Music promoters in Omicron quandary

05 Dec, 2021 - 00:12 0 Views
Music promoters in Omicron quandary Mduduzi Mdlongwa

The Sunday News

Bruce Ndlovu, Sunday Life Reporter
ONLY a few weeks ago, life looked rosy for music event promoters.

Covid-19 numbers were down and foreign acts, those cash cows that had not been seen on the country’s stages since March last year, were now back trickling into the country. With them came big financial rewards.

Almost every week, something which is unprecedented in Bulawayo, there was now a foreign act performing in the City of Kings. None of the gigs had flopped and it seemed, with people starved of live entertainment for over a year coming out in droves, there was a killing to be made in the music promotion business once again.

Enter the Omicron variant.

Last week, after stellar work by scientists in South Africa and Botswana, it was revealed that a new variant had been detected and it was possibly more infectious than the Delta variant that wreaked havoc in this part of the world only a few months ago.

The fourth wave, for so long feared, was at Zimbabwe’s doorstep, and subsequently the Government had to take steps to protect the country.

One of the measures announced was the mandatory quarantine of those coming into the country for a period of up to 10 days regardless of whether their PCR tests came out positive or negative.

“Foreign artistes coming into Zimbabwe MUST undergo PCR testing and will be quarantined for days recommended by the WHO, even if they present negative PCR test results from elsewhere . . .

All shows, performances MUST end one hour before the start of the curfew period or at 2000 hours. This is to give ample time for patrons to travel to their respective places of residence before the start of the curfew period at 2100 hours.

Meanwhile all clearance letters already issued for shows shall be subject to the above enhanced protocols and promoters should stand guided,” the National Arts Council of Zimbabwe said in a communiqué that came after government announced its new Covid-19 regulations.

Government is set to review the new measures next week.

For Mduduzi Mdlongwa of 3D Events, organisers of shows featuring Blaq Diamond, Kabza De Small and Maphorisa, the new variant has altered the showbiz calendar in a way they did not think was possible even as early as a week ago.
“With the new Covid-19 restrictions, it basically puts everything on hold in terms of promotions especially for artistes coming from the outside.

This is because if its mandatory for them to be quarantined it means we have no option but to postpone.

Fourteen days for an artiste is a long time for them to lose revenue in other countries where they are allowed to come in and perform. So basically, that’s what it means.

“At the same time, we are seeking exemptions based on the fact that we have paid full taxes to the Government in terms of clearances on the events that are upcoming and we have been owed this money by the artistes for a very long time and we are hoping that we can break even and recuperate the cost element that we have paid over two years without getting anything back.

We hope that the Government will be kind enough to give us this exemption and we host these events under strict Covid-19 protocols that are meant to be observed.

We are hoping that we can get that leeway but if things remain strict, it just means we have to postpone,” he said.

For Mdlongwa, the possible cancellation and postponement of shows has only served to illustrate the dangers and risks of music promotion in the time of Covid-19.

After feeding on scraps for over a year, many are dreading the possibility of an outright closure of the sector.

Frantically, promoters are now lobbying Government for exemptions for foreign acts.

“In terms of revenue, it means we are back in the gutter again as promoters where we double lose. We have to wait, which is also a disadvantage businesswise.

If you look at it closely, we have been severely damaged in the past although we understand that the lives of people come first.

We have been patient as well but at the same time we are asking that someone looks at our own side as well and consider that we are in business and we are also family people who need to provide.

It’s not been easy and if the lockdowns return again, it means that we are back in the gutter.

“Our team in Harare, the ones that hold the licence for XMO Squad, are the ones that are pushing for the exemption.

I’m not so sure if the other promoters have joined in but I’m sure everyone is concerned and has approached the NACZ because considering other events that have heavier budgets than ours, I’m sure those people are concerned and stressed.

I’m sure they have approached the NACZ so that they can actually host these events,” he said.

Fellow promoter, Joe Da OG said while some people might have thought promoters were making a killing in the past few weeks, the reality was that unforeseen variables like the emergence of the Omicron variant showed how easy it was for promoters to find themselves in a financial hole as there was no way for them to recoup their money.

“For every promoter that has either booked an artiste, or was in the process of doing that, it means we are negatively affected.

For starters, flights from European countries have been cancelled.

It means that those guys can’t access Southern Africa whether they like it or not.

So, this means that everything that’s linked to that part of the world is off.

For example, we have a diaspora invasion every Christmas which we have now cancelled.

It means all the plans and money that we had put into that is lost in the process.

“When you book an artiste, you pay 100 percent upfront and then you come here the clearances’ part is done before the artistes come down, meaning some artistes could have been cleared or half cleared already.

That money that you booked an artiste with you don’t get back.

They don’t pay back because it’s not their fault.

This can only change if there’s a clause which says if this and this happens, you can postpone an event.

However, in terms of getting your money back, that never happens,” he said.

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