#CoronavirusSA: Live concerts cancelled but music innovates connections
by Thabiet Allie (@turnupmusicza) It’s lockdown 2020. Concerts have been cancelled, from California to Cape Town, from Afrikaburn to Coachella and even The Cape Town International Jazz Festival. This is a scary time for the music industry at large and most artists have lost 90% of their income due to show cancellations. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
Digital was already transforming the industry before covid-19 struck, and already we’re seeing performers adapt. This is unsurprising because musicians are, by their very nature, disruptors and agents of change.
DJ Zinhle recently took the concept of ‘club duvet’ to the next level by hosting a DJ set in her bedroom, dressed in what many people are spending their days in: pyjamas. This virtual PJ Party attracted over 200 000 viewers who were lucky enough to see the popular artist’s child, Kairo Forbes, dancing along with her mom. And, after the massive success of their #OnlineQuarantineParty, DJs Shimza and PH took it up a notch and partnered with Channel O to host their weekly #LockdownHouseParty. This ongoing effort broadcasts live on the music channel and Channel O app every Friday and Saturday night.
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Then, on Saturday, 18 April 2020, the world came together for the Lady Gaga-curated One World: Together At Home virtual concert, where Black Coffee performed alongside fellow South African entertainers Cassper Nyovest, Sho Madjozi and a host of international stars, including John Legend, Andrea Bocelli, Elton John and Stevie Wonder. Simultaneously aired by broadcasters and digital platforms across the world, it’s estimated that around 14.6m people tuned in for this ground-breaking event.
Picture the music industry as a social barometer, an indicator of change in human behaviour. It acts as an early indicator — it’s often the first to see the impact of the turning tides and often has to quickly accommodate to the change. This is, then, an indicator of what the shift will be in general digital behaviour for many other sectors. Video and gaming often follow with the same trends.
Since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic, global digital trends have been echoed locally. However, South Africa has a lower wifi connection to high-end smartphone device ratio than countries in the Northern Hemisphere. What this means is that being at home now changes the consumption behaviour but it’s not just based on how much free time you have; it’s also strongly influenced by access to data and trusted apps.
Where previously we saw increased usage at peak times, such as commuting to and from work listening offline, during lockdown we’re seeing fewer spikes and customers increasingly making use of a feature that allows them to save music onto their devices so that they can listen any time of day without the use of additional data or wifi.
Considering the increase I saw when free data was previously tested with a major mobile network operator and my company, I knew that this is what was needed now to help more people stay entertained while at home during lockdown. All new app users are offered zero-rated data from our network partner, which means that any of the mobile network operator’s 40m users will benefit from the zero-rating. This was implemented with immediate effect and will continue for the next few months, and this should drive users to experiment with new music and perhaps find new favourites to support. In the first week of lockdown, our app experienced a 12% increase in music-streaming on the platform and by the second week this was up 18%.
Making music… together
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been in contact with many artists and managers and the majority is looking to migrate their physical gigs to digital. They want to reach out to their fans and get them to pay for a ticket to a virtual concert on their webpage, but what separates a video that was posted on YouTube a year ago from a similar video now?
What consumers are looking to do now is connect and be entertained. The transition will be driven by finding new ways of connecting people to each other. The aim is to harness this feeling — that a concert or live event is the key to enjoying your music — not just replicate the viewing. Audiences want an authentic connection.
There is equal opportunity for reward during these times. There are many people wanting to entertain themselves with music while being stuck at home and the goal has been to find new ways to engage loyal customers in authentic connections with their music. The collective reach of all the artists is being galvanised and a campaign, #ArtistsUnite, was recently launched for established artists to help up-and-coming ones connect with their fan bases in an effort to support each other. Artists helping artists to develop online skills. The programme includes Mi Casa, Khuli Chana, De Mthuda and DJ Ready D.
As 2020 progresses, we’ll continue to see stories of local artists changing the game and redesigning the music industry. South Africa’s music fans are key to this success, too, and corporate partners help create increased access to artists with data costs and with campaigns showcasing SA music. Music has always been a journey of collaboration and transformation and I’m optimistic that, together, we will continue to reinvent and rewrite the rules.
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Thabiet Allie is the CEO of TurnUp Music (@turnupmusicza), a ‘musictech’ company exclusively focused on creating opportunities to grow and amplify the careers of South African talent. Before Thabiet took to spinning the decks for SA musicians 24/7, he was the commercial officer for Tencent Africa, driving its expansion into the continent. Over the past 15 years, he’s also driven marketing, corporate sales and ecommerce for the country’s top brands, including MTN, Vodacom and Samsung.
This MarkLives #CoronavirusSA special section contains coverage of how the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and its resultant disease, covid-19, is affecting the advertising, marketing and related industries in South Africa and other parts of Africa, and how we are responding. Updates may be sent to us via our contact form or the email address published on our Contact Us page. Opinion pieces/guest columns must be exclusive.