Despite the dire situation of festivals and shows in the country, there seems to be a flip side.
Clarence Mac Ebong
●10th January 2023
December is a special time for everyone. It houses arguably the biggest holiday in the world, families can spend time with each other, it provides a time to recoup and reflect, and everything just feels different. Nigeria is not exempt from this December fever, as it is a significant thread that runs through the fabric of our culture and entertainment industry. Music means a lot to us during the year, but even more during the holidays. From concerts to parties, promoters and companies alike compete for our coins and attention, promising a good time at their respective shows with our favorite artists in the name of the festive season.
Unfortunately, our artists have behaved badly regarding their shows and performances. Over the last few years, especially recently — both at home and abroad — our artists have created a reputation for having little to no regard for their fans. In August 2022, Kizz Daniel was arrested in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, for failing to show up to a show. Asake held a stack of money to his face after his fans in Birmingham waited outside for hours and were caught in a stampede. Wizkid was scheduled to perform at Accra Sports Stadium in December 2022 but just never came out. Burna Boy’s New Year’s Day show in Lagos also popularly made the rounds for all the wrong reasons.
This is a microcosm of the lack of accountability that exists almost as a characteristic of Nigerianness. In a society where the law is not paramount, people take liberties for themselves. Ironically, these artists would speak out against the government in performative protests but act in ways so akin to these politicians, you would think they were the same person. For all the talent we possess, we’re not half as human enough, and that explains why an artist can leave their fans waiting for several hours without music, out in the cold, or just not show up at all.
It also does not help that the infrastructure in the country is not full-fledged to cater to a multitude of people. This brings about the disconnect between artists, promoters, and fans — the increased living costs in Nigeria lead to hiked venue prices, and in return, ridiculous ticket prices. Venues are also not conducive to large crowds and sometimes fill out over-capacity (we can recall the stampede at Nativeland in 2019). These factors, coupled with greed and intentional nonchalance in some cases, affect the concert-going experience in the country. It is unfortunate that our artists show their skills off best on shores that aren’t ours, thereby creating a divide that does not need to exist. You begin to wonder how long it’ll take before we are priced out of concerts, or they just do not happen altogether.
Despite the severity of the situation, there is a flip side. This past December, the newer artists and some experienced event curators have been able to put together concerts that cater to all involved properly. For instance, Victony’s Outlawville concert turned out brilliant, especially after the year he had in 2022. The venue, although small, was filled out and catered to the concert experience. Victony invited all his friends, from Bella Shmurda to Odumodublvck to Blaqbonez, and put on a great show himself as he sang in rehearsed synergy with his live band. There was a real connection between Victony and his fans at La Madison Place, Oniru that night and it turned out to be a wholesome experience.
Livespot hosted the Mavins All Stars concert as part of their annual run of shows. The concert fell on Day 1 of the festival, so the staff in place took some time to figure out what worked in terms of organizing the audience. Once they figured it out, it was a breeze. The performances did not start promptly but the waiting time was reasonable. All the Mavin artists put their best foot forward at the show, with standout performances coming from Ayra Starr, Johnny Drille and most significantly Rema, whose performance left the audience spellbound by his every word. The energy was great, and it was a worthy celebration of one of our musical powerhouses.
These case studies are proof that it is possible for the situation to improve, but this effort has to come across the board — from the government down to the artist. At this rate, it seems like concerts are priced to only attract those in the diaspora who come home for the holidays with foreign currency in order for promoters to make their money back. Government intervention could solve some problems with funding and in turn, improve the ticketing situation. The problem of venue sizes and infrastructure can be fixed by making stadiums conducive to hosting concerts. Considering the fact that these concerts, according to an expose by the British Council, account for almost 15% of the festivals in Nigeria, it could be a great way to generate revenue for the state.
Solutions are nothing if the relevant people do not display enough humanity to fix the situation. There has to be better communication with the audience in situations where there is a break in transmission. It is possible for shows to end earlier, so we need promoters to be honest about the concert time and for artists to stick to it. These concerts are the best opportunity for artists to connect with their fans, and we should not waste it by neglecting the responsibility of creating a hospitable environment for the celebration of talent.
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