The 90 Million Minutes of Fame
The weekend in Kenya was full of starry surprises with the spotlight on the Coastal City of Mombasa. To see a Chris Brown concert has been on my list, but unfortunately I missed it. But I have not missed the highs and lows of the drama that went on with the show and the superstar. Well what does this all mean or say about them and us?
Let’s begin with what is a concert? It is a meeting of fans with the star, where the star performs and fans watch, scream and dance. You pay a ticket for their time and sponsors pay for the expenses and publicity and the organizer does the hard work of design, execution and promotion. The artist does their job- perform. Kenya has been an interesting destination for the stars, some fail and many shine. Thankfully there have been more successes than failures but because of the social media and access to photos and videos with your smart phone, the game has changed.
Who is an artist? Whether you like it or not there is an A-list star like Chris Brown and then there is the B-list like Ali Kiba. Price varies, reach varies and demand varies. A star like Chris Brown has a lot at stake because of the immense wealth he has accumulated. Suing Ali Kiba will get you a $1 million but suing Chris Brown will get you $10 million. I am not saying that an artist is not valuable, but if you talk business then the numbers of a B-list artist will surely not surpass what an A-list artist will give you. Thus, the risk maybe high with an A-list and demands, but the returns is also higher.
For an A-list artist to demand a KES 1million per minute, you have to look at his or her volume of fans worldwide and of course quality of work or in this case music. Paying a premium price for their ticket up to the tune of KES 20,000 is small change because what people forget is that you are been given a complete package (forget the food, decoration or drinks). This is entertainment and showbiz buys and sells. A true fan can even buy the entire front row for his favourite artist, but you might argue that true fans can still be those who may not have or want to splash money to just enjoy their favourite artist’s music. Then why be the fan? If someone told you to go back in time and watch a Beatles show or Jagjit Singh or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, you will make that sacrifice. Where you can feel you have been cheated for the price of your ticket is when the sound is patchy, lights are bright and the artist and his music is drowning in the over hyped publicity. That comes down to inexperienced or greedy organizers and promoters. They cut corners and are not giving the fan a fair deal.
But what happens when the artist himself fails you? There are a few scenarios, an A-list artist jets in and out and does their bit, like what Chris Brown did. Remember an A-list artist thinks of longevity for their career and despite scandals, court cases, their work means everything and they will make sure they have the best team to protect them from crap. The only thing standing in their way is their own ego. When that crashes everything else follows, we have seen that with many legends including Miles Davies, Nina Simone and Elvis Presley. The other scenario is when the artist is unprofessional and makes the mess himself, that’s why they only last while the headlines do. This could be because of drunkenness, womanizing or desperation to rise over the other performers and a backlog of a disturbing issue. They are then the one-hit wonders.
Kenya as a concert destination lacks in infrastructure, security and especially a good Public Relations set up. We have marketed our tourism, but we have not marketed our entertainment. We are finally paying attention to what tourism needs in terms of policies and infrastructure, hopefully entertainment will follow. These are crucial support systems that can take the load of an organizer and the fans, to just sit back and watch the show. They can also avoid the lofty demands by artists jetting in. The main objective should be the show, music and entertainment and it is only possible if the quacks in the business are dealt with, policies made clear and fair, long-term employment opportunities are created and a solid showbiz industry is setup where there is no corruption. Then we can deal with artist tantrums or PR dramas. Until then, we will have to bear with the artists doing their show and flying off, because they too can feel the barrier or have been advised to remain distant. Why an artist doesn’t engage with his fans, varies from their own personalities and this should not be taken too seriously. While some pay behind the door money to have “meet and greet” photo sessions remember that these don’t last, only as far as Facebook hype. I’m not saying don’t try and get a photo with your favorite personality but it should not be at the expense of an important matter. However I think people have become vain that meeting stars does not fancy them but their own selfies are more interesting instead.
The highs and lows of stars are that, up in the sky and leave them there. Get on with your own everyday life, there’s much to do there.