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Stakeholders groan as cash crunch hits entertainment sector

• We no longer get good offers for shows —Artistes
• Our customers now prefer short-time —Sex workers
• Nightlife no longer attractive —Patrons
• High cost of forex, petroleum products forcing us out of business —Service providers

 

ROTIMI IGE writes on the struggles currectly facing the entertainment industry as a result of the economic downturn in the country.

 

The economic crisis that Nigeria is currently undergoing has finally hit the entertainment sector. Prior to now, while the forex demands, the general instability of the naira, among other factors had adversely impacted on the prices of goods and services especially as regards petroleum and agricultural sector, the entertainment and hospitality industry had, for a while, been largely unaffected.

For instance, the prices on alcohol, hotel accommodation, among other entertainment services had remained same. In fact, months ago, some hotels resorted to reducing accommodation charges in a bid to lure more customers due to the economic crunch. The beer and alcoholic beverage companies also decided against increasing the pricing of their brands immediately, perhaps because they normally stored raw materials in bulk, sometimes in excess of a year’s supply. Entertainers had also continued to charge normal fees and enjoyed their flamboyant lifestyle.

However, things have changed and the entertainment industry is currently burdened by the alleged ‘recession’ in the economy. The first indication of bad times for fun seekers was when the pricing on alcohol and spirits was reviewed upward starting around December, although, quite insignificant. But, in present day, most prices, especially on wines and spirits, have been spiked up by at least 30 to 45 per cent.

clubingA club owner, Duke Anyi who spoke with Friday Treat, lamented the present situation currently facing their businesses. He stressed that most entertainment business owners were most probably running at a loss, unless they had multiple streams of income.

He said, “A carton of Hennessy VS normally sold for about N45,000 to N50,000 before is now N85,000. Most of the imported drinks have gone up about 40 per cent. So, we have no choice than to increase our menu list too. Also, we are cutting costs by ordering mostly popular drinks. Gone are the days when you stock drinks that are unpopular, hoping that customers would eventually try them out. Most customers have also resorted to drinking local/herbal alcoholic concoctions which are cheaper and sometimes, stronger. In fact, many patrons spend less nowadays due to the harsh economic conditions yet, we have to run on generators and provide the best environment for our customers. Business is tough now”.

An indication of the tougher times was evidenced in the reduction of the number of events organised in the sector in recent times. Most clubs, lounges and show promoters have cut down the regularity of major gigs to save money, a situation that has affected the music artistes negatively. Even the corporate sponsored events have reduced drastically and the ones being held have had their spending budget cut, sometimes in half. Some musicians who spoke to Friday Treat lamented the current situation in which they would have no engagements, sometimes for a whole month.

A popular rapper who didn’t want his name in print, told Friday Treat that he had, in recent time, cut his performance fees, just to attract show promoters to hire his services. “We are not making money like before. It has been over six weeks since I got a paid gig. In between though, I have done about three shows for my industry colleagues for free just to be seen and photographed by media people so I remain relevant. I pray this recession clears soon”, he said.

Investors in other entertainment businesses, such as the Cinema franchises, are also not having it good. While the population of movie buffs who throng the cinemas daily have reduced, most cinema owners have had to go back to their drawing board to strategise new ideas to lure guests to part with their money. While some cinema houses have introduced deals on cinema tickets, others have considered reducing their staff size. A staff of one of the cinemas in Abuja, told Friday Treat that, “We are scared of the future if things continue like this. We pay heavily to get the latest movies from Hollywood and maintenance of our various sites is tasking. We are praying that our bosses will not embark on a downsizing soon”.

Another sector of the entertainment industry that is feeling the heat is, you guessed it, the ‘exclusive needs’ department. According to a sex worker in Ibadan, Shalewa, there are many men who are ready for sex but with not much money to part with.

“Most men are currently frustrated. They are not making as much money and need an avenue to dissipate their tension. However, while we are willing to lower their stress levels, they are not financially buoyant enough to engage our services adequately. In fact, what they can mostly afford now is ‘short time’ and not ‘TDB’ (Till day break). Though we are adapting to the situation by catering to more clients daily to make up the deficit, we are appealing to the government to end this economic problem as soon as possible”, she said.

Another lady who was referred to as Cynthia, said, “Since we are no longer getting value for our bodies on the streets or in our hangouts, I have resorted to soliciting customers on social media. Internet is now very cheap and I have even discovered that I can reach more people discreetly on platforms like Twitter, Blackberry messenger, etc.

“Many people now chat me up and we negotiate online before I go to them. Though most of them plead that I should reduce my fees because of the current economic situation, I have found a way to give my services to the highest bidder. In fact, I no longer have to patrol clubs and beer parlours to get customers”.

An investigation around popular hangouts in states like Lagos, Ibadan, Ilorin, Akure and Port Harcourt was quite revealing. Not only has the number of regular patrons reduced, except on weekends, the less popular hangouts have become beer parlours because beer remains the most affordable, at least for now.

Eze Kinsley, who resides in Enugu, told Friday Treat that most fun lovers that night life is no longer attractive as before, unless one was a ‘big boy’. Most of us are civil servants and haven’t been paid regularly. How do we feed our families and still have enough for socializing. Night life is no longer attractive”.

Another respondent, Kehinde Awoleye, a banker, in her submission said, “Now, I simply buy all my cravings in bulk and enjoy in the comfort of my home. There is no budget for night crawling at this time in Nigeria. I simply stay at home. If I want to eat fresh fish, I go to the market, buy in bulk where it is cheaper and go home to cook it. If I miss the club music, I will buy selection cds and play at home or tune to any of the music stations on TV”.

However, with all the tales of hardships facing most respondents, some entertainment business owners have suddenly been experiencing a boom. Mrs Aminat Odewole who operates a CD rental shop in Ibadan was all smiles when Friday Treat visited her shop on Monday.

“Things are suddenly working in our favour these days because more people are renting movies from us. This may be because less people are subscribing to satellite TV rental due to rising costs and probably because most people stay more at home due to strikes or lack of money to socialise. Now, I have had to restock my shop and update my local movie library just to meet up with the demand. I rent each movie for N100 per day and on a good day, I make about N2,500 as against N400 to N500 last year”.