Making The VGMAs Industry Relevant: A Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swift, the well-acclaimed satirical author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ fame, in one of his essays offered a solution to the economic crisis and the pain of the masses of Ireland, his native country, where the rich were getting richer and the poor were perpetually poor.

His piece, written in the 18th Century, suggested that the poor people of Ireland could come out of their penury by offering their children as food to the rich. With that, the poor stood a better opportunity to making a living, considering their circumstances.

Of course, Swift mocks how heartless those who had power and money had become, neglecting those who made them rich. That was his ‘Modest Proposal’ (title of the essay) to what he felt was the only way to helping the poor.

Reading the piece over the weekend for the first time since 1999, I set my mind on a tour. With the Vodafone Ghana Music Awards (VGMA), just ended, the flood gates of critique and suggestions have been opened. Those who want to talk to ‘God’ through the wind are on course; those who decide to scribble their apprehensions about the awards are also heading in that direction. By the way, the organizers of the awards anticipate all the things that happen, before, during, and after. After all that is mileage and I don’t have an iota of doubt that that is one of the many things that have sustained it all these years.

I only have a proposal, a modest one. The proposal comes in many facets, though. I can’t afford to be satirical. I had the motivation, having read Swift, and having seen a Facebook post by Richard Agyemang Berko which alludes that being sarcastic on a regular basis can add up to three years to your life, and that sarcasm is extremely healthy for the mind.

This piece is a serious and straight forward one. I had a premonition that I won’t be able to see the awards this year. It was not because ECG wasn’t favourable to me; they were because there was no dumsor. But the ECG meter at home caught fire, some few hours to the broadcast. It was that bad. And I wasn’t going to move heaven and earth to get a ticket that expensive to sit and watch what?

I have seen every single edition on television live, even instances I had to endure the nuisance of the Station of the Nation, when they truncate the telecast because they had to end transmission at 1 a.m.(Will you blame them?). My hope was further dashed when the event broadcasters failed to show up for the party? They disappointed me big time! Is diminishing return setting in? Or they are being complacent? Anyway, Peace FM gave me what I wanted on radio, though I couldn’t endure the long hours of broadcast. I slept off.

Prize Package
I woke up to learn Stonebwuoy won the artiste of the year. Congratulations to him. But I have been wondering? What is the price package for being crowned the best artiste in Ghana? I hear he got a Samsung Galaxy S6 and Ghc10, 000.The young man, undoubtedly is happy, not for the package he received, after all awards are not all about money, but the recognition.

The young man has worked very hard in the year under review (that is what everybody says), so also have Edem, MzVee and Sarkodie. But hard work in the music industry involves sacrificing hard cash and time to get their stuff out there. And hard work alone doesn’t pay the bills!

This is where I think the musicians deserve more than they are given! We are told there is always limited budget. Really? What then is the motivation for paying outrageous performance fees to artistes to perform on an awards show? I don’t mean the musicians need not be paid their due, but if organizers are willing to pay in excess of Ghc50,000, then we should be spared with the ‘limited budget’ theory.

Performance Fee and Sponsors
For me, I tend to empathize with the artistes who demand to be paid their due. Why? Because I think the VGMAs have become more commercially inclined than an industry award meant for musicians.

Yes, the headline sponsors are Vodafone, a multinational company that makes millions of dollars annually in profits. For them to commit to the awards is good. I don’t believe MTN decided not to sponsor the awards any longer. For the organizers, it was about the higher bidder, and that is business. So for Vodafone to even have their name as part of the awards, then implies that they should commit more to the awards! Or should I direct the call to the organizers to make Vodafone commit to the most important things? One of them is giving a befitting award to the Artiste of the Year!

It is sad the overall artiste doesn’t walk home with even a car or a house- one that befits the status of the most important musician in the country? Vodafone does that for their customers in their many promotions. Is this something beyond the organizers, who have all the corporate contacts in the country and beyond? For me, it is sad and it shows the level of respect for the musician in the country.

I won’t blame the organizers entirely. The award scheme is private, but it is done in collaboration with MUSIGA. The musicians’ body’s only interest is to get their own sponsorship (whatever benefit they get from it) and award a car to who they want. Pure politics, at the expense of the welfare of the musicians.

My Proposal
I only have one proposal for the organizers. And I know they will take it! When they take it, they will earn the respect of all industry players, and the several bickering that characterize the awards will be minimized.

The entire awards should be modeled on the ‘Industry Night’ that precedes the so called main awards. This is my only proposal.

How many people complain about the industry awards? Do we see people trooping to the stage when they have no business there? Aren’t patrons treated like kings? Don’t patrons leave the event satisfied and honored? That is the way forward!

This proposal will mean making the event a one- off activity. There should not be a main event and industry event. This will also mean making the event strictly by invitation. Organizers should not be bothered about how much goes into ticket sales, after all they tell us virtually all tickets are complimentary. Sponsors are there to take care of that.

This will also mean reaching out to more industry players, particularly musicians. Let’s admit most of them feel and are sidelined if their works are not in contention.

This will also mean Sarkodie and Shatta Wale may see the awards as an industry thing, and not a money-making scheme.

This is my modest proposal, Charterhouse Ghana.

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