Next Stop Africa

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African musicTouring in Africa has not quite become big business for American artists, but it´s on the way there. In fact, each year more and more African-American singers are performing in the Motherland.

Recently in fact, Akon toured Senegal and Cape Verde. Bow Wow is due in Senegal soon. The past artists such as Beyonce, Ashanti, Neyo, 50 Cent, Jay-Z have performed in countries ranging from South Africa to Nigeria to Mozambique.

And these are no longer the days of Sun City, when during Apartheid some–though not many–famous American (black and white) performers went to South Africa to perform and make a fast dollar. Among those who reported to have toured South Africa during the glory days of Apartheid were: Elaine Page, Frank Sinatra, Queen, Elton John, Julio Iglesias, The O’Jays, Ray Charles, Black Sabbath, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick.

Then began Artists United Against Apartheid, which urged other artists not to perform in the country. Some 49 major recording artists collaborated on a song called “Sun City,” in which they pledged they would never perform at the resort.

But those days have passed and American artists, particularly African-American artists are finding eager audiences in South Africa. “It´s an easy transition for the artists, notes music expert Colin Gayle, CEO and creative producer of Bounceback Media, a marketing, branding and TV production company focusing on Pan-Africa based in both the U.S. and South Africa.

Why South Africa? The country speaks English, the government is relatively stable and the country has the money to pull in top acts. But the mega paydays are waning, says Gayle, who was vice president of International Urban at Warner Brothers, and general manager of International Marketing and Global Branding for multi-platinum recording artist, 50 Cent. This is partly due to the increase in acts coming to the continent. Still, touring Africa can help an artists´s brand.” It´s a great branding opportunity,” says Gayle. “As the African cities are developing and growing, by touring the countries, more and more people hear the music and learn more about the artists. It opens up brand new markets for them.”

And these days, touring is where an artist can really make money. “When you look at record sales and how much an artist actually makes from the sales, it is a small portion of their total incoming. They make money from touring and other branding opportunities,” notes Gayle. “Selling more CDs aren´t necessary the objective; it´s about spreading the word about your brand and getting people out to your shows.” CD sales in many counties like Africa, where bootleg copies abound, touring would definitely to be the priority.

Nigeria seems to be the big player in bringing African-American artists to the continent. “Nigeria led the way, says Gayle. “They were the first to start bringing in young contemporary artists.”

Money sometimes is the problem in getting acts to smaller African countries, when some top rap and R&B acts command $200,000 US and upwards per show. Some African promoters cannot pull in the cash to lure the acts, says Gayle. It was rumored Akon pulled in $150,000 for his Cape Verde show. Also, says Gayle, sometimes Africa promoters claim to be able to have an artist come perform and even start the publicity without having yet organized the show. This was the case, Gayle says might have happen when it was announced Mary J. Blige was coming to Zimbabwe. The show, though well publicized, did not happen.

But you will see more and more black America singers heading to Africa says Gayle, and you ill see more black American investment on the Continent. “When African-American artists start really looking seriously at Africa, they will see that it is developing, and developing fast and this can happen as the dialogue between young black Americans and young Africans began. When they get to know each other and learn of each other´s culture and their commonality,” says Gayle. “I would not only like to see more performers in Africa, I want young African-American artists to stat investing in Africa. Not just charity. I am talking about business deals. Charity is writing a check and you´re done. Business deals create long lasting relationships. All it would take would be for a 50 Cent, a Jay-Z and Diddy to open a business in Africa, and others will follow.”