Following a recent chat with Belguin Prosper L – the CEO Young & Free International Limited, we came up with some guidelines that artistes can follow to match the changes in the entertainment world amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Declining record sales and increased live streaming have forced musicians to rely on online live gigs to survive in several parts of the world as the global covid19 pandemic has forced several music events to cancel.
In Uganda, musicians and those working in the Arts industry are particularly vulnerable as they find themselves scrambling to find a way to generate income and stay afloat after the rug has been pulled from under them.
The fact is, there is a possibility that the last places the Government of the Republic of Uganda will open, will be bars and entertainment related public gatherings until the threat posed by COVID-19 is neutralized. This is going to put our musicians in a very vulnerable position. In the same spirit, this is the period going to put so many musician’s managements to test.
Many times, Ugandan musicians have been accustomed to doing business the usual way with no thought of playing the game bigger than the usual. Many have grown up focusing on performance gigs here and there as the sole way of survival musically.
Times have now changed, generations have changed and now, Coronavirus has changed the environment of performance. Musicians are bound to face the task of not just producing good music full of “vibe”, since now, the game has gone a notch higher – the musicians have to master the art of connecting with social media crowds.
It is now about the art of public relations in a world where gigs, show brokers and organizers no longer exist. The only thing standing between the musician and his fan’s wallet now is a smartphone.
COVID19 has changed and should change the business perspective of any musician and their management out there. This is a time when musician managers will have to find ways to ensure that their musicians resume and continue earning despite physical scarcity. This is why management is now crucial. By management I mean real management – brains not muscles.
The change in how entertainment is going to be held in Uganda has introduced major challenges that musicians and their managers are about to face if they are not already facing them.
The milestones ahead for musicians and their managements are many for as long as this pandemic exists. We highlight the top 5 below:
- Social Media Knowledge – the actual knowledge
This is the time for musicians who are not well-versed with social media to begin learning it afresh. Not learning how to make posts or share them, but how to use social media to earn a living. This is the time when musicians need to go back to the drawing board and advise their peers on how to use social media to actually earn. Platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Bandcamp and a lot more others actually pay musicians.
As of today, Facebook is soon launching and updating its platform, adding the ability for users to pay for the live sessions. Platforms like Twitter among others are brilliant when it comes to promoting your brand as a musician. In this COVID-19 crisis, it’s important for Ugandan musicians to know which platform is best for what and how to use it to actually turn the usage into daily sales. It would be a great act of kindness if Ugandan musicians or managers who are well acquainted with social media usage (not just posting ability), utilize this period to actually help their peers who use social media amateurishly to learn how to use it like pros.
Learning to use social media for sales is much more important than using it for propaganda especially in a world where gigs are far from coming back. This applies to all the close associates in the comedy industry as well.
- Top notch creativity
Let us take an example; Facebook is going to start letting pages and groups to charge viewers for live sessions so that people being viewed are able to earn a living. Yes, dear musicians, this is a good step for you but do not be misled. Fans will only pay for a live view if it is worth it! This clearly means that it’s no longer going to be the usual planning where you wake up, plan for fuel and the route you are going to use and where you are going to perform. That has been the norm and people have been paying not because they want to listen to your songs, but to see you physically and possibly take selfies. Now, the Coronavirus has taken all that away.
People will be paying for real substance, not the usual jumping up and down (I mean no offense). This means your managements are going to be challenged to learn how to plan for interactive and addictive live sessions. This is where the real competitiveness is going to be based because the competition will no longer be about music, but its presentation – an art where the musician actually performs and keeps the viewers wanting more regardless of the costs attached.
Not with vocals, but strategic planning of how to interact and understand your viewer audience, keep them glued to your live session channels and also make them influence others to join the watch and pay. By the way, it is important to keep in mind that in Uganda, UGX1000 gives you only 100MBs.
Imagine the expectations and courage it will take a boda-boda rider to pay for a live session, or what it will take for a “Rajiv” to leave his business and turn his attention to the live session. It is going to take utmost creativity from your managements to plan on how your live sessions will be running and actually make them the talk of the day without paying any media entity to actually create the buzz on your behalf. Be sure of this, if people pay for your live sessions and they turn out to be boring, it will affect your live performance gigs when lockdown on stage performances is lifted. Embark on this knowing you have a very creative strategic plan of live performances. And by the way, choose your internet service provider wisely too.
- Knowledge on money systems
This is the time for musicians and their managements to understand the most obvious electronic money terms like “payment gateways”, “master card”, “visa processing”, “ccv code”, among other options. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT expect money transfers to be made in ways you choose. Facebook could for example choose not to understand our usual “MTN mobile money” or “Airtel money” terms, unless the companies choose to request Facebook to make it simpler for us as Ugandans.
Short of that, is when managers and musicians need to learn that they have a challenge of learning new payment systems which their viewers will use to pay. They will also face the challenge of having to teach their fans how to pay. Technically, if this is poorly handled, some musicians are likely to have a maximum of one and a half viewers on their live streams. This is where one of the biggest milestones is.
- Brand building vs Music building
Starting a business is one thing, but sustaining it is another. In Uganda, most musicians do not understand what it means to build a brand. Most believe that by virtue of the fact that they are shown on TV and their music being played, they are already brands. No!
A brand is built through the quality of the music and unique personality of the musician. Music is built through quantity – albums. With online live sessions, however, Ugandans who manage to pay will focus on who they are paying for – that is quality. They will pay for the person, not just their music, because there is nothing they have not heard or even not downloaded from the internet.
This is where managers have to focus on making sure that, out of performers, they build brands, not just musicians. This is very important because with the new trend of performances, people will be subjected to paying for brands and not the music. With that said, learning the art of building a viral brand out of a musician is a talk for another day.
- Choosing costs wisely
Managers and musicians will have the challenge of choosing the most reasonable viewership fees for viewers. This time, there is no paying for a public venue as usual or extensive TV adverts, unless definitely that musician is strategically deep in their pockets to advertise their social media live sessions (it would be cool though).
This time, viewers expect something they can afford as they gain trust and confidence in the habit of swiping their credit cards electronically (am sure this kind of thing will be new to many). So, managers and musicians will have to really find ways to solve this challenge.
All in all, it goes without saying that these are trying times for all of us, particularly those of us in the creatives industry who have lost their jobs or are in danger of doing so because of the Coronavirus pandemic. Whereas the situation is inevitable until a global solution is invented, we encourage your managements to find ways to monetize social media because it is the only practical thing still connecting the public to entertainers.
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Story compiled with help from Belguin Prosper Lumu – a market intelligence analyst and also an expert in Public Relations crisis strategy planning. He is the CEO and founder of Young & Free International Limited, a youth supporting, market intelligence and lobbying company.