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Music

Musicians lose up to Sh500,000 as pandemic mutes industry, study shows

Performances will have to undergo a paradigm
Performances will have to undergo a paradigm shift because social distancing rules mean that the gatherings of crowds at a concert, will be untenable for a long time. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

As countries struggle to get their economies up and running amid the Covid-19 crisis, the music industry will be among sectors that will face a tough task to recover from the effects of the measures to contain the pandemic.

Performances, for instance, will have to undergo a paradigm shift because social distancing rules mean that the gatherings of crowds at a concert, will be untenable for a long time.

While it is acknowledged the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to music and the arts generally, specific data has not been forthcoming, especially because music business in Africa has been managed on very rudimentary terms.

Music In Africa Foundation (MIAF), which works with music industry players across the continent, last week released the results of a report that quantifies the loss of revenue streams in the first two months of the Covid-19 regulations. “Understanding the impact of Covid-19 will enable players in the business to make informed strategies that are inclusive and effective,” says MIAF director Eddie Hatitye in an online interview with BDLife.

Hatitye says the recommendations in the report are very useful for anyone operating in the music sector across Africa.

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The data was collected from interviews of over 500 respondents in 47 African countries. The largest number of these came from Kenya with 37, Nigeria 54, Senegal 48, and South Africa, where the organisation is based, with 138 respondents.

They interviewed musicians, DJs, producers, composers and songwriters, video producers, and choirs, and orchestras. Others were music distributors, collecting societies, recording studios, music publishers, and venues.

While the survey did not go into the specific details of how the losses occurred, it is clear that the restrictions on social gatherings and movement, like curfews in the case of countries like Kenya, have shut down concerts, festivals, leading to huge losses.

Most individuals and companies in the music business reported a loss of between Sh100,000 to Sh500,000. About 64 percent of the individual music professionals and 70 percent of organisations and companies, said they did not have alternative sources of income outside the music business. The Kenyan government set up a Sh100 million fund towards supporting the creative industry, and across Africa, music professionals are seeking support to survive the effects of Covid-19.

About 31 percent of respondents say the most critical assistance would be through grants and donations from NGOs and civil society while 22 percent said government relief funds and subsidies would be effective in changing the situation they face. Music professionals also gave their projections for the future in their respective countries while also anticipating key shifts or new realities. “The reality now is that a musician's digital fan base may be one of their only key sources of income for as long as public gatherings are banned,” says Wanjiku Koinange of Mdundo, the Kenyan digital distributor.

She cites the success of online performances in the last two months like Nyashinski's album pre-release concert and recent shows by Blinky Bill and Juliani.

According to Wanjiku, since the Covid-19 restrictions were implemented in March, Mdundo has experienced a steady increase in music downloads.

In April alone, downloads were up by 2.4 percent and therefore, ironically, this period would be the best for artists to release new music.

Faisal Kiwewa, the founder of the Bayimba Festival in Uganda says venues and events will take time to rebuild their funding partnerships, and some festivals may only return in 2022. He says the pandemic offers an opportunity for artistes to innovate. “Use this time to improve your craft, create new content, prepare promotional material and invest in online revenue streams,” Faisal said.

Jesse White of the Akum Agency in South Africa agrees that the new reality is live streaming or pre-recorded performances and that artists need to ensure that they produce high-quality content for these streams, preferably high definition quality that be sold to TV and mobile networks.

An industry veteran Yusuf Mohmoud of the world-renowned Sauti za Busara festival in Zanzibar is optimistic saying music is about bringing people together and even though it will take time for the situation to stabilize, there will always be demand for live music.

"No doubt the world can look forward to an explosion of music, art, and creativity, the likes of which were previously unimagined," says Yusuf.

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