Since the pandemic affected the entertainment world sending it into hibernation, local entertainers were left with no option, but to create content that suits their fans to remain relevant.
For a moment, all looked rosy as the revival of the local industry seemed inevitable. Artistes produced more, even giving birth to a new genre and sound.
With an open eye though, event organisers and music promoters must have identified a weak link in Kenyan showbiz that enables them to view the local entertainment industry as a cash cow that can be willingly milked dry without protest.
The recent months have seen more than a dozen Nigerian acts holding concerts in major towns, leaving them smiling all the way to the bank courtesy of their huge performance charges and the scrabble to have a piece of them by event organisers and promoters.
Unknown to Kenyans, Afrobeat stars are raking millions of shillings with every visit, leaving our local stars writhing in the misery of meagre performance fees.
The most recent expose involving Nigerian star, Davido, revealed the bitter truth on just how much it costs to fly an Afrobeat star who also demands to be accorded full VVIP treatment.
This includes an advance cash payment, an entourage of high-end cars, five-star accommodation; round the clock, standby drop off and pick up transportation including security and even a bottomless supply of pricey drinks for the whole team accompanying the artiste.
Word is rife that an entertainment unit had recently contacted Davido's management in an attempt to have him perform in Kenya, but his performance and logistics fees alleged to be at 300,000 $ (Sh35m) proved to be too much to bear, forcing them to call it off. Included in the amount was the fee to hire a private jet for his crew.
According to DJ Slahver from Black Wings Entertainment, Nigerian artistes often use their management teams to negotiate their requirements, with the manager involved using a checklist to ensure all is provided.
"Most will spend based on the nature of the lifestyle they opt for. Some superstars love the flashy lifestyle and are outgoing. Others prefer their peace and will hardly leave their hotel rooms unless it is work-related and concerning the contract. Different artistes have different demands, but the bottom line is it is all expensive," he says.
Kiki Joy of Kiki Fusion East Africa, who a few weeks ago was handling logistics for superstar DJ Neptune echoes the same, adding that what sets them apart from local artistes is their zeal and passion in how they do their things.
"A Nigerian artiste means business. They are the living meaning of time is money. They will hold interviews and business meetings all day, freshen up in the evening and head to the club where they will party hard and still make it on time for a breakfast show interview the next morning. Most Kenyan artistes will stay in all day," she says.
According to a source, a group of 15 members stepping out of their rooms to visit the city will easily spend between Sh30,000 to Sh50,000 in one sitting for a meal.
"We do not encourage the whole crew to leave the hotel at once because it translates to more finances. Only the artiste and manager leave the hotel; the rest, since they are not as popular, can leave at their own will," says Slahver.
To check an artiste into a five-star hotel may require two suites - one for the artiste and the other for his manager, while his entourage checks into the standard rooms.
"Depending on the hotel, a VIP suite will average about Sh40,000 while the standard rooms will fetch at Sh15,000 each,” says Sally Bartonjo, an events coordinator.
Whilst it paints a picture of an overly expensive affair hosting an artiste, promoters have come up with ingenious ways to negotiate the deal by having club appearances for a fee.
"Club appearances are effective for announcing the presence of the artiste before the gig. It is the equivalent of holding a roadshow only that this time the target audience is right there posting selfies while partying with the artiste creating excitement, which sells the show. Kenyan artistes need to be more strategic about the audience they associate with and not just hang out anywhere. Scarcity creates demand and value," says Sally.
For club appearances, while Kenyan artistes will merely show up disguised in hoods to conceal their presence, Naija artistes will demand between $2,500 to $10,000 (Sh250,000 to Sh1 million) and will also demand a rider that caters for their logistics and covers all their entertainment costs.
"A few weeks ago, Nigerian star, Ketchup was in the country. I found out the long weekend coincided with his birthday and I thought why not host him," says DJ Pierra Makena.
She adds that her team approached Kentwood Address in Runda who agreed to host the Pam Pam hitmaker and throw him a flashy birthday party. Whilst Davido's performance fees seemed far-fetched and bizarre, his brand justifies the figure.
"He has outdone himself and sold his brand internationally. What do you expect his rate card to read after he has filled arenas and stadiums in the UK and the US? Davido, Wizkid and Burna Boy have set the bar high, paving way for other Naija artistes to demand more money," says Dubai-based DJ Babu.
According to our source, the rate card for bringing an Afrobeat artiste to Kenya ranges between $8000 to $50,000 (Sh800,000 to Sh5 million). "That is not inclusive of the stage, sound and logistics."
However, promoters capitalise on bringing sponsors on board, especially partners who will create visibility and have the artiste's music on high rotation. It is like an illusory effect where the fans cannot get enough of the music and can sing word for word.
An example is Goya Menor & Nektunez – Ameno Amapiano (You Want To Chill With The Big Boys). For only one famous song, he toured the capital Nairobi and had multiple shows in Mombasa just because Kenyans and the world heard the song over and over. Now his rate card is high and he is rich," Slahver says.
As part of their demands before stepping out of their hotel rooms on D-Day, the artiste manager ensures all pending balances are cleared and a special VIP tent is arranged for the events backstage.
"The reason why most Kenyan artistes feel sidelined during such events is they do not make these demands. They are content with the performance fee. A Naija artiste will ensure his crew gets VIP treatment including refreshments before and after the show, comfortable couches and security to bar unwanted persons in their private space," says events promoter Matiba.
"An artiste only gets what he requests. The problem with Kenyan artistes is they are aware of all these, but will not make an effort to make it known, only for them to complain later they expected better treatment. If you walk into a restaurant and do not order food, how do you expect to be served?"
Slahver says branding highly influences how you are perceived and it is time Kenyan artistes raise their bar high by using creative means. He says majority of artistes get meagre treatment and are paid less because they have no representatives who can negotiate big for them, thus they end up settling for what they assume can be provided.
"It is their right to put up terms and conditions and have a team that is behind their branding and marketing strategy. Otherwise, they will live to whine, claiming their foreign counterparts are receiving more favours yet they never asked. Stand your ground, this is home," says the DJ.