‘Detty December’: Nigerian musicians, show promoters, outrageous pricing and ‘fans’

Detty December

It is that time of the year again when people want to unwind after what has been an incredibly tough year. Just think of the naira redesign policy disaster, the extremely toxic general election season, the fuel subsidy removal and the tanking economy in which the country has experienced an execrable inflation rate increase for 10 consecutive months, all in one year.

When an in-depth analysis of these adversities is dispensed in whatever form, it is clear that Nigerians have been through a “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short” life, as described by the late English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, in 12 months. Therefore, you cannot blame weary Nigerians for insisting they deserve a short break to be jolly and merry before facing the uncertainties of 2024.

However, that short merriment break sought by Nigerians – popularly known as “Detty December” – is being gravely endangered by the preposterous nature and shocking avarice of Nigerian music artistes and concert organisers. It is public knowledge that many Nigerians attend music concerts at the end of the year to ease up and luxuriate. Also, this period provides an opportunity for our global superstar musicians of Nigerian origin to undertake a “home tour” after a strenuous but productive year of writing songs, albums and music videos and enriching their global appeal by touring many countries in the world.

So, there is – or seems to be – a mutual interest unwittingly expressed but simultaneously felt by Nigerians or “fans” – as they are described in the entertainment parlance – about artistes and concert organisers. Therefore, why does it seem like the latter parties want to fleece the former, who are working hard for their slender paychecks that are heavily battered by inflation, by the outrageous prices they are reeling out as concert show price tickets?

This vexatious issue popped up last month after Afro Nation, an annual music festival organised across the world and scheduled to be held for the first time in Nigeria on December 19-20, 2023, was cancelled. According to the music festival’s organisers in a post on their X account (formerly known as Twitter), they would be unable to deliver a show that suits their standards in Lagos.

“Unfortunately, the Afro Nation Nigeria festival in Lagos will now not be taking place. As event organisers, we hold ourselves to extremely high standards, and it has become clear to us that it is currently not possible to deliver a show that is of the quality that Nigeria deserves in December 2023,” the statement partly read.

Some observers argued that the cancellation was a symptom of a larger problem of poor planning and organisation within the entertainment industry. Others suggested that it was a reflection of the country’s economic challenges, which have made it difficult for businesses to operate profitably.

However, industry sources have highlighted that in addition to the aforementioned point of poor planning and organisation, the show organisers had allegedly pegged the ticket prices at astronomical levels to aid them in recouping the monstrous fees that would have been paid to the performing artistes. Artistes that were billed to headline the concert include Burna Boy, J Hus, Seyi Vibez and Flavour.

It is terrific that our musicians are not only doing well locally but have transverse across the border and are great crusaders of the Afrobeats movement globally. It is also a thing of joy that our artistes are now either signed to or are collaborating with renowned international music labels and they are getting their due recognition and, more importantly, getting the bucks commensurate to their output.

But herein lies the problem: Many Nigerian artistes and (by default) talent managers and showrunners/organisers believe that the music scene is evolving globally, then the same principles applied in the global market can be reciprocated in Nigeria. Well, that is total gibberish and colossal hypocrisy, especially for those who believe such a flawed economic assumption. Even for those who are stupendously affluent or a segment of the population that is just moneyed to afford a mid-level luxury life, can they blithely spend $100 for a VIP concert ticket, as alleged for the now-cancelled Afro Nation concert?

It would be flabbergasting if the main stakeholders in the entertainment scene did not know that their fellow Nigerians do not earn in dollars but in Naira. So, it is quite incomprehensible as to why musicians, talent managers and show promoters are charging the Nigerian audience almost the equivalent of what they charge their foreign audiences. As the renowned music journalist, Joey Akan, once noted just a year ago: “The local industry is built different(ly). We have less purchasing power, less infrastructure and a unique culture that is at odds with everything happening across the Atlantic.” If many Nigerians could afford pricey items, perhaps Spotify would have charged its Nigerian users $14 per month as it charges its American audience rather than the measly N1,000 it charges people of the West African nation for its premium subscription.

This public dance of shame indicates the glaring lack of structure in the Nigerian music industry. While “Nigeria is going global to the world”, there are no mechanisms to sustain the giant strides currently achieved and no established framework to guide the operations of the sector locally. At the moment, “Nigerian music obeys no laws” – as succinctly expressed by Akan – and, therefore, the industry seems to lack an understanding of basic principles. It is repugnant for stakeholders to be charging excessive fees as ticket prices for shows, considering the current state of the Nigerian economy that is currently burdened by rising inflation (27.33 per cent as of October 2023, according to the National Bureau of Statistics). It is even more nauseating and an actual criminal offence for artistes and stakeholders to charge ticket prices in dollars for a service that will be rendered in Nigeria.

And who better else than the respected music talent agent and filmmaker, Ayo Shonaiya, to elucidate on how the absence of a viable structure is adversely impacting the music industry and why some form of regulation is needed? He said: “It’s actually illegal to charge foreign currency for services in Nigeria but since our top artistes are now signed to foreign labels and management, promoters will have to book Nigerian artistes like foreigners. This is where the government need to step in and regulate, but do they even know wassup, or care for that matter. Make we dey look and laugh sha.”

Finally, our musicians and show promoters claim that the “home tours” done at the end of the year are to celebrate the Nigerian fans and connect them to their favourite artistes during the yuletide season. Yet “Nigerians can’t afford to see their stars perform live. The price of concert tickets in the country no longer hold any inclusion to Nigerians on the fringes of the financial system”, as pointed out by Akan. The notion that these superstars want to celebrate with their “fans” for a successful year is deceitful. Our local stars, whom Nigerians supported with massive airplay at clubs, parties and, most recently, streams, now fly from their bases in America and Europe to make atrocious demands.

It is, therefore, no surprise that there may not be many shows/concerts during “Detty December” 2023. Corporate Nigeria, which is not immune to the volatility of the economy, is reassessing its expenditures and chopping off any extravagant item off its budget.

Concert shows, as attested to by senior music executives, are currently on a decline globally due to a high level of music streaming. Hence, it is best for music industry stakeholders, particularly musicians, to do some introspection and consider if they are pricing themselves out of the Nigerian market and, more importantly, preventing these same “local Nigerian fans” who hyped them to stardom the opportunity to see them (the musicians) perform on home turf at a moderately priced range.

As Do2dtun, the Energy gAD and popular on-air personality, recently posted on his X account:” This Afrobeat we all built together, na Una go use Una hands spoil am. You now charge your own people in dollars. Forget to unlock the togetherness the genre gives you and your people. Quite strange and bizarre.”

A word is enough for the wise!

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Gabriel is a trained political scientist, and a qualified and versatile communications professional who has worked as a journalist and Public Relations executive. He has a knack for content creation and development and is a keen digital native interested in all things good.
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