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Singapore Social Awards: Paul Morrison the star-puller

The concert promoter will bring in big names for Singapore Social Concerts to celebrate the social media world

Published on May 5, 2013 11:18 AM
 
Mr Paul Morrison. -- ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

When American rock icons Aerosmith and South Korean YouTube sensation Psy perform full-length gigs here later this month at the Singapore Social Concerts, their shows could be among the biggest music events of the year.

And it would not be the first time Mr Paul Morrison, who is chiefly responsible for bringing the big stars in, would have pulled off something on such a huge scale here.

In 2009, the Scotsman, as co-CEO of events organiser All The Worlds Entertainment, staged a three-night line-up featuring R&B/pop queen Beyonce (performing in Singapore for the first time), ska-pop-rock group No Doubt, Cantopop Heavenly King Jacky Cheung and pop-rap juggernauts Black Eyed Peas.

But do not call him a concert promoter, not even an uber-concert promoter. He is thinking bigger than just a concert or series of concerts.

He is launching what he calls the Oscars of the social media world - the inaugural Social Star Awards and Singapore Social Concerts, a $20-million event to be held at Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay.

"We wanted to create a major awards show that celebrates the enormous rise of social media, and the personalities and brands that people are talking about the most on those platforms," he tells SundayLife!

Morrison, 46, is joint chief executive and public face of Starcount, a Singapore-based company that tracks the activities of 1.7 billion Internet users on the world's top 11 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Weibo in China, mixi in Japan and VK in Russia.

The awards show will hand out prizes to celebrities and brands with the biggest social media presence, based on Starcount's database.

A total of 288 awards will be handed out online over 24 hours to the most popular stars and brands in social media in different categories, from movies and music to sports and games. The awards will culminate in a three-hour live show at Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands. It will be broadcast to more than 140 countries and streamed live on YouTube.

Aerosmith, in Singapore to play for the first time, Psy, breakout pop star Carly Rae Jepsen and soul-pop crooner CeeLo Green will be here to perform at the awards ceremony. They will also play full sets at the post-awards gigs at Gardens by the Bay on May 24 and 25. These are dubbed The Singapore Social Concerts.

The Straits Times is the official Singapore media partner of the event, Hot FM91.3 is the official Singapore radio station and Kiss 92, the supporting Singapore radio station.

With the Social Star Awards, Morrison has certainly come a long way from his home city of Glasgow. He caught the music bug at a young age - his mother was always playing pop music by the likes of Abba while he was growing up. A friend later introduced him to more cutting-edge material by artists such as David Bowie.

When he was 14, he went to his first gig - a life-changing one, as it turned out. The show, held in what he described as "a working class" club, featured the Buzzcocks and Joy Division, two highly influential bands from the 1970s post-punk era.

He recalls: "There was a surge of energy at the show and I had never seen anything like it. After that, I started gravitating towards music and entertainment and, later, the club scene and fashion."

The lure of music was stronger than what he studied in university (journalism and communications) and more compelling than his heritage (he hails from a family of watchmakers).

So instead of working in journalism or the horological trade, he cut his teeth as an events organiser working as a field promotion executive with a public relations firm, which entrusted him with handling a major beer company's promotional tours all over Scotland.

Those beginnings would lead him to some colourful adventures. He once had to hold the hand of a drugged-out Kurt Cobain, the late grunge icon and Nirvana frontman, and walk him to his dressing room after the band's legendary set at British music festival Reading in 1992.

He also played an instrumental role in creating a major music festival for Scotland as it did not have one before 1994. The now iconic T In The Park annual festival has been described by British newspaper The Guardian as "a rite of passage for young Scots and a ritual for older ones".

"People kept on saying a big-scale outdoors music festival would not work in Scotland because of the rain and the cold but we proved them wrong," he said.

The father of two teenagers first came to Singapore in 2008 when All The Worlds partnered with concert promoters Midas Promotions to stage the second edition of music festival SingFest - a two-day event that featured 36 pop and rock acts including R&B princess Alicia Keys, The Pussycat Dolls and Jason Mraz.

Morrison says he admired Singaporeans' respect for rules and regulation. As he was making his rounds during SingFest, he noticed some fans without tickets standing behind low walls surrounding the concert grounds at Fort Canning. "It wouldn't take much for them to just walk over those walls and sneak in without tickets. But they were respectful and would rather watch the shows from behind those walls," he says.

"You've got to love a country that has a crime prevention campaign slogan that says 'Low crime doesn't mean no crime'."

Now based in London, he flies to Singapore twice a month to work from Starcount's Chinatown office. He says: "I often have lunch at Maxwell Road Hawker Centre, which is next to my office, or at Lau Pa Sat. I'd eat chicken rice or deep-fried tofu or kangkong. I think it's amazing that two people pay only $15 for good food."

And while the Social Star Awards is new, there are already plans to hold the event and its concerts every year in Singapore for at least five years.

He is confident that the event, the first major social media gala of its kind, will put Singapore on the global entertainment map. "I believe the trailblazers will always find a way through," he adds.

dinohadi@sph.com.sg

Background story

Morrison’s social media habits

Facebook

“I’m not active on Twitter but I do check my Facebook news feed every morning. Besides keeping up with family and friends, I follow music press Rolling Stone, NME and Billboard. I also follow sports team Glasgow Rangers and celebrities such as Rihanna. Oh, and I also follow Asian pop stars such as G-Dragon. He is awesome, I think he will go far and break into international pop.”

YouTube

“I watch a lot of videos by YouTube stars Ryan Higa and Ray William Johnson with my 13-year-old son. They are really funny. I am also a fan of PewDiePie, who makes hilarious videos about gaming. With seven million followers on his page and more than one billion views, he is arguably one of the most famous people on the planet.”

Spotify

“I am a huge fan of this music streaming service. For a small monthly fee, I get all the music I want to hear. The best thing about it is that you can connect with your friends, check out what they are listening to, share playlists and recommend music to one another. The last four acts I listened to were UK garage/ hip-hop artist The Streets, New York rapper Azealia Banks, British indie rockers The Kooks and Los Angeles alternative hip-hop group The Pharcyde.”

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