Musicians, promoters clash over international acts


The creative industry welcomed the return of live events after 18 months with a thunderous applause as evidenced by a variety of concerts held over the past Independence holidays. But inside this ovation is an unresolved old feud between musicians and music promoters over the use of international artists as headliners.

After a long time without gigs, musicians were expecting promoters to book them for festivals right away but the latter have started advertising their shows with South African musicians as headliners. In the past, local musicians complained that international artists get paid hefty amounts while they get peanuts for music performances.

Recently, there was a heated debate after popular promoter Gilbert ‘PP wa Pimp’ Seagile announced SA musician, Makhadzi as the first and headline artist on the line up for the music show dubbed, ‘The People’s Festival’ slated for October 22.

Seagile has since defended his decision to invite the popular Makhadzi to his festival.

From the local scene, she will perform alongside La Timmy, Team Distant, Eskimos, Dj Bunn, Alpha, Black Prince. The up and coming entertainer and MC Hey Nyena will also grace the event.

The music festival was among the first events to be announced immediately after the government lifted the ban on music festivals, which coincided with the end of the State of Emergency (SoE) on September 30, 2021.

While the fight between promoters and local artists over the booking of foreign artists has been in existence for some time, Seagile’s event has sparked a fresh tension as local creatives look to revive an industry which has been dormant for over 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some local artists have questioned Seagile’s patriotism saying he is applying double standards. They said it does not make sense for promoters to rush to invite South Africans without giving locals a chance.

They argue that Seagile, as one of those who were at the forefront claiming to advocate the revival of the industry, should prioritise local artists before thinking about their international counterparts as this would also go a long way in protecting the local industry. According to them, international artists are always paid a lot of money while they are left to fight for the remaining peanuts.

However, Seagile said he is a businessman and as such he has to look out for his business interests. He said promoters depend on popular and big brands artists for the success of their events. He stated that while he cannot be blamed for booking a South African artist to perform at his festival, he has ensured that at least 99% of the line-up is local.

“I advocate the welfare of promoters while for the artists it is BOMU. But local artists, making up 99%, dominate the line-up even though I have booked Makhadzi. I have local artists, especially the upcoming ones.

It is the first event of its kind whereby we only have one international artist. We should instead be applauded for this,” said Seagile.

It is not just Seagile but other promoters who have defended their decision to bring international artists at the exclusion of local ones. Promoters argue that local musicians have not been releasing new music and new hits during the pandemic therefore cannot pull crowds to music concerts. “Listen to what people listen to in their cars and households and what DJs play on radio, it is mostly international music therefore we go with the demand not gore o ngwana wa ga mme or tsala yame, this is business,” one local promoter said.

The promoter said when they do a show they look at various costs like sound and venue, therefore they cannot afford to bring artists who are not crowd pullers. “We need to cover these costs therefore we can’t afford to flop. This is business”.

Another promoter said artists do not know what it feels like to host a show, flop and make a loss. Some promoters have since suggested that artists who complain about booking of SA artists should organise their own shows. They said they cannot invest their money into artists who are not headliners.

On the other hand, artists feel that they have worked hard to release music during the pandemic therefore deserve to headline these shows without international musicians. Artists are of the view that no one including the government can respect them when their own promoters doubt their work. Artists feel that promoters have betrayed them because they have been fighting for the same cause since the industry was shut last year. “We knew this was going to happen.

They are finally showing their true colours”. Some artists have revealed that they do not have the financial muscle to pull off a show on their own, no wonder they need promoters to book them for shows.

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