Live music is back after a lengthy Covid-19 shutdown. This was largely due to pandemic restrictions that impacted the creative sector resulting in a negative ripple effect.
Finding new ways to adapt in 2020 and 2021 was not easy for most musicians. A majority opted for virtual concerts while others enhanced their partnerships with brands.
For instance, Trace East Africa came up with the ‘The Trace Live Online series’ to empower local artists during this Covid-19 period, ensuring they continue to earn and produce more entertainment for viewers at home.
Now that the events are back, there is a lot of reflection post the pandemic. Technology has shown the possibility of doing more.
Today, artists are experimenting with metaverse concerts.
Metaverse is an online virtual world that merges augmented reality, virtual reality, 3D holographic avatars, video and other means of communication and it is providing artists possibilities.
We spoke with the team at Trace to understand lessons learnt and what the future would be like for music artists.
What was the impact of the Trace Live online events on your bottom line vs your initial plan to have them as physical events?
With the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic forcing many countries, including ours, to enforce lockdowns, all plans to host any events were halted. Nevertheless, for us in the entertainment industry, our biggest challenge was figuring out how to better serve our listeners, as well as artists with whom we work closely.
The online events were not so much about making profits but ensuring artists could use their craft to entertain audiences, including those in quarantine while creating value. I do believe we succeeded in achieving this and that our efforts paid off.
How would you biggest describe your experience going virtual?
Going virtual was completely unprecedented. Only a handful of people virtual concerts and we were a bit sceptical about our audience is receptive to the transition. With virtual concerts, there is no direct interaction between the artists and the fans. However, with digital integration and the incorporation of social media platforms, we managed to have our audiences interact with the artists. Surprisingly, we realized audience sizes that we couldn’t have attained with physical spaces.
What were the lessons learned regarding the digital transition?
In the face of every crisis, there is opportunity. By forcing us to transition into the digital space, Covid-19 taught us the importance of being agile in your line of work. It enhanced our thinking outside the box and being ready to shift the mindset from the norm i.e. from the physical norms to doing things completely online to keep your ‘customers’ satisfied.
In your opinion, will music lovers pick streaming over in-person concerts?
Audiences have different preferences, but going forward, it will be a mix of physical concerts that have a digital aspect. This will accommodate larger and more diverse audiences.
Are there any learnings that can be adopted from virtual concerts to in-person performances?
Experience is what matters in a concert. The goal is usually to have the audience yearning for more – so, for both online and physical concerts, we aim to achieve the same.
What was the gauge used to select artists for the virtual concerts?
This was always one of the most difficult things to do. We, however, ran polls from our digital spaces and on Trace FM to understand what artists and our audiences enjoyed listening to. We conducted online research on music streams to see whose music was most streamed or downloaded.
Trace Live as a platform also had sponsors whose audiences we considered, the reach they anticipated, and the music that appealed to them. It was a rigorous process but it yielded the results we wanted.
What was the overall effect of Trace Live, Trace Culture & BTTB on the music industry?
Looking back, Trace understood the assignment. COVID-19 dealt a huge blow to the music industry. There being no bars, concerts, or events simply meant that the artists had no means of earning a living, except for a few on international streaming services.
Trace saw an opportunity to create an impact for these artists by engaging as many of them as possible through Trace Live while earning some cash on the economic front. On the social front, they got to do what they loved more.
BTTB simply put, shed a light on the intricacies of music production and created an appreciation of the artistic and technical prowess required to produce hit music.
From the DJ aspect, House of Trace provided them with a platform where they could connect with their fans/ audiences through live mixes
Could you share some insights on the reception, penetration, and relevance of the music showcased in the Trace East Africa cluster region?
For relevance – TRACE Mziki is a platform for showcasing afro-urban culture from the wider East African region, one of them being music. We not only play the big artists but also have the up-and-coming artists, genres, and sub-genres featured including Gengetone, Drill, Amapiano, among others. We also had a daily one-hour-long segment (Newcomers) dedicated to these sub-genres. In addition, we have diversified into the Amharic space through Trace Muzika.
South African and Nigerian artists have fallen in love with their Kenyan fans and are invited to perform in sold-out concerts here in Kenya. What, in your opinion, is needed to get the Kenyan music industry to the same level or higher than South and West Africa?
Kenyan musicians should invest more in their craft. Nigerian and South African artists, both big and small, are always media touring and marketing their content with a focus on Kenya and the East Africa region.
Kenyans can emulate the same strategies applied by these musicians. They should invest in marketing their music to other parts of Africa, Europe, and the world. Luckily, Trace offers the platform to ensure this is achieved.
Going into the future, what creative value proposition should music festival organizers present to accelerate the growth of the Kenyan entertainment industry from local consumption to international standards? (Fan experience, the live interaction- fan-to-fan, band-to-fan and fest-to-fan).
Event organisers need to go back to basics, build a product that provides a lasting experience both physical and digital, the technical, the artist selection and performance. Then, invest in building brand equity around the event so that it attracts viewers that give it prominence and authenticity
What will be the role of technology in future events after it redefined how we do things?
With technology, event organizers will be able to gather data before and during events that will assist to analyze the behaviour of attendees, their expectations, all of which will contribute to improving subsequent events, calculating return on investment (ROI) and overall measuring event success.
With all these new applications coming up, customer experiences and those of sponsors will improve. For example, buying a ticket that offers bundle packages like food +drinks+memorabilia/merchandise. This allows prior planning in terms of stocks from vendors as they have access to the back end.