By Obinna Agwu
I was so pleased to see quite a few Nigerian artists put up their own shows (even if in name only) last December. I have made a lot of noise about this for years now and though I don’t understand why it has taken so long to get here, still, it’s better late than never. With the present momentum, I fully expect that we’ll have at least twice the number of shows that held last December, at the end of this year, and I’m so fucking excited!
Whether you were able to partake of one or more of the many shows last December or just followed updates on social media, It was clear that most of the events were not without major hiccups. And all the usual suspects made an appearance including the perennial, seemingly genetically-influenced inability of our artistes and show organizers to keep to time, inadequate and ineffective security giving rise to robbery and sexual harassment, and of course mediocre sets resulting from little or no planning. Like we say over here, it’s in our blood. But is it really in our blood? If it is in our blood how come Johnny Drille held a show that started and ended on time? How come I heard only good reviews from the fans who attended Adekunle Gold’s residency?
Shows and performances are a critical part of an artist’s career with huge potentials for direct revenue and brand building that is still very much under-appreciated in our industry. And to deliver better experiences for concert goers and fans in the new year, artists and promoters must fully understand that they are responsible for the welfare and enjoyment of their paying fans right from the time they step into the event venue to the moment they leave; and must act accordingly. So, here are some areas where significant improvements can be made with huge ROI.
Plan your set!
It doesn’t matter how many “I love my fans” tweets you put up if you don’t take time to properly plan and rehearse your set you neither love nor respect your fans and that’s sad. You must know beforehand how many songs you plan to perform and have a predetermined sequence for performing them and this information should be known to your band and DJ as well. Every interlude, every pause, every monologue, every song, every opening act’s performance, every lighting manoeuvre, every damn move, as much as possible, should be properly choreographed in advance. This is how you “kill the show” not by merely showing up and miming to your songs in fits and starts.
Surely, no artist wants their fans to be robbed, sexually harassed, raped, beaten or stampeded to death at their shows(I hope). Yet some of these things continue to happen at our events because artists do not see themselves as being responsible for the welfare and security of their fans and this is totally wrong. If any negative thing happens at your event, your name will be splashed all over the media not the show promoters and organizers and that should tell you that people expect you to be responsible for your fans. Artists, working with security experts, should make sure to review the security arrangement for their shows to make certain they are adequate for the size of the crowd being expected. Also, the audience must be made aware of key security details like where security personnel and installations are located around the venue and what they look like. Artist must review emergency response plans for their shows. You should care whether there are enough ambulances and paramedical personnel to handle all the emergency situations that are commonly associated with such events. As with the security info, the location of emergency exits, emergency management personnel and what to do in the case of an emergency should be spelt out to concertgoers before and during the event, including occasional mentions by the artist during their set.
Be on time, you will not die!
I have heard different reasons offered for the habitual delays we have been experiencing at shows recently. Some have said that their shows couldn’t start on schedule because the venue was in use the previous day and so there wasn’t enough time to set up. Well, dear artist, next time you are working with a sound or promotion company you should make sure they have the capacity to set up in time for your show. Also, you may shift the time of your show to say 11 pm to allow for adequate setup time instead of the implausible 7 pm, so that your fans don’t have to waste precious time at the event venue. Also, make sure the sound gear providers have back up equipment in case of any eventualities before or during the show.
But if you are one of those clowns who presume that their star power is somehow boosted when they keep people waiting, I’ve got news for you, one day your star power go go market and e no go come back. Do better.
Like I mentioned earlier you become responsible for your audience from the moment they walk/drive into the event venue. The artist and their team must painstakingly design every step of that journey to be a safe and pleasurable experience for every fan. Everything from adequate, safe and convenient parking spaces to fairly priced food and drinks within and around the event venue must be considered, Although this seems like a big responsibility, and it is, it is also a huge opportunity to sink the roots of your brand ever so deeper into the minds of your fans and the general public. For instance, after the Wiz kid concert last December, it took some fans over an hour to be able to drive out of the venue. If I were on his team I wouldn’t let such an opportunity go to waste. For instance, Wiz could have dressed as Santa and handed out some thoughtful gifts, perhaps in partnership with sponsors, to fans who were trying to make their way out of the venue, in the spirit of the season. That would have made the long wait a little more bearable for everyone talk less of the ton of positive media that would have followed.
In 2019, I hope to see artists and show promoters show more empathy in designing and planning events. And if something goes wrong even after you have done your best to create a wonderful experience for your fans, please acknowledge it and move swiftly to address it; don’t play dumb, that’s so last year.
Obinna Agwu is a compulsive lover of Music, Talent Manager, A&R Executive and Adviser to Labels & Talents.