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What it takes to make money in a virtual concert

By Kirsten Kanja and Mkala Mwangesha | September 3rd 2020 at 09:00:00 GMT +0300

Nyashinski at a past concert. [File]

If you are a music lover who enjoys live performances, you may have noticed the quick transition of most artistes, shifting from typical concerts to virtual ones.

With the onset of the pandemic, life as we knew it changed, dealing the entertainment industry a huge blow.

Forced into a corner, musicians quickly found innovative ways to stay connected with their fan base and make the most of the situation.

Enter virtual concerts.

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A successful online show will entertain you and keep the entertainer relevant. But will it earn the artiste money, and if so, how does this work?

Danny Mucira, the Trace East Africa managing director says the first thing they consider for a virtual show is the musician.

“Virtual concerts follow the same rules as the physical ones in that the chain of command for any concert begins with the organiser.

“Trace selects artistes based on their ability to reach the target audience with maximum impact. Once identified, contracts are drawn indicating the amount, rehearsal timelines, recording dates or, in the case of Trace Live, the live shoot dates and payment dates,” Mucira says.

Negotiation power

An artiste must have an idea of what he is worth and how much they will accept as payment. This depends mostly on the budget of the organiser for a successful contract to be agreed upon.

“Some payment plans provide for a deposit before the show and the remainder afterwards. The amount paid depends on the negotiation power of the artiste,” says Ruth, a public relations executive who works with artistes and media companies.

Nyashinski, who staged a virtual show for the release of his album in April, attracted more than 7,000 viewers on Instagram. Safaricom and Samsung were involved in the production.

“Where artistes organise their own shows, they approach corporate firms for sponsorship and in some cases, charge a small fee.

“Nyashinski’s Lucky You album launch was sponsored by Safaricom who wanted to push sales of their YouTube bundle to his audience,” Mucira says.

The amount an artiste earns in a virtual concert is a delicate balance between the sponsor’s budget and the artiste’s ability to deliver.

“The hierarchy of spending that applies to physical concerts applies to virtual concerts as well. How big is your following? Is the audience right for the product/ service? Artistes may not make as much as they did in pre-Covid-19 era and organisers cannot charge as much as they used to. But they still make a decent amount per concert,” Mucira says.

Virtual shows aim to keep viewers entertained for at least 45 minutes. This means that musician selection is key, heavily dependent on the artistes’s performance ability, their experience, music genre and the size of audience they command.

“Different musicians have different demographics. From a numbers perspective, Shamsi Music may not have as many followers as King Kaka.

“That doesn’t mean that the live stream isn’t amazing. It simply means that their audience numbers are different,” Richard Njau, gospel rapper and digital media enabler better known as A-Star, says. “We can’t solely base livestream success on numbers although numbers play a big part.” 

The artiste and the band have to lock themselves down for a proper rehearsal. Besides rehearsals, the artiste and band conduct several dry run sessions with the technical team to align their sound, camera shots, and even sync the lighting for different songs.

These determine the success of the whole production and how it translates on live broadcast. Creating awareness is an important part in the making of a virtual show. Amplifying the show and attracting the attention of potential viewers, who spend more time online than any other platform during the pandemic. This is done primarily via social media.

Even with rehearsals, dry runs and the main events, safety precautions like sanitising and maintaining a social distance, are observed.

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