Sven Hansen, production manager/producer and owner and director of 4 plus 3 Productions PTY LTD says it has been a tough 19 months for the entertainments industry, and the future isn’t looking too bright either.
“When we heard about the Covid-19 outbreak in Wuhan in 2019, we [the industry] all prayed that it wouldn’t reach South African shores.”
It was a prayer that went unanswered, unfortunately, for artists and creatives worldwide.
The rumours of this super infectious illness spread like wild fire, and by the end of 2019, scores of events, tours and concerts had already been cancelled. “By the end of January 2020, my entire year’s calendar of gigs was cancelled and cleared – absolutely every day was now open, with not one rescheduled show in sight,” Hansen said.
Almost 500 days into one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, there’s no hope of the stage lights being turned on soon in South Africa.
This is a free read from The Citizen Premium service. For more business news, analysis, opinions and columns, subscribe to a monthly Premium Membership for only R50 here.
Hansen says the lockdown forced event companies and production houses to start thinking outside the box.
“The industry was suddenly flooded with remote/broadcast/streaming studios. Production houses and artists tried the Pay Per View option, with little success. Here in Africa, we want to go to the show, see our favourite artists live, and soak up the atmosphere with an ice-cold drink in hand and friends by our sides.”
The end of an era
Hansen said while the industry knew businesses and venues would eventually buckle after months of no income, the news about the closure of TicketPro Dome was a big shock to them.
“Johannesburg and the country have lost the pinnacle of indoor venues on the touring circuit. All acts must now go to Sun Arena, a brilliantly designed and user-friendly venue, but it is almost half the capacity of the TicketPro Dome, which means promoters lose 50% of their ticket sales on the Johannesburg leg of any tour. This will either result in an increase in ticket prices or a double-header at the Sun Arena, which means additional logistical and crew costs once again translating into an increase in ticket prices.”
800 000 livelihoods lost already
The lack of events and concerts is not only taking the joy away from South Africans, CEO of Big Concerts Justin van Wyk said at least 800 000 people have lost their livelihoods.
The public purse is also losing a very lucrative revenue stream the longer events and concerts remain banned. “The cultural and creative industries contribute over R74 billion to the South African economy, and have a total economic impact of R241 billion per annum,” said van Wyk.
He adds that the events sector, incorporating meetings, exhibitions, conferences, business events, concerts, festivals, sports events and mass participation events plays an integral part in the domestic and international tourism value chain in South Africa, and combined losses across all affected industries are estimated at over R600 billion.
Events industry completely destroyed
The entertainment industry has completely collapsed and there is no hope of recovery. “The industry cannot recover; it has to be rebuilt and can only begin to do so once there is certainty about future restrictions on gatherings and the ability of the industry to operate at scale,” Van Wyk said.
He added that if the sector is not allowed to operate at scale within the next 2 – 3 months to people who have been fully vaccinated, or took a COVID test 24 hours before the event, more devastating closures like the TicketPro Dome will follow.
While gatherings are allowed in small numbers under lockdown level 3, 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors, Hansen said it’s just not financially viable to have ‘mini concerts’ or ‘events’ without a sponsor, even when 500 people are allowed at outdoor venues.
Minimal help from government
A forensic investigation has been launched after R300 million that was given to the National Arts Council (NCA) to disburse was “overcommitted”. In March Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthetwa said that the money wasn’t missing, that part of it was still there, “part of it has been disbursed and part of it is being disbursed”.
This money was meant to provide much-needed relief to artists and creatives in the entertainment industry.
“Brilliant folk have lost everything and literally have no money to feed themselves and their families. Houses and cars have been repossessed, insurance cancelled, electricity and water cut off, people, were and still are, literally starving,” Hansen said.
“Our financial contribution was happily received and now in a time when we need urgent financial assistance, our cries fall on deaf ears.”
“When the music has died, the venues and bands are no longer, perhaps only then, when it is too late, will government and fellow South Africans realize, that the magic we make and joy we create, is no longer,” Hansen said.