Rent-A-Mob (Flash Mob, That Is)

Demand is growing for such services, which can cost up to five figures.
The Straits Times
- September 24, 2012
By: Jessica Lim
They may come and go in an instant, but flash mobs are making a lasting impression here. Over the last year, a number of companies, mostly dance schools, have begun offering to put up such shows for a fee. A flash mob is a group of people who suddenly gather in one place, perform an unusual act, then disperse. It is often seen as an expression of fun or creativity. Five of 15 companies contacted by The Straits Times said demand for their services was virtually non-existent a year ago. Charges to hire a mob start from about $1,000 and can go
up to a five-figure sum, the companies said. Activities include spontaneously breaking out in dance and freezing mid-walk, among other eye-catching stunts. Last month, a mob of 20 mothers gathered in Orchard Road to support breast-feeding in public. Ms Yuki Chua, 37, owner of dance school Bellydance Discovery, has executed two mobs this year, with five more lined up until December. There were no requests last year. Her customers, typically wedding couples or companies seeking to spice up their dinner and dance events, fork out $1,000 to $6,000 per mob, said Ms Chua.
She added: “There is a market for this. People keep asking me how to join and demand for
such events seems to be going up.” Studio Wu dance centre director Ashleynawi Ismail said the cost of planning each mob can be as high as a five-figure sum. Over the last two years, the centre has performed about 20 mobs, each involving at least 50 people. Many clients bank on the “viral effect” that they may get from media and social networks, said Mr Ismail, who added the group has helped promote movies and electronic products including HTC mobile phones. “The eyeballs received from a flash mob going viral on the Internet is priceless.” Singapore’s first documented flash mob was reported in 2003, when 12 people waved and yelled on an escalator in Orchard MRT station for no apparent reason. Since then, more people have formed their own mobs. Mission: Singapore, founded by three tertiary students in 2008, now has 1,820 members, up from 1,000 in 2010. It gets about two requests a month to put together a flash mob. Co-founder Syamil Dasuki Osman, 22, said he usually rejects requests from marketing firms: “It’s spontaneous, just a group of friends with ideas. We do it for free to have fun and enjoy the moment.” Flash mobs have proven effective for nightclubs, such as Zouk, which had two shows last year to promote its ZoukOut festival. “They create a lot of buzz and we usually take the opportunity to give the audience fliers,” said its head of marketing and events Timothy Chia. Not everyone appears impressed by these mobs-for-hire, however. “Flash mobs are supposed to be a freedom of expression, a show of spontaneity,” said Miss Stacy Sim, 21, a student and flash mob volunteer. “Hiring one defeats its purpose.”