Recession: Nigerian entertainers go in search of shows in Francophone countries, others

2016-09-10
THE PUNCH Newspaper- Jesusegun Alagbe and Eric Dumo

Before now, the music industry in Nigeria used to be one of the most lucrative sectors. On daily and weekly basis, new artistes and even groups popped up in almost every nook and cranny trying to find fame and above all – fortune. From sold-out musical concerts to widely-attended comedy shows, wedding ceremonies to other social gatherings equally attracting large crowds, boom and mega bucks followed each performance for many in the industry.

But in recent months, everything appears to have suddenly changed. These days, like the millions of individuals and households hit hard by the stings of economic hardship across most parts of the country, musicians – established and emerging – have also been badly affected by the situation. Apart from seeing demand for their services fall drastically, the fees being offered for the very few occasions when requests eventually come, are now a distant contrast to what it used to be.

Also, as a result of the development, many Nigerian musicians and entertainers in general have been forced to go in search of shows in neighbouring West African countries like Benin Republic, Togo and Ivory Coast. Those who have the link, now look to Europe and the United States of America to survive.

According to star singer and one of Nigeria’s leading female talking-drummers, Ara, the situation is already threatening a lot of artistes in the industry especially those who have musical bands and are used to realising their income through live performances.

“The demand rate has dropped and performing fees also,” she said. “In fact, in order not to lose some of our existing and prospective clients, we have had to reduce our fees these days. Also, as a way of saving cost, instead of calling you to come perform, clients now prefer to ask you to make a special appearance at their events just to add colour and spice to such occasions. Such appearance is not free; it is usually paid for even though the amount charged is not always up to the performance fee,” she said.

Speaking further, the talented musician told Saturday PUNCH that she had been surviving the tough times through the grace of God and a small but thriving side business she operates – an investment without which she reckons things could have been a lot tougher.

“If not for the small business that I run alongside my music, things could have been very bad because music is no longer paying the way it used to,” she said. “However, I believe this hardship would soon pass. As long as other countries like the United States survived recession, we shall scale over it as well. But at the moment, it has not been easy I must confess,” she said.

Afropop singer, Jaywon, also lamented the present state the economic crisis has left him and many colleagues in the industry.

The Kogi State-born musician, who used to be a regular at many social events in the past, told Saturday PUNCH that the heat is getting at him, too, as shows no longer come the way they used to.

“The economy is very bad and it has been affecting us,” he said. “Anything that happens to an average Nigerian is also being felt by us and that is why you see many musicians travelling out of the country to perform in other places these days. There is no money in the country for now, so everyone is feeling the heat,” he added.

Renowned gospel artiste, Tope Alabi, describes the situation as worrisome even though she believes everything shall soon come back to normal.

She told Saturday PUNCH that performance fees are not what they used to be a few months ago as clients now ask for outrageous discounts on what they usually charged.

“Everyone is affected by the poor economy, there is no denial of this fact, but then I still believe in God, things will be better and tomorrow will be fine.

“These days, people beg us to be considerate in charging them and even ask for reduction in performance fees by a significant amount. Because we are considerate and don’t want to lose such opportunities, we also have to bring down our fee by some percentage. That is the situation of things now,” she said.

For Esther Igbekele, another household name in the gospel music scene, the experience of recent months has been extremely terrible.

The artiste, who is a regular at most church events and other social ceremonies as well, told Saturday PUNCH that many of her band members have taken to other vocations to make ends meet as a result of the low demand for their services these days.

“Like many Nigerians, those of us in the music industry are also feeling the pain created by this economy. The truth is that the way churches used to appreciate us before has changed. There are many churches that want us to come and perform but are not able to meet up with the financial aspect anymore as a result of dwindling income like offerings and tithes from members. Before, we charged at least N800, 000 to perform at some of these places but today, people only offer you around N150, 000. How do you cope with your band and transportation of musical instruments?

“The present situation is even affecting pastors as well. I usually collect cash to perform at any show, but recently I performed at four church events and collected cheques, simply because the pastors told me they didn’t have cash. When I got to the bank to cash the cheques, they bounced.

“Apart from church events, playing at parties these days is not as lucrative as it used to be. In the past, I could get up to N200, 000 in addition to the performance fee, but now at such gatherings I’ll be lucky to go away with N20, 000. This has affected my band members. If I tell them I have shows these days, hardly will I see them and I cannot blame them. They tell me they are looking for other means to survive,” she said.

A young gospel artiste, John Agoha, who normally charged between N500, 000 and N1m to perform at events, said ever since the economic recession started, party hosts had been requesting for free shows from him.

He said, “It has been bad. Everybody is begging for free shows nowadays. People don’t want to pay. All the big musical and comedy shows you can think of in Nigeria are also requesting for free appearances. The bad economic condition has really affected everyone.

“For instance, I am going to have a big show at Banana Island in Lagos very soon but the money they want to give me is just to fuel my car. Every other person is doing the same thing; they just want to give me money for fuel. It has never been this bad.

“In fact, right now, people are just doing shows around their friends. Before, people built shows around big entertainers like Tuface because shows attached to people like that used to attract big funding. Not anymore,” he said.

Agoha, who said he was at three Francophone countries earlier in the week, added that Nigerian entertainers had started opting for shows outside the country.

He said, “The economic recession is only in Nigeria. Right now, I am going to perform in some countries which I don’t want to mention. Even though they couldn’t pay the full amount to get my band to come and play at their concerts, it is better than the current situation of things in Nigeria.

“If I am not going with my band, I will send the songs I want to play to them and they can rehearse with their bands over there. Once I get there, I will rehearse with them again before I perform.”

Asked whether he had hopes that things would change in the country, the artiste replied, “Hope? Well, we hope for the best very soon.”

Also, an Osogbo, Osun State-based musician, Yemi Tella, revealed that in the past few months, he had been playing at events almost free of charge.

The entertainer, who has his own band, said his clients had started negotiating “far below” what he charges.

He said, “Times are really bad right now. People now negotiate far below what I charge. I charge between N100, 000 and N350, 000 to play, depending on the type of event. But these days, clients are asking me to play for as low as N30, 000. Apart from the fact that people now negotiate ridiculously, the number of performance requests has also dropped.

“We used to have shows almost every weekend even up till five months ago, but this is no longer the case. People are just not going for live bands again. For instance, at a recent wedding I attended, the couple just begged a friend to act as DJ. They danced and that was all. I hope this economy improves very quickly because hunger is not easy to experience.”

As a result of the present situation, many people now hire the services of DJs whose charges are quite minimal to provide different types of music for them at most social ceremonies like weddings, house-warming and naming of babies.

According to a show promoter, Marvellous Ogenyi, the present situation if left unchecked, could lead to the dearth of live performances at many social gatherings.

Though he said talented musicians would still get patronage no matter how bad the economy is, Ogenyi reckons that dozens in the industry were being badly affected by the present situation.

 

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