Prices On Fire

The previous trend of holding concerts at open air areas such as Meskel Square and the Addis Abeba Stadium (both of which are located along the Ras Desta Damtew St) with entrance fees that did not exceed 50 Br now seem to be giving way to more expensive ones being held at bigger halls such as the Millenium Hall or in the premises of big hotels.

Called “Africa Unite” and attended by over a quarter of a million people at Meskel Square on February 6, 2005, to celebrate the 60th birthday of the reggae singer, Bob Marley, the 10 hour concert serves as a good example of the previous trend.

Likewise some 15 years back another concert was held at the Stadium, where some renowned Ethiopian artists such as Aster Aweke, Tshehaye Yohannis and Dawit Melese performed. The stadium was packed full.

“The transition towards more organized concerts by using more recent stage plots started when Sheraton Addis started live shows at the hotel on the eve of major holidays such as the New Year,” says Shewit Bitew, a musician and general manager of Aurora Event Organizer.

Like Shewit, some event organizers approached by Fortune believe that after Sheraton Addis started hosting live concerts with the Millennium Hall following suit, many event organizers trekked into the newer territory, prompted by concerns for quality sound and light systems in addition to more spacious and state-of-the-art stages.

International artists, such as Beyonce Knowles, Rihanna, Sean Paul, Black-Eyed Peas, Shaggy, Akon and R. Kelly from the United States performed at Sheraton’s previous holiday concerts.

When confronted with rising costs to organize concerts, people give emphasis to the quality of the stage plots that cost them additional money, organizers see a way out by raising the entrance fees.

“Concerts, therefore, are more expensive, requiring more payment from the audience as well,” said Binyam Zewde, general manager of Mingle Promotion, the organizer of the Acacia Jazz Festival, a jazz festival so far organized in five rounds, the most recent of which being two months ago.

Mingle Promotion is currently organizing Tizita Music Festival, which costs them over one million Br. It is scheduled to take place at Flora Tropical Garden at the Peacock area in Bole along the Africa Avenue between May 3 and May 4, 2014.

A glance at Reggae Dancehall No.1 concert provides an example of the increasing cost being incurred by organizers. Aurora, the organizer, originally planned it to take place on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at the Millennium Hall before it was postponed indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. Organizers are spending an overall cost of seven million Birr, out of which rent will cost up to 1.5 million Br.

“We invited a musician, DJs and bands from abroad in addition to the rental cost of stage plots, materials and payments for local artists,” Shewit said. “Moreover, promotional costs pushed the expense up to what we finally settled for.”

Aurora paid Busy Signal, a controversial Jamaican singer who had been arrested and is banned from a number of countries, such as Canada, US and UK, for drug related issues, 1.5 million Br to perform, and incurred additional costs for the artist beyond the performance payment such as airfare, accommodation in Addis Abeba, food and other related expenses.

However, the expense incurred to keep Busy Signal in Addis Abeba, though constituting a huge sum of the whole cost, is not the only one that the organizers are dealing with. They also have to spend money for local artists such as Nhatty Man, Jah Lude, and Ras Jany. For these and other artists who have agreed to perform at the concert Aurora paid between 100,000 Br and 300, 000 Br. Event organizers also paid between 100,000 Br and 150,000 Br to sound engineers and light operators, says Shewit.

Aurora expects 19,000 people to attend the concert. The organizers prepared 13,000 normal tickets each worth an additional 500 Br and 3,000 VIP tickets each to be sold at 1,500 Br.

“To be honest, Aurora currently does not have expectations in terms of profits,” Shewit said. “This is because the costs we incurred are high, which we could expect to return in the future.”

Since covering the total cost of the concert from ticket sales alone is too difficult for event organizers, says Shewit, they expect sponsorship will help the organizers to cover some costs in kind such as cars and halls.

The challenge has not been easier for Ekubay Berhe, general manager of Yedon Films Production, who is currently organizing Tewodros Kassahun (a.k.a Teddy Afro)’s Wode Fiker Guzo Concert scheduled to take place on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at Ghion Hotel, finding sponsors for the concert proved difficult.

“So, the organizers expected to return the total cost of 2.5 million Br from the sale of tickets,” Equbay says. “But we failed to get any sponsors.”

The organizers paid 250,000 Br rent for the place, in addition to paying around 300,000 Br for renting sound, light and stage.

Popular singer Teddy Afro will perform with the eight-member Abugida Band that came from the US. A sound engineer from Jamaica is also included in the group. The total cost paid for the crew was not disclosed by event organizers. Nor did Teddy Afro’s manager, Zekarias Bekele, mention it, citing a confidentiality agreement.

Two levels of tickets were sold for the entrance for Wode Fiker Guzo. The normal tickets cost 399 Br, while VIP tickets cost 599 Br.

“The total cost incurred while organizing concerts has now escalated,” Equbay explains.

He compared the current experience to one five years back where he organized a concert at the Millennium Hall with the collaboration of the Ethiopian Radio amp Television Agency (ERTA) at a total cost of 800,000 Br. The event, he recalls, was attended by almost 10,000 people, each paying an entrance fee of 200 Br.

Organizers approached by Fortune including Equbay say that the concert business is thriving, nevertheless, based primarily on the increased potential of an individual to pay for the event and the growing interest of the people to attend concerts.

“But the business is not that profitable,” Ekubay complained. “The tax system on the entertainment sector is hefty, requiring us to pay 25pc tax from each ticket we sell in addition to the 35pc entertainment tax from our net profit.”

ABC Trading, which says that the light and sound system it is offering for rent are more modernized than the ones currently in use by international concerts, it charges organizers a minimum of 200,000 Br up to 300,000 Br per concert, says Nebil Ahmed, its general.

Eyuel Tilahun, 26, works as a DJ (Disk Jockey) at a night club, earning 3,000 Br per month. He has attended many concerts in the last four years. One of these is the P-Square Concert at the Millennium Hall on September 22, 2013, paying an entrance fee of 1,000 Br. When he attended last year’s Jano Band concert and Haile Root’s concert, both organized at Laphto Mall, he paid 200 Br. This year he has decided that he will attend Busy Signal’s concert at the Millennium Hall.

“I enjoy the quality of the music I hear from the stage,” he said. “The quality increases when the entrance fee increases.”

Mahlet Tamiru, an elementary teacher at a private school who earns 1,647 Br a month says she would have liked to attend the event at Millennium Hall since she is a fan of Nhatty Man. However, the entrance fee for the concert costs her almost one third of her salary.

“Thus, I’m not attending the event due to lack of money,” she said.

But for some event organizers like Shewit and Ekubay it is not actually creating the gap among the audiences, rather, standard stage performances are attracting more audiences to adopt a culture of joining live music concerts.

Source : Addis Fortune

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