Photo by Roger Harris on Unsplash
Happy Monday and happy 2020! Thanks for opening the eleventh edition of the Stan newsletter. A newsletter exploring fans and their bidirectional relationships with the artists that they love. As always suggestions and feedback are always appreciated. You can shoot me an email at email@example.com.
West Africa in December is lit. Period. If you have not experienced a West African country in December add it to your bucket list sooner rather than later because it is something everyone should experience at least once. I just came back from spending the latter two weeks of the decade in Ghana (FYI, I’m first generation Ghanaian-American) and I would be remised if I did not share my observations and overall assessment of the music, live events, fan culture and supporting infrastructure in place to make this all possible. For this article I will focus my thoughts and analysis largely on Ghana given the year of return initiative and that I was physically there, however there will be many times where I refer to Africa or West Africa more broadly.
Why December? Why Ghana?
December has always been a busy time for Africa as a result of the African diaspora travelling home. In the last few years tourism to Ghana has been steadily increasing thanks to a fully renovated airport, simple visa process, and most notably the “Year of Return” initiative. A few years in the works, the Year of Return initiative fell on the 400th anniversary since the first slave ships left Ghana and arrived in Jamestown, Virginia. The initiative largely centered around welcoming the diaspora back home, many of which were visiting Ghana for the first time.
People visiting Ghana in December were greeted by a long list of music-centered events to partake in. Afrochella, AfroNation, a Cardi B concert, DettyRave, a Major Lazer concert, and much more. Events centered around music are core to Ghana’s tourism offering, however many of the events still leave a lot to be desired. As Ghana continues to become a more popular travel destination it is critical to examine the opportunities for improvement in producing these events as they play a pivotal role in Ghana’s draw to visitors and positively affect the local economy. When producing these events organizers need to take into account; transportation, value proposition at each ticket tier, communication leading up to and during the event, run of show, fan experiences, and audience management logistics. During my time in Ghana I attended Afrochella and got to witness the above (or lack thereof) and was also privy to the firsthand accounts of many friends that attended other events in Accra, leading to me wanting to write this piece to dig deeper on what can be done to improve.
The Year of Return saw a record amount of visitors to Ghana but I truly believe it isonly the beginning. With the announcement of the “Beyond the Return” initiative and the FOMO people experienced from not being in Ghana this past December, Ghana’s tourism numbers are only going to continue to climb. Many people added Ghana as a destination to visit next year, including artists. Based on the social media activity alone, one can infer that many artists are inquiring how/where to perform in the country this upcoming holiday season. In order for Ghana to truly benefit and sustain this momentum it is imperative to audit the current experience. I will focus less on fan characteristics as I have written in depth about the strong and passionate fan culture that exists in Ghana in my three part series “The Overlooked Fan Frontier in Ghana and Nigeria”.
Managing Expectations: Tiering Ticket Offerings
In Ghana when purchasing tickets to attend an event you are often greeted with General, V.I.P, and the infamous V.V.I.P (very very important person). By having to deliver three distinct tiered ticket experiences, it quickly becomes apparent that these offerings were designed from top (VVIP) to bottom (general admission) resulting in the smallest subset of people having a favorable experience. The problem with tiered ticket offerings is that organizers fail to properly manage expectations and define (and uphold) a minimum acceptable ticket-holder experience. It is very common for ticket-holders to think through ticket tiers in the following: “promised, but will not be offered” and “promised and will be offered”. These things include timely check-in, fast moving bar lines,clean bathrooms, etc. All things that should be standard when defining a minimum acceptable ticket-holder experience and should be in no way tied to whether an individual has a VIP or VVIP ticket. It is clear that organizers have capitalized on the unestimated amount of anarchy for any given event through the creation of categories such as “VVIP”. In many instances things that should be accessible to every ticket-holder only become available or provided in a reasonable amount of time through the purchase of a higher tiered ticket, which is inferiorly rewarding organizers for continuing to poorly plan events. By building ticket-holder experiences from the bottom (general admission) up it forces organizers to think through producing events holistically leading to a higher percentage of satisfied ticket-holders.
