When R2bees were called on stage to perform at the Vodafone 020 Live concert and they didn’t turn up, I posted on Twitter that they had bailed out on the organizers intuitively and people started asking questions that I didn’t have answers to. Later in the night, when the group popped up to perform ‘Kiss Your Hand’ with Wande Coal and moved on to perform their new single ‘Agyeii’ I thought perhaps the show was rearranged to have Wande Coal and R2bees perform their hit song together.
The group told the crowd “we were here early but they didn’t want us to perform” and I interpreted it to mean that the organizers didn’t want them to perform earlier because they wanted to include Wande Coal ( who came in between Dbanj’s performance) in R2bee’s performance so I explained it as such on Twitter. But later I received a communication from the management of R2bees which said:
“A lot of things happened at the backstage; there was a little miscommunication that was the reason why R2bees didn’t appear on stage when they were called. It wasn’t our fault. And we also want the general public and event organizers to know that, if they are not ready to spend money to organize a good show, they shouldn’t even bother to start arrangements. And it’s about time they respect the local artists and treat them right, and give them what they want for shows.”
“As soon as we got to the back stage, they didn’t even communicate with us or give us a notice that we going to go on stage, then they called us. If they want to claim that we were late at back stage, ask if they provided us a room at the hotel. They only provided a single room for the whole R2bees crew which is even disrespect to the artist, so R2bees had to go home to Tema to relax after sound check and get ready. So since they didn’t provide us enough rooms for the artist, we also got ready from Tema to the show. It’s a lesson, if event organizers really need the artists, they will provide whatever they need for them to make the show a success, they shouldn’t just think about the hype of the show but also the content of the show and treat the artists right.”
This made me wonder where the much talked about lack of respect and professionalism in the Ghanaian industry comes from so far as concerts and shows are concerned. Is it a problem from event organizers; are the organizers professional enough in their handling of Ghanaian artists; are Ghanaian artists handling themselves in a professional manner enough for event organizers to give them the respect they deserve? Based on my observation of events before, during and after the Vodafone 020 Live concert, I will try to do some analysis of the situation and hopefully we can review it in a manner to help the industry grow.
First and foremost, none of the Ghanaian artists on the bill at this point should be talking about the money they were paid for the 020 Live show either is isolation or in comparison with the foreign acts. They were aware of how much they would be paid as negotiations were made before they agreed to perform. I know of an artist who was billed to perform but because he couldn’t reach an agreement with Vodafone over payment, he pulled out before the final list of performers was announced.
After agreeing to perform, I believe a contract was signed highlighting what would be required from both artists and the organizers including issues of promotion, production, and logistics among others. I believe that since Trey Songz, Amber Rose and Dbanj do not live in Ghana, their contract would stipulate extra conditions such as feeding and boarding for them and their entourage. With that said, I don’t know how many hotel rooms would be adequate enough to host R2bees and their entourage a few hours before their performance; who constitute that entourage and how many people were agreed between R2bees and the organizers to be a part of this entourage? I want to believe that even for Trey Songz, a number of people were agreed to come along with him to Ghana on the bill of Vodafone and any extra person outside the agreed number would have to cater for him or herself.
Again, based on the communication from the R2bees management I can deduce that they were late in getting to the venue for the concert since they had to travel from Tema to the Accra International Conference Centre. This brings me to the issue of time management in general and I know we cannot even pretend as a people to be good managers of time. I have been to shows where the artists have arrived on time only to find out that organizers are not ready to start the show; and I have also been to shows where organizers have had to delay the show because the artists do not arrive on time. I believe the late start of the 020 Live show was due to the latter.
Let’s just assume that all the artists on the bill apart from R2bees had arrived on time and there was a production schedule that says 5five will go on stage at 7pm followed by R2bees at 7:20. Its 6:50 and R2bees hasn’t shown up; what does the organizer do? Should the show start at 7 and have another artist follow instead of R2bees; should the production schedule be rearranged so that only the artists available would perform; or should the show be delayed for R2bees to arrived so that the bill is complete as advertised and the show rolls out according to production schedule?
From what I heard, time and respect for schedules were thrown to the dogs by most of the Ghanaian artists on the bill. Most of them were late to rehearsals, sound check and interviews; and some didn’t even turn up for some of these activities. I also heard that there was an incident where an artist was scheduled for an interview at a radio station before Trey Songz. The artist was late and when he got to the radio station, it was already the turn of Trey Songz and he wanted to go on air while Trey was on. And when the radio station didn’t allow him he left fuming!
