COVID-19 SPECIAL

Getai stars promote goods at virtual shows to weather hard times

Getai hosts Liu Lingling and Wang Lei promoting kitchenware during a virtual show last week. Getai performers say taking on the role of live-stream sales promoter is key to their livelihood these days. PHOTO: LIU LINGLING/ FACEBOOK
Getai hosts Liu Lingling and Wang Lei promoting kitchenware during a virtual show last week. PHOTO: LIU LINGLING/ FACEBOOK

Some of Singapore's top getai singers and hosts will be selling products for corporations during Hungry Ghost Festival virtual performances, as a way to make up for a loss of income due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced live getai shows to be cancelled.

Between their usual song-and-dance or emcee routines - which have mostly been streamed via Facebook Live during the pandemic - getai veterans could be, for instance, hawking hand cream.

The performers say taking on the role of live-stream sales promoter is key to their livelihood these days.

Popular getai host and singer Lee Peifen, 32, told The Straits Times: "We don't really have a choice. The good thing is that it can help to keep getai going - in a way."

Getais are free concerts that are traditionally staged during the Hungry Ghost Festival - which takes place this year from today to Sept 16. They can also be organised in conjunction with charity events or private functions.

Shows are usually commissioned by temples or grassroots organisations. But with crowds not allowed since the circuit breaker, only a few organisers see any reason to stage them - even virtually.

Getai singer Sherraine Law, 27, said she was booked for 80 shows during the festival last year, including multiple sessions in a day. But so far this year, she has not received confirmation for any show.

"Very few shows are being held, and they don't need to 'chope' me so early anyway because every singer has free time now," she said, using the local slang for reserving a spot.

Private corporations have now stepped in to fill the gap, putting together live online shows and banking on getai stars' fame and talent to promote their products in between songs and comedy sketches.

Since June, veteran getai host Marcus Chin, 66, has been appearing online, selling everything from health supplements to fresh seafood via shows on Facebook.

He usually appears alongside popular Taiwanese getai singer Hao Hao, 38, and the pair typically switch from belting out Hokkien numbers to delivering a sales spiel for a bottle of vitamins - and back again - within minutes.

 
 
 

During the Hungry Ghost Festival, Chin will do this at least three times a week. "You make the most of the situation," he said in Mandarin.

He confessed that even with his years of experience in hosting, selling was an entirely different ball game. "Its not easy to talk about a product for an hour. I also had to learn about live-stream sales tactics, such as organising online lucky draws and giving away free gifts with purchases," he said.

Lee, who is hosting 13 shows this season - some with an e-commerce element and some without - agreed. Noting that she will make only about 35 per cent of her usual earnings this season, she said: "These online shows are hard truths. You can instantly see in the comments if the viewers think you're doing a good job."

Veteran getai host Liu Lingling, 55, has agreed to do live-stream sales shows but only on the condition that the companies allow her to be in charge of the show.

"This way, I can round up my other getai singers and musicians and include them. They need the work and exposure too," she said.

 

"Hopefully, by next year, things can go back to normal. But for now, we need to adapt to feed ourselves."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2020, with the headline 'Getai stars promote goods at virtual shows to weather hard times'. Print Edition | Subscribe