BY WINSTONE ANTONIO
THE recently-leaked recorded telephone conversation between renowned dancehall star Sniper Storm and Vee Jay, who was representing 2 Kings Entertainment ahead of top Jamaican reggae icon Jah Cure’s maiden concert in the country last week, has exposed the ill-treatment of local artistes by music promoters in favour of foreign acts.
While the bringing in of foreign musicians appears to be generating brisk business for music promoters, local musicians who usually perform as supporting acts are being paid peanuts — apparently because it is assumed they are happy enough to rub shoulders with international artists.
In the conversation that has divided opinions on different platforms, Sniper Storm is heard making a follower-up to the promoter’s offer as he desperately wanted to be among the supporting acts at the concert held at the Harare International Conference Centre.
Answering to the Kwarira Mukati hitmaker’s call, Vee Jay said they had no money and could only afford a paltry $50 (equivalent to the two VIP concert tickets) for just him and his DJ, dropping his entire band.
“Yes . . . there is no money, the cash that is available for you is to take it or leave it. If I tell you what is available you might drop off the phone. If you agree on it that means you will be coming with your DJ only, not with the entire band. $50 is all we can offer,” Vee Jay said.
Sniper Storm turned down the $50 offer saying he could only settle for $800, which he said was to be shared among his band members, but Vee Jay told him to delete his number because there was no way he could pay that kind of money.
This is not the first time that local musicians have been subjected to such treatment from local music promoters. Many artists have complained about being treated like rubbish whenever international artists came to perform — even when the local musicians ended up giving better performances than to the foreigners.
Contacted for comment, 2 Kings Entertainment spokesperson, Dee Nosh referred all questions to Vee Jay, who was not picking up his phone.
Music management and marketing company Jive Zimbabwe director Benjamin Nyandoro who was engaged by 2 Kings Entertainment to market the concert, said the issue was being taken out of context, adding he viewed it as disrespect since Sniper persistently called them begging to be part of the concert.
“For the Jah Cure concert, 2 Kings Entertainment ran a competition on building a performance list through a public vote and Winky D, Judgement Yard, and Transit Crew, among other local artists, got the votes.
“After the announcement, we received a call from Sniper asking to be on the playlist. Not only did he not get the vote, but our budgets were already stretched, because a vote for Winky D is a huge bill. Winky D does not move on his worthy-tag and that has made him an even stronger brand.
“With Sniper persistently calling and further asking to have an opportunity to launch his album Shoot, we gave in with the consideration to assist,” Nyandoro said.
Nyandoro said in other cases, artists actually paid them to have an opportunity to perform on such a high value stage, but in Sniper’s case, they offered him a token that was meant to go towards just cushioning him for his participation.
“I did not take Sniper’s gesture to record the call in good faith. I would assume he intended to expose 2 Kings Entertainment, but what I see is Sniper being exposed for lack of professionalism after being in the industry for this long,” he said.
“You do not engage in negotiating for space directly. You need a manager to do that for you. The manager becomes your buffer or breather, who steps back and consults you on developments. Further, putting to the public directly negotiating or rather begging persistently affects your worthy-tag.”
Nyandoro said 2 Kings Entertainment and Jive Zimbabwe jointly and individually had a good working relationship with artists.
The audio has, however, attracted mixed feelings on the showbiz circuit, with some saying some of the artistes exposed themselves to abuse by music promoters as they did not value themselves.
Female dancehall singer Juwela in her social media (Facebook) post said it was sad that music promoters continued to underpay local artistes.
“So sad how this keeps happening to artists in Zimbabwe. Even I would not perform for $50. The
$50 000 taken to Jamaica could be $50 000 coming into Zimbabwe from Jamaica, South Africa or Nigeria. It is not easy being an artiste in Zimbabwe,” she wrote.
“To Sniper…I have come to you many times asking for advice…and I am so hurt as a friend and fellow artist. It’s time we stood together and say enough is enough.”
In a related post by Tendai Joe, he said $50 should be for drinks, not for booking an artist.
“Promoters organise gigs to make money, they maximise returns on their investments. With that said, what are artists doing to invest in themselves before someone else sees their value?” he posted.
Gilbert Mutsigwa said it was high time some music promoters were arrested for abusing artists, who they engaged to perform and later tell them they were marketing their brands.
An artiste who preferred not to be named said; “On several times, these local music promoters pay international artistes high fees and some of us are paid peanuts for the same performances at the same venues for the same audiences.”
The debate about how local artistes should be treated when they perform with their international counterparts on local stages has for a long time been one of the central talking points on the local music scene.
At some point, the Media, Information and Broadcasting Services ministry secretary George Charamba lambasted music promoters for supporting foreign artistes at the expense of local talent.
Charamba said this during his speech as guest of honour at the premiere of the second part of the popular comic drama Sabhuku Vharazipi.
“You pay $30 000 to mediocre international acts and give $100 to local artistes. We need a sense of self-belief in our own talent,” Charamba said then.
Zimbabwe Union of Musicians patron Webster Shamu, is also on record calling on arts promoters to treat and pay foreign and local artistes the same when they share the stage.