As if the Covid-19 pandemic is already not enough to deal with, local musicians have found themselves having to fight for payment from event organisers and music promoters.
Given the industry’s stark inequality and alleged exploitation, some local musicians feel side-lined and not paid timely and fairly, compared to numerous South African musicians who have been called here for performances over the past weeks. Having been in the music industry for over 20 years, renowned musician and Artist of the Decade, Gazza claimed music promoters neither take artists seriously, nor acknowledge their craft and hard work.
“I have just had enough of promoters always trying to negotiate with an artist at unreasonable prices to try and maximise their profits. They use the hard Covid times as an excuse to exploit them while in the meantime, they are paying full amounts plus other expenses for foreign talent,” the Namibian music giant told VIBEZ! on enquiry. Although he acknowledges the high quality of international artists’ music, the decorated artist said the music industry in their countries is remunerating them fairly to enable them to do so.
“I think our music industry has also done remarkably, significantly and evidently well to be where we are at without any aid and under the circumstances. “The change I am fighting for is not for me but for the whole industry and for patriotism as a country, despite our differences in politics, religion and other respective beliefs.
“We have a union that seems to do little to nothing about the development of the music industry. So, I am saying, enough is enough and regulations have to be in place to protect our local talent. If they can try and exploit me, how about a voiceless upcoming musician who depends on the promoter’s offer to make ends meet? Imagine, with their (promoters’) take-it or leave-it attitude.”
Gazza promised to fight for aspiring artists and put the necessary infrastructure in place to regulate the industry for the deserving artists to get what they are entitled to. “I am speaking up for every kid that has a dream of making music one day and I am doing something about it,” he stated.
Although he is not entirely against international stars getting more gigs compared to the locals, he advised music promoters and organisers to “take pride in what is ours and give hope to our own”.
“I have nothing against the foreign artists and I do work with them as well while studying how they do things to bring the knowledge back home, but we need to come at a stage where we compete internationally and up the quality of our products in our respective music industry,” said Gazza.
Award-winning Disc Jockey, Dj Castro said: “Creatives’ prices are non-negotiable because we already do not have investors. How do they expect us to make a living and still invest in our craft?”
Dj Castro pleads for an end to ‘exploitation’ culture for artists, and to ensure they are paid fairly for their work.
Although he never experienced unfair treatment within the industry, Kwaito artist, Bantu, also expressed concern over international artists getting more preference in Namibia, compared to the local artists.
“I am not saying event organisers should not bring in international acts; I just want to understand why they negotiate prices with local artists but pay outsiders full amount, excluding other luxury treatments,” he bemoaned. According to the ‘Kafeedona’ hitmaker, local event organisers use the term ‘Covid price’ as an excuse not to pay artists and take advantage of their work.
Also speaking to VIBEZ!, music promoter January Ivula said underpaying or not paying artists is an unfair and unsustainable culture that causes long-term damage to the local music industry.
“Our artists will never grow if there are no funds. How do we expect, for example, upcoming artists to make hit songs or quality music if they cannot even afford quality beats? How will they make sure their music is up to standard if they do not have enough money to pay professional producers?” Ivula questioned.
Although Ivula condemns low payment of artists, he applauds event organisers for inviting international artists to Namibia.
“This makes it easier for our local artists to collaborate with internationally recognised artists. It is good exposure for our artists,” he added.
Despite many complaints and concerns from artists regarding this issue, Namibian Dancehall prince Don Kamati opposes the worries, saying: “Everything is about business. Event organisers are also just doing what they have to do and what they think is right for their businesses. We are living in difficult economic times and the competition in the music industry is high. If you are against many international artists getting booked in your country, pull up your game and make sure you are also in demand so that event organisers don’t have to negotiate your price.”
In agreement with Don Kamati’s sentiment, Julia Kadhikwa, well known for bringing continental stars to Namibia, advised Namibian artists to “put in the work” and make themselves relevant in the competitive and fast-growing industry.
“Event organisers want to fill up their venues by inviting artists they think will attract a large crowd. For example, when Beyonce performed at the Global Citizen concert in South Africa, you didn’t hear South African artists complaining of her getting paid more than the locals who performed at the same concert,” said Kadhikwa.