Entertainment and Lifestyle

Music promotion no easy

The business of music promotion is complex. As Chebet Korir finds out, it involves more than just publicising an event, picking up an artiste and ferrying them to a concert

Music events have been part of us since time immemorial. These days, lovers of music are experiencing a wave of different gatherings, but three things stand out; exclusivity, hype and most importantly, the artistes who will headline the event. While at it, event organisers and promoters are always in business with hopes to creating a memorable affair. In some cases, however, things get messy and an event flops.

For instance, Fyre Festival — a highly publicised music event scheduled to take place in the Bahamas last year — was a crisis of historic proportions. Its vision was to provide access to celebrity performers to anyone who wished to book a performer.

Creator and promoter Billy McFarland was the visionary concept founder and was fresh, inventive and instantly caught the attention of rapper Ja Rule, who without hesitation, bought the idea and became part of the festival. However, the long-awaited event turned into a real disaster, with people losing tens of millions of dollars in tickets and investment. At the end of the saga, the promoter was charged and sentenced to six years in jail.

In Kenya, we have experienced a number of failed events, some of high publicity. What follows after an event has flopped is usually a back-and-forth between fans and the promoters or organisers, especially on social media. We also have promoters who have been making a killing in the diaspora by hosting Kenyan artistes in different events across foreign cities.

The commitment

Donnah Obera is a promoter based in Oslo, Norway. She has hosted countless celebrities around Africa including Nigerian artistes Olamide, Davido and Iyanya. Her efforts have also been recognised, as she won the Best Female Promoter in Scandinavia in 2018. And as if that is not enough, she has this year been nominated as the Artiste Promoter of the Year, Best Promoter and Events Planner of the Year at this year’s Afro Diaspora Influential Awards in Norway.

“Planning a successful event takes painstaking strategy, attention to detail, timelines and a commitment to budgeting and time management,” she says.

She adds that sometimes, there are a few hitches in planning an event, but for her, at least she makes sure the agreement she has with artistes is fulfilled, irrespective of any occurences.

Ben Mwiha is a promoter based in the UK whose major target audience is Kenyan-based deejays. This year, he (and his business partners) will be hosting Deejay Moh, Mc Philipo, Muzikal Sherif and DJ Spaqz for the after party of the London leg of World Rugby Sevens Circuit. He says that his strategy in hosting successful events lies in his confidence.

Jumping ropes

“We have seen tremendous growth of deejays around this area and the fans want more of them. What you have to do is dig deep in your pocket, spend your own money, have confidence in what you are doing and just go all out. That is what I have been doing over the years,” he tells Spice.

While also venturing into this business, you have to be cautious and know how to handle money. A Kenyan promoter who exclusively spoke to Spice in confidentiality said that none of the events she has hosted abroad have been successful and she has had a share of differences with many artistes.

“ I am from Kenya, Kiambu to be specific, and I got a chance to come to Florida a few years back. I knew that I wanted to set up my own public relations agency, but it did not go well. I also had connections with a few nightclubs in Florida, so I was able to convince them that I would bring in artistes.”

“First person I brought on board was a popular Kenyan female artiste and she demanded so much from me and I was able to fulfill. However, when we flew her in, she assumed she knew a lot and wanted to do things her own way. She first cancelled the hotel reservation and went to a different one with hopes that I would cater for it. I ended up spending Sh300,000 on hotel bookings and the unfortunate thing is that she did not perform as planned,” she said in an interview, adding that that particular incident was a “big” lesson to her. She gave her newly found promotional venture a break, until she learned to jump the ropes that come with it.

As all this happens, there have also been cases of artistes being stranded abroad because of many factors including poor planning by, some times, the organiser (promoter) and the establishment (venue) providers.

Dennis Njenga is in charge of managing some of the biggest acts in Kenya including Avril, Femi One, Timmy TDat and King Kaka, under the Kaka Empire stable.

He says, “When an artiste has been called to perform in another country, it means that he has a large listenership in that specific area. As a manager, before an artiste travels there, there must be a rider contract, showing what we need.” He adds that it all boils down to professionalism and paperwork.

Professional conduct

In as far as professionalism is concerned, Taurus Group Limited CEO Iyke Anoke insists that artistes should also inform themselves before leaving for another country to perform.

“You might have proper management, but it is also up to you as an artiste to research where you are going, performing and sleeping. The most important part of it is to make sure you have your return ticket, just in case of anything,” he says.

Arrow Bwoy, an artiste behind hits such as Digi Digi and Jango Love says: “Recently, we have not had cases of artistes being abandoned or failed events in Kenya because our promoters are embracing professionalism. Actually, things are moving in the right direction and I am glad that we have successful events and artistes are being taken care of while out of the country.”

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