Building through Partnerships: Transportation and Communication
Many of the challenges that show organizers face, namely transportation and communication, could be remedied through meaningful partnerships with ride-share and social media companies. Although the responsibility of an attendees transportation does not fall under an organizers jurisdiction, it is in their best interest to think about the role seamless transportation plays in providing a phenomenal ticket-holder experience. Looking at transportation, partnering with a rideshare company (i.e - Uber or Lyft) is a win-win for all parties involved. On the organizers side they can increase the value proposition of their ticket by offering free transportation and benefit from less congestion at the show venue and not needing to provide as much parking. For rideshare companies they benefit from increased brand-awareness amongst locals and tourists that are located in markets that they may have plans to expand to while simultaneously increasing users on the app. Additionally, if a rideshare company provides a user with convenient transportation to a show, they can ideally win the allegiance of said user for the duration of their trip. On the communication side attendees are craving accurate up to date information distributed to them in a timely fashion. This actually presents a really awesome opportunity for Facebook(i know, i know) thanks to its global reach through various mediums (Instagram, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp). By incorporating a feature where users can opt-in at the time of purchasing their ticket to be notified about festival updates and overall communication through the aforementioned platforms organizers can more easily manage expectations with attendees and communicate experience critical updates. It also gives organizers a great sales funnel for next years show.
Logistics, Logistics,Logistics: Run of Show
Putting on an event is hard. Putting on an event in Ghana which comes with its own unique set of challenges is even harder. Organizers need to be honest with themselves about their capacity for predicting and handling the minute details that have a great effect on a ticket-holders overall experience. Things such as a timely run of show, flow of traffic, proper stocking of bars, management of bathrooms, ability to accept multiple methods of payment, ample security, etc.
An Event Scoring Card
I recommend that artists and ticket-holders ask themselves the following before choosing to perform or attend a large-scale event. Hopefully organizers are thinking through the below when planning their event. For artists, these events often serve as a conduit to connect to their fans so holding organizers accountable when their name is involved is imperative. This isn’t a comprehensive list but here is what I have come up with so far:
- How many years has this event been in production? What were the review from prior years?
- If it is an inaugural event - who are the organizers? Have they produced any events before? What were those reviews?
- What are the limitations of the venue?
- Is it easily accessible?
- What is the max capacity?
- How much about the event has been disclosed before the event occurs?
- The lineup? The location? Time of event? ETC.
- For things not disclosed do they have a date when they plan to disclose?
- Do they have a large online/social media presence?
- Do they respond to inquiries in a timely fashion?
- Purchasing Tickets
- What ticket processor are they using? Is it credible?
- What is the refund policy?
- Are there any other assurances that they make for ticket holders if the event is cancelled, inclement weather, etc.?
- Are the ticket tiers clearly defined?
- What do general admission ticket holders get vs. VIP vs. VVIP.
- Day of Run of Show (This has to be answered assessing last years show)
- What time was the show slated to start vs. what time did it actually start?
- Was everything that was stated in the different ticket offerings provided to ticket holders?
- Overall, how secure was the venue?
- Did they check attendees before entering the venue
- Were offenders asked to leave?
- Were there any major incidents?
The Musical Magic of Ghana
My first trip as an adult to Ghana was in so many ways made even more amazing because of music. I look forward to patronizing the musical experiences in the country as they continue to evolve and become even better. I would love this piece to spark an actionable conversation around where there is room for improvement for musical experiences in Ghana as well as share all the really amazing moments that people have had as a result of musical experiences in Ghana.
Me DJing in Accra. A lot more DJ sets to come in 2020.
Don’t Call Me Back by Joeboy (My new favorite artist post-Ghana)
the love is real big up ghana the concert ago bomboclaat crazy😂🤣 🇬🇭🇯🇲
January 9, 2020
The love people had for Popcaan when he touched down in Ghana will forever make me smile. Unruly.