Creatives press for reopening the gig economy

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They see a future in which mass gigs are a Summertime affair and call for greater cooperation with the public and private sectors towards a more diversified economy. RORISANG MOGOJWE reports

As Botswana gradually reopens the hobbling economy, only the creative sector remains under lockdown. The result is that the struggle of creative workers to find ways of earning an income from home, even as they already see a devastating impact on their future, will continue.

With all music festivals and social gatherings still outlawed for the foreseeable future, the majority of performers – ranging from singers, DJs, dancers, event organisers and MCs – have lost their means of an income.

The Botswana Entertainment Promoters Association (BEPA), through its “I lost My Gig” campaign, has continues to call for government’s immediate intervention to save the creative industry as one of Botswana’s highest contributors to the economy.

The Secretary General of the organization, Sidney Nzala aka DJ Boogie Sid, says since businesses within the entertainment industry bring people together, they can adapt to COVID-19 regulations because in the end “we should be able to co-exist with the virus and contain its spread while business goes on” in an environment where sanitizing patrons is a priority.
“Venues like nightclubs can consider multiple entire sans exists to minimise congestion,” Boogie Sid continues. “Big outdoor festivals will have to sanitise around the venue and at entrance points, clubs would have to enhance bathrooms by providing more wash basins and sanitising points because health and safety standards are of paramount importance at now. The health ministry should be involved in ensuring that the COVID-19 health protocols are adhered to.”

Looking at the future earning potential of the gig economy, OratileJazzelleKebakile, MC of Iconic Events in BW, who is also a voiceover artist and a PR strategist sees mass gatherings becoming seasonal.“For those of us making a living from events, I think that our work will become season-specific to summer,” says Kebakile. “This means that we need to seek out new ways to earn money when events aren’t taking place. This is an opportunity for marketers and brand custodians in both the public andthe private sectors to engage creatives for work in bringing their strategies to life.

“For us creatives, we need to seek each other out and develop products that can empower us as groups.Registration of artists across the board will be useful too in creating a sound picture of who we are, what we need, what we have and how we operate.”

He argues that because the sector cannot move forward without the support of the government and funding from the private sector, there is a great opportunity for collaboration.“The ecosystem is such that there are creators of ideas and there are funders of ideas. There are providers of third party services and polishers of final products. There is a only a handful of outstanding creatives that have built empires that can operate with little to no government and/or corporate support, particularly as we rebuild post-COVID-19. I think we need to march together because we need each other.”

Media entrepreneur Robin Chivadze, who is better known as DJ Robby Rob, says a change of mindset of the essence if the creative community should adapt to the new normal. “It’s simple,” he points out.“Sit tight and stay creative.Remember the time when you did it for the love of it? Tap into that frame of mind and energy and the money will come just before. It’s not as if you knew for sure how much was gonna come and when or how but it happened because you were doing what you were doing. So go back to doing just that and the rest will take care of itself. We are wasting too much time and energy whining and complaining about stuff. We got to stop it. It’s a waste of time and energy.”

For performing artists, social media has become the new way to connect with fans and earn a living, using online platforms and digital media to distribute and share their art. However, music promoters like the founder of the Gaborone International Music and Culture (GIMC), ThapeloPabalinga, is unconvinced of this because he holds that online events could never replace outdoor live shows.

Meanwhile, the coming of the draft for the national arts council law could, a draft form of which is in circulation among stakeholders for input,shouldmark a change for the better for the industry’s fortunes.The bill, scheduled to be presented to the National Assembly in the winter session, is aimed at reshaping and promoting the creative sector as another way of diversifying the economy.