Misconceptions In Our Music Industry (Episode 1)

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Misconceptions In Our Music Industry (Episode 1)

There’s a show I loved watching called ‘Myth Busters’ on Discovery Channel. For those of you who haven’t watched the show it’s a reality about a team of scientists and people like that who take random things believed to be true, urban legends, etc. and perform experiments to find out whether they are indeed factually true or not. Think of it like the white version of Matiang’i (a few of them). Kenya has thousands of A’s but some people claim that there was a lot of leakage. So you really don’t know what the truth is. Mr. Matiang’i comes with a test tube & Bunsen burner. It burns with only 141 pop sounds and leaves the mother of all residues behind. So in the spirit of Matiang’i mythbustering today I will debunk some myths in our music industry.

1) Business is an activity that is carried out to make a profit, sindio? my friend decides to have a concert and he plans 3 months in advance for it. Entrance is 300bob. 500 people show up and he makes 150,000 Ksh from ticket sales. The set up was lovely and the music was great and the show really ‘happened’. Best show of the year everyone says. However, these were the costs. Venue 50k, Sound system & equipment 80k, stage & lighting 70k, promotion material (posters, fliers, etc.) 30k. Total = 230, 000ksh. So after 3 months of preparation & practice this friend ultimately made a loss of 80k. On the other hand you have Mr. Don on the sax. In the boredom of one Saturday afternoon he heads outside to look for adventures. He finds some fellas enjoying drinks at the local in the hood and for the fun of it decides to entertain them. Plays one song for 3 minutes. Guys get excited and give him tips of 50ksh & 100 Ksh. he goes back home and finds that the tips amounted to 2,000 Ksh. These were the costs. Venue 0k, Sound system & equipment 0k, stage & lighting 0k, promotion material (posters, fliers, etc.) 0k. Total = 0ksh. So after no preparation & a 3-minute performance Don made 2,000ksh clean profit.

So let’s just use our Matiang’i approved heads for a minute. Someone made a loss of 80k after working for a 3 months and Don made 2,000 bob clean profit in 3 minutes. If business is about profit which of these more ideally qualifies as business? But you see the fellow will he hailed for putting up great shows and Don will be ridiculed for performing in dingy places. And the other fellow will be invited to speak as a mentor in workshops about music business. Just teaching young musicians how to engage in unsustainable business models and when Don differs in opinion people look at him as if he’s a mad man. But numbers are numbers. Swag doesn’t pay for anything. Don’t go broke trying to look rich. By all means put up a great show but don’t get in the habit of giving people what they are not willing to pay for. Make sure you communicate that respectfully without getting cocky about it. Breaking even is not enough; you need to make a profit. Don’t believe the hype. You don’t pay bills by people knowing your name and talking about you. You pay bills with money.

And please fellow jazz musicians, Safcom Jazz Fest is great and all but it’s not business for them, this can’t be your ideal model of business. If a ticket goes for 1.000ksh and 5,000 people turn up then that is only 5 million. Yet they get the venue, pay for top end security, have Mosound provide international standard stage lighting & sound system, run ads, plus get Jonathan Butler, jimmy Dludlu, Soweto Kinch among the 8 international acts and their bands, plus accommodate them all in Villa Rosa Kempinsky for a week or two. All this for 5 million? And they still make a profit? It’s great but not business.

Myth debunked!

And that was Episode 1 of 1. Join me next time in episode 2 as I debunk more myths.

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