Burna Boy, a popular Afrobeats artist from Nigeria, is set to embark on a series of 18 concerts and tours from November 17, 2023 to March 11, 2024. The concerts will be held in various cities across the United States, Germany, Belgium, Canada, and the Bahamas. None of those concerts will be held in Nigeria or any city in Africa. Many of the fans who sang, danced, and cheered the artist to global fame would struggle to pay the dollar fees his management now demands from every category of clients.
The last time Burna Boy sang in Nigeria was in January this year – many found the event memorable because he arrived seven hours late and kicked a fan off the stage for trying to hug him.
Burna Boy is not the only artist that has become too expensive for many fans. Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun, known popularly as Wizkid, who is currently on a self-imposed four- to five-year sabbatical from music after losing his mother, was due for 11 concerts and tours from November 14 to February 27, according to Songkick, which tracks concerts of notable artists. Although the concerts have now been cancelled, they were going to be held in cities across the US, Canada, Germany, Belgium, Finland, and Norway. Like Burna Boy, Wizkid’s concerts would not have been held in Nigeria or any other African country.
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The last time Wizkid performed in Nigeria was December 24, 2022 at the FlyTime concert where he announced that he would be performing his last Lagos concert. He later said he meant that the concert was the last time his fans would need to pay to attend his concerts in Nigeria. This drew hearty cheers from the fans.
Asake, Rema, and Kizz Daniel are other notable Afrobeats superstars whose fees have made them almost inaccessible to most Nigerians and Africa-focused show promoters in the country. The recent announcement by Afro Nation that it was cancelling the Detty December concert in Lagos gave an indication of the pressures that show promoters are facing in Africa’s most populous economy. Not only are the weakening currency and price hikes making it difficult to organise shows, but artists are also demanding appearance fees in dollars.
“This Afrobeats we all built together, ‘na Una go use una hand spoil am’. You now charge your people in dollars. Forget to unlock the togetherness the genre gives you and your people. Quite strange and bizarre,” said Oladotun Ojuolape Kayode, a Nigerian on-air personality.
The booking fees for these artists are within the six to seven-figure ranges. According to FastPass Tickets, a ticketing and event management company, Burna Boy and Wizkid command the highest fees at $1 million each; Davido demands $600,000; Olamide takes $500,000; Rema and Kizz Daniel, $200,000; and Asake, Tiwa and Savage, $100,000 each.
James Ndubuisi, talent manager at SoundHive, said for the fans, high artists fees mean exclusivity. In other words, only the upper class can afford tickets which creates a divide that hampers the growth of the industry. High prices also affect almost everyone as Nigerians are currently going through unprecedented hardships, he said.
Other challenges he highlighted include the impact on attendance and loss of inclusivity on the low-income earners. Also, when local fans are priced out of attending concerts, it affects the local artists because it means fewer events and fewer opportunities they get.
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In August 2022, fans of Kizz Danial in Tanzania demanded a refund of their money after the artist refused to show up despite being paid $60,000. In a viral video, some Tanzanians, among those who paid as much as $5,000 for tables, were seen throwing objects on the empty stage after they spent hours waiting for the singer. The promoter said over $300,000 was spent.
Sam Onyemelukwe, senior vice president, global business development at Trace, said it has always been very difficult to make money on concerts. “And now with dollar payments for A-list artists combined with the exchange rate, costs are prohibitive for concerts with A-list artists.”
The demand for dollars is a function of the music labels that the artists are signed on. A few of Afrobeats superstars are signed to some of the biggest music brands in the world including Sony, UMG, and Virgin. According to experts, once the artists are signed on to these labels, their fees are mostly determined by the labels.
However, the foreign labels do not control the home country market for the artists. This means the artists can exert their influence to ensure their local fans still have access to their concerts.
“I believe that many A-list African artists need to review their fees when performing in their home country or within Africa. It never makes business sense for the promoter. Tier your fees. Don’t slap a blanket fee across the board,” said Bernard Kafui Sokpe, CEO of Brandmeister, an operating software for Master servers participating in a worldwide network of amateur radio digital voice systems.
However, the value of the naira against the dollar, for example, is not exactly attractive for these artists. Also, insecurity in most of the states across the country has eaten deep into the revenue of the music industry.
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“While streaming is growing we have actually lost some funds. We lost the money that used to come from Star Mega Jam, MTN Campus tour, Glo and Guinness music tours. All of those people stopped sponsoring tours because of all these kidnapping and killings; they have stopped all those shows,” said Don Jazzy, CEO of Mavin Record. “In the last one I can count how many times somebody like Rema has performed in this country or Davido, Wizkid or Burna. Those ones nobody can even pay because of the amount of money that they get performing outside Nigeria in dollars. I remember myself and DBanj back in the days, we used to do a lot of touring locally going from state to state. If our security is good now, and venues are there, we will be filling up the stadiums.”
Rema, whose only appearance at a concert in Nigeria this year was in May, promoted his November 14 concert at 02 Arena London on billboards in Lagos, Nigeria. Camilio Doregos, a talent manager, said the high fees artists are demanding is also partly due to rising cost of marketing.
“Afrobeats artists are now commanding higher performance fees, a trend partly driven by the rising costs of marketing. Breaking a record has become an expensive endeavour. Social media posts,once a free promotional tool, now often come with an invoice,” Doregos said.
There is a bigger concern that these artists could be sabotaging their careers, considering the reported decline in ticket sales across Europe, the United Kingdom and Canada which has led to postponement and cancellation of major concerts. In January, a report by Music Venue Trust, a UK non-profit organisation, found that the total value of the GMV (grassroots music venues) sector was 500.3 million pounds in 2022. However, the 177,000 events staged by those venues attracted nearly 22 million people which was a decline of 16.7 percent recorded in 2019 – the last full year before the COVID-19. The average number of weekly events per venue dropped from 4.2 in 2019 to 3.5 in 2022 – with just under two of those ticketed live music shows.
Nevertheless, the appetite for big music concerts hosting the biggest names in the world of music is not affected, according to data from Barclaycard. The report showed that there was a surge in demand for gigs bolstered by pre-sales for Taylor Swift’s Era Tour concerts, as reported by the Guardian UK.
“We’re seeing a greater volume this year than ever before in terms of resale, which is interesting because I wasn’t quite sure what this year had in store due to the cost of living crisis,” Richard Davies, founder of the fan-to-fan ticket exchange Twickets, told the Guardian of UK.
Nigerian Afrobeats superstars are also riding on this wave of the growing appetite of fans looking to connect with their favourite international artists. Rema reportedly sold out his concert days before it was to be held. But while the afrobeats stars soar abroad, there is a concern afrobeats is losing its grip on the continent that forged it.
“There are concerns that the prominence of international acts might overshadow local artists, potentially leading to a decline in their popularity within the domestic music scene. Balancing the pursuit of international success with continued support for local artists is crucial for maintaining the vibrancy and diversity of the Nigerian music industry. It requires a thoughtful approach from industry stakeholders, ensuring that both local and international acts can coexist and thrive,” said Ndubuisi.
However, Onyemelukwe does not think the popularity of the local artists will be affected. According to him, fans will simply grow weary of waiting for the A–list artists and simply switch to artists that are available.
“Remember, in every country around the world, there are local superstars. So if some artists ‘abandon’ their core audience and that audience feels they’ve been left, there are plenty of other artists who are even more in touch for them to ‘famz’,” said Onyemelukwe.