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Artistes should embrace digital platforms, says insider

Published:Wednesday | March 18, 2020 | 12:00 AMShereita Grizzle/Staff Reporter
Vybz Kartel
Donovan Watkis, artiste manager and music consultant.

Music industry insider Donovan Watkis believes that now more than ever, artistes should start strengthening their social media and online presence. As the entertainment industry continues to grapple with the stifling effects of the coronavirus, Watkis is adamant that only the artistes who know how to maximise earnings from the online and digital worlds will survive a futuristic music industry.

Outlining the effects the COVID-19 virus has had on the entertainment industry on a global scale, Watkis says music pundits will now be forced to come up with creative ways to stay connected with their core audience or they will be left behind.

“At the beginning of the year, artistes would have set out to accomplish certain goals with their teams. Now is the time to refresh those social media strategies as part of those artistic goals,” Watkis, Think’ed Media Creative agency executive and host of World Music View, said. “This is a historic moment, and it calls for historic actions. There is a call for social distancing, but for artistes and other persons in the creative industries, this is the time to draw closer on social media even as they remain physically distant from their fans. People will remember the artistes who came through the most during this time.”

Speaking of artistes who will make the most impact, Watkis recounted a move made by Vybz Kartel back in 2011 when he performed at the Best of the Best concert in Miami without touching the stage. The entertainer had lost his visa but still managed to honour his performance by delivering his set via Skype. Dubbing Kartel as a deejay who is always one step ahead, Watkis believes digital performances may become a thing, especially as the fight against the coronavirus rages on. He pointed out that international artistes such as John Legend and Coldplay have already begun utilising social media platforms to satisfy their fans’ musical needs.

“People remember the Kartel video concert because he was the only person to do it, and it’s the same way artistes will have to find original ways to connect with their fans and create memorable moments. The moment for artistes to connect with their fans more intimately is now. People will be in their homes, and they want to be entertained,” he said.

Window of opportunity

“The difference between that Kartel concert and someone doing a remote concert now is that Kartel had a concert audience. People cannot gather now, so the artiste would have to signal to their online audiences to gather at a particular time to make the concert as live and impactful. This moment may open the window for corporations as well as companies could choose to come together and sponsor live sessions by different artistes nightly from their living rooms. People won’t forget who were with them in their quarantined time.”

Vybz Kartel agreed. Sending his response through Gaza vice-president Sikka Rhymes, the incarcerated deejay encouraged artistes to make use of the technology at their disposal. “We live in the age of information, so now, the world has gone from a time when foreigners waited months to consume the latest songs and music videos to a time now when anybody anywhere in the world (and in orbit) can watch you write and record the song live. We live in the age of information, so now, the world has gone from a time when foreigners waited months to consume the latest songs and music videos to a time now when anybody anywhere in the world (and in orbit) can watch you write and record the song live. This virus has become a pandemic and is the number-one limiter of travel. So, yes, this is definitely the time for entertainers to use online platforms to boost their presence,” he said.

But the latter may be harder said than done, according to Watkis. The music pundit believes that while most local entertainers have social media accounts, the greatest challenge will be getting them to use the platforms effectively. He believes that despite their growing presence online, many artistes have not been able to transform their presence on social media into potential earnings.

“Many artistes aren’t aware of how to properly monetise their digital content. Taking a crash curse in publishing, music licensing, and streaming culture online should help artistes to become more effective and far-reaching when the dust settles. With some innovation, the music industry can be rebuilt greater than ever as streaming becomes more fully integrated and artistes start paying more attention,” he said. “And for the artiste who still operates with the old narratives in music and are finding it harder to embrace change, they will be displaced. That’s just the reality.”