By: Patrick Ssentongo Kibira.
No one could have imagined a near complete shutdown of the world’s economies where all industries would be affected. That however, doesn’t mean someone couldn’t have prepared for it.
When 2020 came in, most of the partygoers were looking forward to attending their favorite annual events or shows headlined by their finest artists, unfortunately Corona Virus happened even when some had saved their money. The world was shut in a lockdown to prevent the spread of the disease and in Uganda, the lockdown started in mid March 2020. Under the strict lockdown regimen that Corona Virus caused in the country, the Music and Entertainment industry went on its legs. Events were cancelled following directives from the government as one of the measures to curb the spread of the noble Corona Virus.
Undoubtedly, artists had never dreamt of a time when they can’t perform at Freedom City, Lugogo Cricket Oval, Kampala Serena Hotel, Kyadondo Rugby Grounds or any other prominent Kampala Night spots. This period has been a time when the creativity of many artists was tested and it called for survival for the fittest. Artists aside, all events organizers were left in losses, whereas some were given opportunities to execute new ideas, some of which ideas gave birth to the trend of Online shows / Concerts / Performances or whatever you may choose to call it.
Online shows are where fans are being entertained by artists from the comfort of their homes off a live streaming channel on a digital gadget in real time. Live streaming in this case gives the artist performing a chance to talk and connect with their audience either by responding to live comments or reply to them afterwards. All the fans need is to have a good internet connection, sufficient data bundles, any of the good gadgets such as laptops, smart phones, Smart TV or I-pads and get onto online platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram among others. So far, local music fans have been treated to online shows such as Club Beatz at Home and artists like Apass, IrynNtale, Ykee Benda among others were streamed live performing from the comfort of their homes in the very first edition.
Fezah Entertainment staged firstly the Kenneth Mugabi online concert and later Michael Kitanda to Iryn Namubiru among others. Swangz Avenue also held their online concert dubbed “Uganda Strong and United” plus a host of other artists such as Bobiwine, Chameleone and top hood rapper Navio who also held shows online. Aside from music, also other sectors of the entertainment industry like comedy have ventured into online show business with Alex Muhangi and Comedy duo Madrat and Chiko hosting their comedy shows online weekly. The success of these past online concerts must have given many creatives and artists ideas on what to do in this time of no physical events as a way of connecting with their fans. Amidst all this however, we must ask a few questions.
ARE ONLINE CONCERTS PRACTICAL?
The experience and feeling of watching an artist doing his thing live on stage remains immeasurable. To a lay fan, supporting an artist doing his thing live on stage remains mind blowing. The costs and rigors that come with organizing a successful concert are unbelievable. When asked if the future in cost cutting is organizing an online concert, Julius Kyazze , the co-founder of Swangz Avenue and an organizer of traditional shows says “ The two forms of these concerts are different, online shows cannot replace traditional shows in any way.” The effectiveness of online shows depends on one’s target audience, if your clients are downtown, it will be a flop since most of them are not on social media. If it’s for the elite, then you will have an audience and it will be a pure turn up. It’s also an advantage for an artist because you get to relate with your true fans as-well as introducing you to new audience. Elijah Kitaka, the co-founder of Fezah Entertainment says there is a big online market artists should embrace.
WHERE ARE WE NOW?
Firstly we need to acknowledge that the current setting of online concerts is dangerously hanging onto a few threads. Few artists earn from the online shows and if social gatherings or events are not permitted anytime soon, that bubble is starting to burst. Uganda Musicians Association President Wycliff Tugume, popularly known as Ykee Benda fears that the old normal may take long to resume, so he says the idea of how to monetize online shows should be prioritized by musicians. “ It’s going to take a while before gatherings return to shows, so yes this could be a new normal and other artists are going to have to adopt to performing online if not, they will find it hard to earn. Yes times are hard but you can charge a little through mobile money” says Fezah entertainment’s Kitaka. He further urges that artists should not even think of doing free online shows to survive the crisis because they will regret in future. “What is the point of having 10,000 streamers watch your show online for free yet you have no money in your pockets?” asks Kitaka!
WHERE SHOULD WE BE?
Album sales are a rarity in this country as it is, seeing that we have built a habit of pirating music off the internet with streaming considered a novelty though it is much more acceptable in foreign lands, we barely have copyright legislation in place. All these should be worked on to increase online earning value. With the 2% of Uganda’s percentage on active social media, can the 2% sustain an online streaming industry?,of course NO!! Come to think about our internet connection, can people manage to stream efficiently? There challenges with internet infrastructure but the world, even Uganda itself has done well with reduction of data costs over the years. There are issues like fans having poor gadgets and devices but the thing I have learnt with developing markets is that they adopt to situations so fast and so quickly, so should we.
WHAT ARE THE FINAL THOUGHTS?
Online shows are cost effective but do not generate enough revenue to sustain an artist running budget that include shooting videos, marketing, promotions and everything. It is at this time that fans, artists and stakeholders in the music and entertainment industry need to come together as one, rack their minds for new solutions to old problems affecting their sector. For fans, normalize streaming music and online shows, spend a few shillings on Spotify, Tidal, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms. If we don’t, then we are holding back the very artists we love to enjoy because streaming the gives them visibility on these platforms which are international no less. For all the work the fans will do, however it also falls to artists and the people they work with to step up their game when it comes to creating quality music. I don’t know if I’m the only one, but I’ve started feeling like a large percentage of new songs are a rehash of something done before. I don’t know what to say about that, seeing as I’ve never written a song. Stay relevant, is my last word. Even if it means crazy Tiktoks, just do what you got to do.
The Writer, Patrick Ssentongo Kibira is Chief Editor Of YOLO Magazine, an Entertainment Journalist / Public Relations Guru/ Concept Developer / Entertainment Critic & Analyst / Content Creator & CEO at YOLO BRAND HOUSE.