Enough of the hearsays, and on to what I observed with my own eyes! When Trey Songz arrived in Ghana, he spent a short time in his hotel room and started his rounds to radio stations because although tired from the long journey, he knew he was contractually bound to make these promotional appearances for the concert. After that he came back to Villa Montecello where the 020 Live Cocktail for the artists and industry people was taking place. Over there he granted exclusive interviews to some media people and then moved to the party area to join guests. Originally the cocktail party was meant for the Ghanaian artists to host and welcome the foreign artist to Ghana but in typical style most of them were late or didn’t even turn up.
The following day was a press conference at the Golden Tulip scheduled for 12 noon. Trey Songz got to the hotel on time and in fact was seen waiting in his car for the others to turn up. Finally after delaying the press conference for about an hour, the press interaction had to go on without most of the Ghanaian artists. Bear in mind that this press conference was held ahead of the final sound check for the concert, meaning that the delay would also affect the final preparations for the show. From Vodafone’s own ‘babies’, R&M to whoever was on the bill, there was very little respect for time and schedules. In fact I heard that the management of Trey Songz was upset on the night of the concert because he was told he would perform at 11pm. He left his hotel room to the venue only to wait in the dressing room for close to two hours before finally going on stage. So I would understand when he questions the professionalism on the part of organizers in this case.
In my review of the 020 Live concert, I stated that I didn’t enjoy the performances from most of the Ghanaian artist perhaps because I have seen them doing the same thing over and over again and most of them simply have to work on their artistry. I was told when the 020 Live concert was launched that the audience would see ‘live band’ performances from the artists and for me that would have been a novelty. But of course that wasn’t the case on the night as all of the Ghanaian acts performed to backing tracks. I don’t know if the organizers scrapped off that idea or the artist didn’t cooperate on that level because there was a band setup which was used by Trey Songz and Dbanj. It was only Dr Cryme that experimented with the idea by performing his hit song with a brass band. Although it didn’t go as well as planned because according to the management of Dr Cryme, the band wasn’t given their microphones. And well, the sound on the night was quite bad at some stage; I blame the organizers for the noisy sound that came out now and then.
Trey Songz and Dbanj didn’t only perform with a band; they performed well over 30 minutes each. I wonder how many of the Ghanaian artists on the bill could do that. I know non-highlife artists like VIP, Samini and even Sarkodie have been doing that in recent times and I hope they continue and improve on their artistry. This is how their value for concerts and show will go up or else they will remain opening acts for more capable artists or be paid to make an appearance and sing over a backing track.
Amber Rose’s inclusion in the 020 Live concert was perhaps questionable but without a doubt well informed. She is a growing music entrepreneur with connections in the music industry regardless of how she got those connections. She is half Italian and half Cape Verdean and so has a link to Africa that she would want to explore especially in the area of music. The Vodafone concert was a great platform for the Ghanaian artist to sell themselves and I feel that if professionalism means anything to her (which I believe it does) then most of our people failed.
I guess the lesson in this for both event organizers and artists is that event organizers should know that Ghanaian artists are becoming conscious of the potentials of their careers and are increasingly demanding respect and professionalism in their dealings with event managers. And it’s about time too! The lesson for the artists is that demanding for respect and professionalism doesn’t come as a right of stardom; it demands more professionalism on their part.
In every industry that music has worked and succeeded as a business, it has been so because people invested in it. I see Vodafone as investors and their recent major entry in the Ghanaian music industry via the Ghana Music Awards, 4syte Music Video Awards, 020 Live and other, shows this commitment in addition to building their brand image in Ghana. Musicians need to be business oriented and explore the opportunities they can get from such corporate bodies and not chase after the ‘bling bling’ culture that MTV projects because very often MTV doesn’t show how the stars became able to life those lifestyles. I don’t think 50 Cent would be late for a business meeting for an endorsement deal regardless of his stardom and wealth. Why; because he is professional and he knows what he can gain from that endorsement.
I believe things are improving in the industry and these little details will go a long way to sustain that growth and even see us soaring higher. Let’s learn from past mistakes, build on it and grow. God bless Ghana music!