I was really thrilled to get a ticket to Slap Dee’s Unplugged last night. Slap Dee is one of my favourite artists, I think he is consistent in releasing hits and is one of the hardest working artists in Zambia (my impression of him). So this piece is not to diminish anything about Slap Dee, or to be on a hater tip, but I believe it’s enough of talking about mediocrity, we have to tell it like it is, and hope it will help improve our creative industry. Also I’m not an expert in the music industry, I speak as a person who wants to see the industry grow and who also appreciates a good live show. So I can’t help but ask, when attending these events that have been done before, why in Zambia, we choose to learn the hard way and not go to those who have tried and tested it already?

Firstly I think Slap Dee had a great idea of doing an unplugged show. It wasn’t the usual concept of unplugged, but it was different. So I commend him for trying something different.

So as it was after work, we got to Nasdec on time – early even, we got to the venue just after 7, the tickets said the event started at 7.30.

By 8.30 I was tired and irritable and Slap Dee was no where to be seen. The band came on briefly and played a couple of tracks to entertain the small crowd. But soon after, they too went off stage! At this point I decided if Slap Dee wasn’t on stage by 9.30 I was going to leave – I had work in the morning, I live out of Lusaka city, and hey, it was cold, my warm bed was waiting!

Shortly before 9.30 Slap Dee arrives on stage! Just as well, as I really was going to leave, even if Mary was in a much more supportive mood than I was!

It was by no means a massive turnout, but there were enough people to support him and feel the energy of love and appreciation. This is the second time I’ve been to an event that has not started on time because the artist, or the artist management has wanted more of a crowd. My experience is you lose people in the wait. Also there were people in the bar waiting for the show to start, so everyone was waiting for something! Personally I think it’s rude and you disrespect your fans (no matter how few of them are there), and it becomes a catch 22. You earn a reputation of not being able to start on time, so why should people show up on time? This is probably why, in Zambia, people choose not to show up on time – there is an expectation that the event won’t start on time, so why should we be hanging around waiting?

You can’t get away with that in developed countries anymore. If the ticket or event did not state that the doors open at 7.30 and show starts at 9.30, then it’s unacceptable to start two hours late! The audience is less forgiving in the west – they spent money to see a show, not to be disrespected. The least the artist can do is sincerely apologise for keeping people waiting. Don’t take the piss.

But despite what perhaps artist management might have considered a ‘low’ turnout, I thought it was a great vibe, and it made it feel intimate. Slap Dee really engaged with the crowd and I think it was easier because it was a smaller crowd (by small I’d say there was just under 100 people there). One of my favourite moments was when Slap called this young kid (ok in his 20s) to the stage to rap the lyrics of one of Slap Dee’s tracks and the guy knew the lyrics word for word. Priceless!

However, the next thing that was appalling was the sound. This was sound provided by the well known Ringman. I’ve never met the guy, but heard about the good quality sound he’s supposed to provide. The sound was terrible. Nasdec is not the greatest venue for sound, but as always, the best solution to deal with the problem should be identified, rather than focus on the problem. It was as if Ringman couldn’t be bothered to find that solution. I may be hard on him as this is my observation as a bystander. Despite the sound being bad, he left his station to go and sit with his friends in the bleachers. To me that’s unacceptable. But I’m a solution oriented person, I believe it’s not enough to shrug your shoulders and walk away, but that’s just me, I’m passionate about what I do and always want to be the best I can be.

And I do think there are enough people who have good expertise – and care about their reputation or are passionate enough to give the best possible services and who are solution oriented. Those are the people you should be looking for if you care enough about your brand and the experience you want to deliver.

There were so many things that could have been done better with just a little consultation, and there are enough people (Media 365 included) who, with enough notice, would be happy to help with free advice to ensure the show is the best it can be. Not for the credit, but because they care about the industry. Including with stage design – his stage was far too small for the number of people on it, and there was only a scoreboard as the backdrop (well it’s on the wall at Nasedec!) – was still so random.

Partnerships, or certainly more people to share ideas, experiences, lessons learnt etc stops us from learning the hard way. A case in point, when I try to do something new, I don’t trust on my own judgement or through prayer alone (!), I look to people in my network, or extended network and see who has done what I want to do before, or who can provide me with relevant insight, and then how I use that insight to improve what I want to do. We employ this approach at Media 365 too – not everyone knows everything, but there are lots of people who know a little about something, put that together and you get valuable information!

I don’t put the onus all on the artist’s feet – our industry is so small so yes the talent does get more involved that perhaps they would in some other countries, but his management team also need to take some of the heat for the botched up issues. I think sometimes this is the problem of the entertainment industry, it’s full of egos, it’s glamorous, it’s sexy, but there is hardwork to be done, and someone has to do it.

I’m sure the lessons learnt from last night’s show will be applied to tonight’s show, so a lot of my issues and experiences will not be the same for the show-goers tonight, and so should enjoy it far more. I just don’t feel that there is any need to learn the hard way and it’s time we really focus on bringing our A game and competing, even if it’s just at a regional level.