Arts and entertainment have never really taken full advantage of the digital space.
Now COVID-19 will help them to.
As Public gatherings are banned in Lagos and several other states, Art Galleries have shut down, Terrakukture has cancelled its current theatre shows and upcoming Easter shows in April.
Davido, Teni, Asa, Brymo, Beautiful Nubia, have shifted their music concerts till further notice, and even the gates of Femi Kuti’s Afrikan shrine have been slammed shut.
Film productions, film festivals and film premieres have all been put on hold.
iRep documentary film festival has been postponed to a later date;Mildred Okwo’s ‘La Femme Anjola’ was suspended in post-production due to the virus and Trino Motion pictures’ ‘The One For Sarah’ was to begin Principal Photography in April, but that has been shelved for now.
The remake of ‘Nneka the Pretty Serpent‘ by Play Network studios,who created a successful sequel for the classic ‘Living In Bondage’ had just concluded auditions but could not continue pre-production after the introduction of social distancing to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Production activities for the anticipated Nigerian original series for Netflix were suspended after the Akin Omotoso directed series reportedly got the ‘orders from above’.
This significant shut down of the market was not in the plan.
Harnessing growth opportunities in entertainment, media, arts and lifestyle’, the entertainment industry’s market was expected to rise from $3.6Billion in 2016, to reach $6.4Billion by 2021, according to The Business of Entertainmenta report by Price Water Copper (PWC), theauditing firm.
This means that the entertainment industry was expected to make about $5.84Billion in 2020, but PWC obviously did not put into consideration the arrival of COVID-19 in its calculations.
During the December celebrations in 2019, Terrakulture made an average of ₦72Million from the musical Fela and the Kalakuta Queens, and will be passing up aroundthat same amount with the postponement of their next major musical production ‘Oluronbi The Musical’ which was scheduled for April.
Toyin Abraham, who averaged around ₦ 74Million from her last two projects- The Ghost and the Tout and Alakada Reloaded, was about to make a huge splash in the cinemas with her latest project, and the fourth installment in her Alakada movie franchise- “Fate of Alakada: The Party Planner“, but due to COVID-19, the original April 3 release date has been moved to a soon-to-be-announced date.
The longer a movie stays in the cinemas, the longer the chances of it raking in a lot of money at the box office, but if the Corona takes a number of months off the calendar, movies might not make much money at the cinemas this year.
Kayode Kasum,Director of ‘Fate of Alakada: The Party Planner’, remains hopeful that when the pandemic ends movie goers would not be hesitant to return to public spaces like the cinema after spending some time at home.
“I hope the current social distancing will not make people reluctant to come to the cinemas. I hope that a vaccine is discovered so that it ends soon” Kasum says.
So how will the average Nigerian be entertained now that measures to slow the spread of COVID-19 has been put in place and it involves staying indoors, and far away from crowds?
At a time when digital recorded music revenue via downloads has overtaken physical records, Internet video revenues has surpassed physical home video, and smartphone traffic has exceeded fixed broadband data traffic, according to PWC.
Streaming services and social media are the largest beneficiaries in this ‘Stay At Home’ era.
A recent report by market research firm, Nielsen shows that there will be a 60% increase in the amount of streamed content made available.
Even arts and entertainment in various parts of the world are jumping on it.
‘Frozen 2’ has been made available 3 months earlier than it scheduled date on Disney+.
According to The Economist, Hollywood movies like The Invisible Man”, “The Hunt” and “Emma” will be made available online by Universal Pictures for a rental fee, andexpected to make its digital debut very soon is the latest DC Comics and Warner Bros collaboration, Birds of Prey”.
American musicians, John Legend, Bono, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Pink, John Mayer, Keith Urban have held online concerts to atone for their inability to hold live concerts due to social distancing.
Miley Cyrus launched a daily live talk show on Instagram and Facebook called “Bright Minded: Live with Miley” to be a source of positive energy during this dark period.
Other musicians who are staying at home are using social media and streaming services to release music or make up for postponed shows.
Even museums are making the most of it, with Google’s Arts & Culture project which allows internet users to explore the collections of 1,200 museums and archives around the world.
“Nigerians are not taking advantage of the digital space as they should, they can make the best of a bad situation. Make the most of the digital space now that people are at home. Musicians can release albums or an EP. Gather their friends and help create awareness around the corona virus.
Even if they are not making money now, when the pandemic ends, it is their music that people will remember, or if it is a film maker, it is their series or film that was streamed online that will be remembered”, says Kaycee Oguejiofor, artiste management and music critic.
“If they organize a concert after the pandemic ends, you will see people will attend, and they will gain new fans,”heexplains.
Some Nigerian artists are making the most of it like Oguejiofor suggested.
Sound Sultan, Oxalade and Paybac have all released works which are available online.
Sound Sultan droppedhis seventh studio album titled ‘8th Wondah’. Singer, Oxlade a released new EP, ‘Oxygene’ while Paybac returns with his fourth body of work in just three years with the album, ‘Cult!’
Also, singer Bez, regularly organizes live shows on his social media pages and on YouTube every weekend to keep fans entertained, and has asked fans to suggest other artists who he should invite online to join in for a jam session.
Web series, Nollywood films that show on cable, local and international streaming platforms like DSTV, IrokoTV, Netflix and Amazon Prime will also all benefit from this period as more people will stream series and films and engage with their television sets.
More can still be done.
Galleries can host virtual tours of the works in their spaces.
establishments like TerraKulture can move their theatre online and share videos of past theatre productions, as numerous theatrical institutions are doing across the world. Film makers can hold private viewings for their films that were meant to be released in cinemas this period on streaming platforms like Zoom, with selected movie critics.
The movie critics will watch and create reviews, these video and text reviews will help keep the buzz going.
Also, the major cast and crew of a movie can make short Instagram videos and talk about the film.
The possibilities are endless.
“The entertainment industry will lose like 80% of its income, because most musicians for example rely mostly on live performances. To survive this period, entertainers have to look to the digital space, and find ways of making the most of the current situation”, Kaycee concludes.
Obidike Okafor writes on the economics of culture production for Bookartville.com. He is the Senior Content Manager at his own firm OBDK Media and part time Communications Manager at Dyslexia Nigeria. An arts journalist and content producer he has worked for NEXT, and reported for Omenka Magazine. A widely consulted consultant on Nigerian arts and entertainment, Okaforwas awarded art journalist of the year in 2009 by the Society of Nigerian Artists(SNA) Lagos Chapter, and was a nominee for art journalist of the year 2011 in the Nigerian Art Expo awards.