I just spent what feels like 10 minutes – although it was probably shorter than that – scrolling through Facebook.
I found out that Masta Ace has a Tiny Desk Concert out. Good job, NPR! I mean, just two days ago, my Dude and I were in a convenience store and saw the American soft drink and I yelled: “somebody gon’ slice him and send him to Dr Peppa!”
But that’s not what I was looking for.
What I couldn’t find was this post – I forgot who uploaded it – where someone was complaining that South African artists don’t deserve what they charge to perform. This person was saying these artists charge according to the lifestyle they want to live. I can’t remember the rest but I assume he meant that they charge what they want and not what they deserve.
It made me think: that’s a ludicrous thing to say.
Here’s the thing: most (not all, relax) of the big names became big names because of their performance skills. Remember how people came after Babes and her lacklustre performances at some stage? A big song on the radio doesn’t guarantee a banging performance. Just as minimal radio airplay doesn’t mean a performance will be bad.
With that said, why shouldn’t they charge according to what they want? In a business (key word), no one aims to pay more than what the other party is willing to be paid. People will shortchange you – and often – whenever they can. So, yes, negotiate according to the lifestyle you want and beyond.
I look at it like this: firstly, what Big Artist A negotiates now, sets the bar for those who are coming up after him. They set the market value. Then you can stop complaining that our artists die as paupers if they are financially savvy.
Secondly, performing live is skilled labour. It’s not a favour. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying applaud a bad performer or one who is a serial bore. I’m saying: if they showed up and were entertaining, you can’t be mad that they are charging you what they want. Even if they were good but not electrifying. Maybe their kid is sick or they’re playing at the acoustically challenged The Dome or they’re in the throes of depression that day. Imagine if your boss came to your desk and said: I know you’re skilled at this but because you’re doing what I expect, I will be paying you less this month. Life would be Rand Show’s Looping Star. If you don’t know what that is, you might be too young to be reading this.
Lastly: POPular music often has a shelf life. Which means that the performer is probably not going to be vosho-ing into their geriatric years like the Makebas and Masekelas and Mbulus of the world have done. Why not give them a chance to create generational wealth through the avenues music affords them if they are entertaining you?
I know what you’re thinking: but I paid my R350 or whatever to be dazzled!
To be fair to the original Facebook poster, someone commented and said they saw Cassper Nyovest perform twice and he was boring – especially for the R200k that this commenter said he charged promoters. Someone else said they saw him at the Vivo Nation gig and he even asked the crowd if they were sleepy. That commenter said something like: nah, just confused.
Again: I can’t find this post and don’t remember the name of the person who uploaded it so I’m paraphrasing – before you get all hot and bothered.
But those comments are valid because that is their experience. I have seen Cassper several times and enjoyed him – even though I think his Fill Up series can be self-indulgent (but what do I expect? It IS his show, after all) – so some people enjoy him and some don’t. This is not some hateration in his dancery.
This goes for all artists and to all promoters: By all means, if an artist mounts the stage and doesn’t entertain at all, then yes, review his fee. But don’t be mad that entertaining artists are designing their lives in ways you can’t fathom.
Am I bugging? Or am I missing something? Leave a comment with your respectful view, I’m not too cool to admit when I’m wrong.