Ignorance is arguably the single biggest pandemic affecting the showbiz industry. Lawyers, media practitioners, publicists, branding and marketing professionals have all decried the state of affairs in the industry.
Unlike other sectors that require training for all practitioners, showbiz is talent-based and most people enter into it with no clue about how things work -- and often remain the same. The absence of adequate recording or management companies to educate the industry on the best way forward has not helped the situation.
In a post on his official social media, Coke Studio Africa lead Andrew Alovi said: “The thing that is killing our music industry is arrogance and a lot of laziness. We have very arrogant and painfully lazy DJs and Radio music managers/presenters on one hand, and equally lazy yet heartbreakingly arrogant artist(e)s and producers.”
His sentiments have been echoed by various professionals who work in entertainment sector, many feel that their advice often falls on deaf ears. It is their experience that professionalism is foreign in the local industry and many prefer to operate in a haphazard manner, blatantly ignoring international best practice.
“It’s so normal for an artiste to cancel a TV appearance just 5 minutes to the show,” an NTV producer who did not wish to be mentioned told Buzz.
“This problem is more prevalent with established artistes. We understand that they have a demand on their time and sometimes things come up. However, it is just professional courtesy to either keep your appointment or simply alert someone in good time if you can’t make it. Unfortunately, many keep quiet until the last minute.”
Like all other sectors of the economy the entertainment industry needs to attract and maintain an ecosystem of skilled professionals. The results of this arrogance has been devastating to the industry to say the least. Many skilled lawyers, managers, branding, marketing and other professionals have shied away from the sector because of negative past experiences. In their absence the showbiz industry continues to struggle to attract the investment and organisational structure that would make it a major force in the economy.
“I am very passionate about giving people who have not made it a platform, but sometimes it’s hard because they often don’t have photos and even for those who do it takes forever to get them,” Entertainment and lifestyle editor Rose Kwamboka said.
“Others, if you give them an inch they take a mile; you will do a story on one artiste and the next week they will expect you to do the same for all their friends. People are always very humble when they are up and coming, but when they get a hit song or two the fame gets to their head.
She also admits that a lot of artistes stop pushing the envelope once they secure a few hit songs. In her view, media relations is very poor and the only ones who get it right are those who have managers or publicists. As a result, their brands are poorly managed, consequently making them unattractive for corporate endorsements. Also, without enough drumming up of their brands, they fall off the radar of live show promoters who want popular acts to grace their stages in order to sell tickets.
“You can’t treat the media as a stepping stone and still expect them to support your every move. Relationships are important in every business, they are the backbone of success in any venture,” she added.
Comedian and Nacada Director Chipukeezy, aka Vincent Muasya, admits that he doesn’t have a problem booking interviews for the Chipukeezy Show because it focuses on emerging acts. However, while working at Kiss FM as a radio presenter, he concedes that the problem was prevalent. According to him, established artistes often feel that they are doing a station a favour by appearing on the platform and as such don’t give media appearances the weight they deserve.
“Any marketing professional will tell you to seize every opportunity you get to market yourself. When Diamond Platnumz releases a song, he takes every opportunity to push it and tours small and big radio stations in equal measure. Artistes need to realise that the people they are competing with are very hardworking and they don’t relent,” he said.
“These days competition is global, when you release a song in Kenya you are not competing against Naiboi or Nyashinski [only], you are [also] competing against Beyoncé and Chris Brown. It’s important for us to continue pushing for local air play, but we must also be ready to compete on an international level.”
Though local in their operation, Kenyan artistes are by default operating on a global stage. Globalisation has made the world a small village where a local artiste competes for the same audience as international superstars. Unlike their Kenyan contemporaries, international and regional acts have scores of professionals that they not only work with closely, but whom they respect and whose advice they follow. These include managers, publicists, lawyers, even sound engineers, all of whom contribute to their overall success. In contrast, most local acts either work alone or in total disregard of their teams and internationally accepted standard operational procedures.
“Kenyan artistes need to see beyond the boundaries and operate at the same level as international acts,” entertainment publicist Anyiko Owoko said. “Our content is actually good, but we need to move beyond activism and position ourselves for the international market. We also need to network a little better and know who does what; I still have people contacting me to appear on Grape Vine, and I left the show in 2016."
Many wonder why international acts get paid a lot yet their live shows may not necessarily be better than Kenyan acts. It all comes down to how one is visible in the media; branding. With so many well-placed individuals attesting to the existence of blatant, almost reckless arrogance in the Kenyan showbiz industry, perhaps this is the cancer curtailing its growth.