So please explain this to me:
Freddie Mercury died at the age of 45. He was worth an estimated $100mln.
The legendary Mahlathini – who in my view was a talent equal to that of Freddie Mercury – died at the age of 61. There are no reliable sources of information for his net worth, but it is common cause that it was not much.
South Africans are as talented as anyone else is from any nation in my view. So why then do our artists die poor?
I have pondered on this question, and here are my three reasons why South African artists seldom escape the poverty trap:
South African artists need to understand that they are not just artists or creative beings. They are talent-preneurs. They make their living through their talents. They must concern themselves with all aspects of their business, sales, marketing, logistics and even financials.
Getting well versed with the numbers of your business and knowing the difference between mark-up & gross margin, net cash & accounts receivables or payment terms & working capital are not boring concepts only for the accountant.
They are logical pieces of information that tell you how much you are creating, if at all.
No one was born and bred to ensure that you are successful. No, one! You do that for yourself. I have seen countless talent-preneurs (singers, actors, idols judges, dancers and even speakers) sign away their business to someone else. They sign with an agent who earns 25% of their money (off the top) for facilitating a transaction.
Therefore, for merely picking up the phone, taking a booking, sending a contract and getting the often non-complex logistics in order, talent-preneurs will pay 25c of every rand they earn to someone else. That is ridiculous. Imagine Standard Bank giving away 25% of everything they earn to someone else.
Often these agencies expect the talent to sign an ‘exclusivity agreement’ with them but they never sign ‘exclusivity’ with the talent, which means they represent as many artists as they wish & have no vested interest any particular artist being successful.
Many talent-preneurs need to understand that personal branding is not marketing.
Just because you are on TV, radio or any other media does not mean you have a ‘compelling value proposition’ that customers can only access through you. This is often why for many of our talent-preneurs, radio or TV is a necessity. Without it, they cannot make a real living.
So why is Jay-Z amongst the best selling hip-hop artists in the world & unlike LL Cool J and the like, he does not know nor have he ever had a TV show? Why did Michael Jackson set world record music sales even though he did not have a reality TV show on Bravo?
Why did Lebo Mathosa leave an incredible trail of commercial success as an artist even though she did not have a show on Vuzu?
The answer is easy: Each of these talent-preneurs were so well versed in their trade and I would argue understood the levers upon which their commercial success rested that they didn’t need the platform. They ran their business like a business. They were in charge. They took their own bookings or managed the office the does. They built an extraordinary brand around consumer experience. That is why Afro-Jack has his plane, and tour bus and booking agency.
They run it like a business.
Vusi Thembekwayo Speaker. Investor. Disruptor