Association set up to support events freelancers

Women emcees are expected to look amazing at all events, while their male counterparts are held to a much lower standard, says television host and emcee Kelly Latimer.

"As a man, you could be slightly overweight and host a sports event, but as a lady, you're expected to show up with a full face of make-up and look amazing in your sports gear," the 29-year-old says, citing her own experience.

As an expectant mother now, she also mentions instances of how "you're suddenly getting turned down because you're touting a bump and I don't think that's fair".

Creating a safe and fair playing field for freelance women emcees is one of the things she would like to see as an ambassador of the newly formed Singapore Talent, Artistes and Resources (Star) association.

In a first of its kind initiative, a group of veterans from the events and entertainment industry in Singapore has formed the association to champion its interests and assist freelancers in an increasingly competitive environment.

The non-profit organisation was launched earlier this week.

While it has no regulatory power, it hopes to elevate industry standards by representing the interests of freelance workers such as performers, masters of ceremony, deejays, audio and visual engineers and event producers.

According to the association, there are more than 1,200 such individuals active here.

Mr Davwinder Singh Sheena, 47, who has more than 30 years of experience in the industry in audio engineering, event management and deejaying, is the association's president.

He wants the association to be "one voice" for an otherwise splintered industry.

"The industry has come to a point where people are competing only on price, with one of the biggest problems right now being rising costs and competition with people undercutting one another," he says.

"We need to change that mindset and focus on what value they can bring to events instead."

The association will look into practical steps to address such issues and is working on initiatives with various government agencies and statutory boards.

Membership, which costs $100 a year, gives members access to enrichment talks, workshops and special rates with partner establishments. For example, deejays could learn how to toggle between various digital audio work stations, as well as learn to use social media to promote themselves.

There are also plans to list members on a registry for potential clients and the rest of the industry to access.

About 70 people signed up as of the first call to join at the launch event on Tuesday.

One of those who did so was Mr Daryl Ng, 46, a freelance deejay who provides music support for events such as dinner and dance nights and awards events.

He has been in the industry for almost 30 years and says setting up the Star association is "long overdue".

While he says issues such as late payments are an industry-wide problem, his concern is the lack of recognition for deejays.

"People think we just have to press a play button, but it's not a trade that one can pick up overnight," he says.

He hopes Star can build awareness among clients and consumers about the value of deejays, including their ability to read a room and change the music accordingly and their knowledge of hardware and software.

"(Star) can do things for us that we can't do as individuals," he adds.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline 'Association set up to support events freelancers'. Print Edition | Subscribe