By Jonathan Mbiriyamveka
Harare ‑ Probably promoters of Tarrus Riley ‑ C&A Promotions ‑ are still counting their losses following a rude awakening when what could have been the show of the year held last week turned out to the biggest disappointment so far when a musician as big as Mr Singer failed to pull the anticipated crowds.
Such is the nature of show business, it is a gamble, especially when you are newcomers as was the case with the promoters of the Jamaican star.
There are those who argue that just because everything went on smoothly the crowd was not an issue.
That is the saddest part considering that every promoter puts his money where his or her mouth is.
You cannot have a concert, especially featuring an international artist as big as Tarrus Riley, and not expect higher returns ‑ that is just not possible.
The reality of the matter is that the promoters learnt a lot from the huge loss or are still to learn. How they will manage to right their wrongs will be seen when they host another big concert.
What really went wrong when everything looked set for an epic gig, which unfortunately turned out a nightmare for the promoters? What went wrong to individuals known to have all the financial muscle to market, organise and host any big artiste from any part of the globe?
One big issue that is often underrated by promoters is putting a hefty marketing budget.
Suffice to say that money is not an issue though it matters, there is a great deal of planning that goes into organising a show.
Basically, planning means everything in show business and to quote from an old adage “failing to plan, is planning to fail”, this is exactly what the organisers did. They failed to plan, this is why they chose the Harare International Conference Centre.
They wanted the show to be upmarket when it should have been mass market, by this we mean there is strength in numbers. A bigger crowd would have attended had the organisers got the date right.
Date and Timing
This brings us to the issue of date and timing. Both the date and timing are crucial insofar as avoiding clashing with other competing events. Organisers should have checked their diaries to see if there was no other show on the same date.
The timing also proved that organisers were complete novices because a simple check on the weather report, say on DStv, would have shown that on that day, October 28, it was going to be windy and cold with some showers expected in some areas. But this, of course, the organisers forgot to do or they simply did not plan well.
Then they also got it wrong big time, as after noticing that there was another big gig hosted by Delta Beverages ‑ the annual Castle Lager National Braai Day – the organisers should have pushed forward the concert.
The Castle Lager National Braai Day is a popular event on the entertainment calendar but organisers of Tarrus Riley thought they could compete for the crowds.
That was suicidal and they had themselves to blame for mistiming the date of the show.
Yes, it was month end with most revellers having money to spend but every month there is month end, so they should have postponed the show since Delta Beverages had set the date way in advance.
Sadly, it appeared as if the Tarrus Riley gig at HICC was rushed and obviously somebody somewhere within C&A Promotions was misled into believing that the show was bigger than the national braai day.
The other unfortunate thing was that organisers thought or overestimated that in Zimbabwe Tarrus Riley was as popular as Beenie Man or Busy Signal, who pulled huge crowds before.
NO! Tarrus Riley is an exceptional musician but he is not as popular as Beenie Man or Busy Signal in Zimbabwe.
And if you look back at both gigs by Beenie Man and Busy Signal you find that they had massive crowds because they were mass marketed and the ticket price was so affordable that one could pay for a friend of a friend.
This takes us back to the issue of pricing. In Zimbabwe, there are those who think the more expensive the ticket, the more the music enthusiasts would want to attend the show. What a misleading perception? In this day and age, when the economy is on a free-fall you cannot peg tickets between US$20 and US$100. So, already that was a huge mistake.
Rather people want easy access but do not mind about the prices at the bar because at any given concert people want their drinks.
It is rare for people to attend a show in their numbers and then not crowd at the bars. There is a correlation between the number of people who pay their way into the show and those that visit the bars.
When you get less numbers at the gate, do not expect too much at the bars because some people will simply leave the venue or will be out-priced at the bars.
There is nothing wrong in asking those who know than pretend to know. We have successful promoters, who came before C&A Promotions, and some are still there to consult.
C&A Promotions must have consulted people like Mama Red Rose, Biggie Chinoperekwei or Partson Chimbodza aka Chipaz, who recently retired from show business on how to attract huge crowds.
We feel for C&A Promotions and would not want the same thing to happen to theme in the future. Lest we forget, the Akon/Sean Paul gig was a total disaster and yet the crowds had a great time. Last but not least, the lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn anything at all.