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No live shows, no income - Entertainment industry 'at a standstill' as SA battles Covid-19

2020-03-19 15:39
Donovan Goliath
Donovan Goliath (Photo: Supplied/Goliath & Goliath)

As South Africa braces itself for an expected increase in Covid-19 cases, the government has put strict measures into place to try and get ahead of the virus and curb its spread as much as possible. 

One of these is a ban on large gatherings – which, locally, means no more than 100 people in one place at the same time. 

And as the news broke, the cancellations began to stream in. Concerts have been postponed, comedians have put shows on hold, and clubs have closed their doors – all in an effort to help flatten the curve. 

So, where does that leave our entertainment industry? 

Sadly, for many local artists, no live shows, means no income. 

According to Kate Goliath, managing director for Goliath & Goliath, things have come to an abrupt halt. She says the entertainment industry is "basically at a standstill at the moment."

"Every single event that the guys [Donovan, Jason, and Nicholas Goliath] were booked for corporately has been either postponed or cancelled, and all the big projects that we were working on for the coming months have also been postponed," she tells Channel24

Kate says even though they're reworking dates on some projects, her main concern is the cancellation of corporate events. 

"Luckily we are looking for new dates for some of the things, but with no corporate work, which is our main source of income, we are a bit strapped, and a bit worried about the future at this point."

Heeding the warning from government, the Goliath's comedy club has made the decision to shut their doors for now. While this, too, will hurt their pockets, Donovan Goliath is more afraid of the adverse effect it will have on staff. 

"People are taking the 'less than 100 people' thing too literally, and we're just going, 'no, just because there's 90 people in the room doesn't mean you won't get affected'. It's terrible because obviously our comedy club, we've had to shut down. Then there's the repercussions for the people that work for us that we have to compensate."

While singers have the luxury of earning an income through music streaming services, Kyle Deutsch says it's very different for South African artists. 

The Can't Get Enough hitmaker tells us that for many South African singers, the money received from streaming services is just not enough to get by. 

"If we're not doing shows now, which is our main source of revenue, then art is definitely the first place where people are going to struggle." 

Technology has, however, provided a way out for many – all they have to do is get a little creative. 

"[There's] a major focus on the digital aspect of entertaining – we've seen that already," Kate says. Adding that artists are now forced to use tools like Instagram Live or other video streaming services to create content for their audiences. And that's precisely what many entertainers are doing. 

Afrikaans Gaan Global is an excellent example of this. With this digital concert, local singers, which includes the likes of Kurt Darren, will put on a show that will be broadcast live to viewers around the world through the use of the internet. 

Many singers have been doing this on a smaller scale by connecting with fans through social media platforms and performing for them that way.

It's not that easy for a comedian, though. 

"In terms of stand-up comedy, it's so tough because it's so hard for a stand-up comic to perform to a camera because they need that audience interaction. So it's now up to us to find different ways of injecting funny into things, and perhaps it just pushes us into what we've wanted to do, which is create more South African content that is not stand-up based," Kate says. 

So, yes, streaming presents a great opportunity for some. But the question still stands – can our artists make money from it?

There are options like pay-per-view – which means that audiences have to pay a fee to gain access to a live-stream event. The same way you would pay for tickets at the door of a comedy club. 

Although Donovan says he does not know how successful that would be in SA. 

"I know the rest of the world does that very well. I think a lot of people are holding onto their pennies at the moment, so it's a tough one right now."

Kyle agrees. To him, things like the cost of data, and the number of people who have access to the internet presents a big problem. 

"If you wanted to compare someone doing that [pay-per-view] in the States to someone doing it here, it's all well and good, but your audience is not going to be anywhere near the same size. I do think we're going to have to see a drop in data prices if we're going to be working at home, [as well as] things that make it easier for consumers and professional people to be able to work remotely."

As uncertain as times may be right now, these artists all have one thing in common – their ability to see the upside to this situation. 

"I feel like we've hit the reset button now and it's an opportunity for us to kind of stop and re-gauge where we're at. It feels like we're in a whirlwind and [now that] the whirlwind has stopped, it's [about] trying to refocus and figure out what your voice is, what your story is, what you're trying to put out there. It doesn't mean that you have to stop working, I think now is a good time to write more, create more, [and] keep your brand alive online," Donovan advises. 

Kyle is also using this time to focus on "different aspects" of his artistry. "At the moment we're trying to use this time to be more creative digitally, but at the same time try and finish off a whole bunch of music so that when this lifts, and while it's going on, we're able to give people content and new music."