and stop of his company’s turnaround process had weakened his team’s morale and morale as they feared for their livelihood.

What are the other sources of income for KTV brands?

All businesses need to find a way to adapt or risk closing once they run out of cash. While gyms were able to monetize their home workout packages, petting zoos like Farm In The City were able to sell their memorabilia.

And some brands of KTV have realized that they also have something to offer during the lockdown: their food. Part of the experience that comes with karaoke is the free flow of drinks, buffets, and bar snacks to share with friends and family.

Red Box Karaoke was offering some of their dishes on delivery platforms / Image Credit: Red Box Karaoke

Red Box Karaoke has started offering meals through GrabFood and EASI, while Neway Karaoke Box has partnered with Asian convenience store MIX to deliver their food and snacks. Karaoke Manekineko Malaysia sold packets of beer along with vouchers that customers could redeem for karaoke sessions at their outlets once they were safe again.

Loud Speaker was completely inactive during MCO, although he tried to sell tickets online to members. Skeptical about the sustainability of this movement, they quickly unplugged the plug and suffered absolute losses on closing.

“We have not considered soliciting help from the public as this pandemic affects everyone’s livelihood and not just our business,” Damien said, preferring to only accept financial support from clients in exchange for their basic services once they can operate again.

And for a short moment, there was a glimmer of hope. When cleared to open after MCO 1.0, a large number of impatient customers returned to show their support.

Nevertheless, the brand had to cap the occupancy rate of its rooms at 50% of its initial capacity to comply with social distancing measures. This means that if a room was supposed to accommodate 4 people, only 2 would be allowed at a time.

Damien explained that Loud Speaker has so far only been able to operate for a total of 6 months from March of last year until now. He is also worried about what will become of the family karaoke industry if the pandemic continues.

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Family karaoke is just one area of ​​the entertainment industry as a whole that is suffering amid lockdowns; cinemas, large and small, have already said their farewells. Deemed less essential among other “non-essential” activities, entertainment services are still the first sector to close and the last to reopen, according to Damien.

While selling vouchers for their services can help with their short-term cash reserves, the real change will only happen once they are safe again to enjoy leisure activities to the fullest.

Damien concluded: “All we want is for everyone to be able to comply with SOPs to fight COVID-19 together as a nation, as Malays. You might think that a person can’t do anything. But be the change you want to see. We may not completely eliminate COVID-19, but together we can stop its spread. ”

It should be remembered that each person has a role to play in flattening the curve again. We’ve done it before, and as the vaccine rolls out faster, we can do it again. You can do your part by registering as an individual, registering your dependents on MySejahtera, or if you are an employer, register your business to get Sinovac vaccines for your employees.

  • You can read more about Loud Speaker here, and Red Box Karaoke here.
  • You can read more about other AGC related topics here.

Featured Image Credit: Red Box Speaker / Karaoke

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