Nigerian artistes now surviving on digital shows after losing gig money to Coronavirus

Digital concert is the new source of revenue for many Nigerian artistes, no thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. The artistes, whose earnings have declined significantly since the virus outbreak in March, are now seriously exploring the capabilities of YouTube and Instagram as a means of earning gig fees during the lockdown.

A series of gig cancellations: In late Q1, the music industry was not spared by the COVID-19 onslaught, as many Nigerian artistes were forced to cancel their local and international shows. An A-list artiste like 2face Idibia had to postpone his Cameroon concert. Davido also postponed his “A Good Time” tour in North America, even as Asa postponed her London and Lagos concerts.

There were other artistes like WizKid, Burnaboy, Seun Kuti and many gospel singers who lost their March and Easter bookings.

Elsewhere, international events like Coachella and Glastonbury shows where Nigerian performers like Seun Kuti and Burna Boy were billed to earn performance fees were also cancelled.

Loss of revenue: Tickets to these concerts in Nigeria usually start at a fee of N2000 to as high as N1 million, depending on the kind of seat/ticket bought. It could be a Diamond table, VVIP, VIP, or regular table. Meanwhile, Nigerian A-list entertainers charge at least five figures in dollars for international shows.

Negative impacts expected: The cancellation of these shows will have an impact on their projected earnings in H1 2020. Davido, in one of his Twitter Q&As after cancelling his tour, told a fan who requested for money that there is “no money for now … no show in sight abeg … we all Dey here together.”

Another popular singer, Seyi Shay, also tweeted about the impact of the lockdown, saying:

“I don’t even wanna talk about how much money I’ve lost cos of this global lockdown! Shows, endorsements, deals!!!! I pray The Almighty restores EVERYTHING that my fellow artistes and YOU have lost ! #weshallovercome.

“Noone wants to talk about it, but me i go talk am ooo! This is real inside life. This sucks!! Plenty work and gigs locally and internationally CANCELLED! God when  #weshallovercome  ko ni da fun coronavirus (it will not be good for Coronavirus)!”

Artistes depend on digital shows to survive: By the time a cure for Coronavirus is discovered, the way we live would have been impacted dramatically. In the meantime, changes are already being experienced in the music industry.

2face Idibia, Asa and many Nigerian musicians have begun to go with the tide, initiating work-from-home events as well. While private sectors are using video conferencing apps like Skype and Zoom to communicate with their workers, these artistes are using YouTube and Instagram to organise shows.  In march, the likes of Seyi Shay, Reekado Banks, Timi Dakolo, Simi and many other artistes took part in a YouTube Live show.

While most Nigerian artistes have been doing digital shows from their homes, 2face Idibia switched it up a notch on April 12, 2020, by performing on a concert-designed stage on Instagram Live. For this reason, it was called the first E-concert. The show was organised by Trophy Extra Stout. Similarly, Asa and Davido held a show organised by music streaming platform, UduX Livestream, on April 13, 2020.

While the gig fees for these digital shows are not disclosed, these artistes usually charge between six figures to N1 million and above for performance pre-COVID-19 in Nigeria. And with private organisations sponsoring this digital shows, they are still expected to earn six figures and above.

The use of YouTube and Instagram Live to organise shows have shown just how vital tech has been within the COVID-19 era and the lockdown period. Even Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has been giving its Facebook Live much exposure recently, reminding the public that its platform can be used to organise shows as well.

So while these entertainers cannot earn as much as they projected from local and international shows, tech giants like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook have built platforms that ensure they don’t lose out completely. This therefore proves that as technology advances, so will the capabilities of humans.

The problem with Digital gigs: While these online shows are the perfect replacement for cancelled gigs in the meantime, it might be hard to sustain in the long run as data price is still on the high side in Nigeria. That’s why a musician like 2face Idibia, who has over 5 million followers on Instagram, could only attract a paltry 2000 viewers during his Instagram Live concert.

Although the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, had urged network providers to offer their subscribers free data, MTN Nigeria and Airtel have ignored him. The network providers have chosen to offer their subscribers free SMS instead.

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