‘Gidi Culture Fest represents progression of urban youth culture’

Chin Okeke

Chin Okeke

While physical music sales continue to decline worldwide, the consumer appetite for live music continues to grow. According to a report by Nielsen music, 32 million people attended at least one music festival in the US—and that number is expected to rise. When executed correctly music festivals are a multimillion dollar business.

Coachella, an annual music and arts festival in California, is one of the most successful and profitable music festivals in the world. Last year the festival, which started in 1999, made over $84 million in ticket sales alone and sold close to 200,000 tickets drawing in music lovers from across the globe.

The music festival business is booming and ‘Gidi Culture Festival’ is set to make its mark.

Now in its third year Gidi Culture Festival is an annual music and arts festival, aimed at the youth and youthfully minded on the continent. The festival features a mix of music, art and beach activity and was born out of what founder Chin Okeke and his partner saw as something missing.

“My partner and I had been studying the annual reports for Live Nation, trying to first understand the mechanics [of festivals] and then trying to see where there was such an opportunity on the continent,” he said. “Then it clicked with the demand for affordable and accessible entertainment. In Nigeria you tend to have your VIPs, the VVIPs, the VVVIPS and then you have the regular, we wanted to break down as many of those boundaries as possible.”

Part of what makes festivals so popular is the way they can take visitors beyond the music. Festival goers are in it for the experience, something Okeke is well aware of and through incorporating various elements aside from music into Gidi Culture Festival aims to provide.

“The difference between concerts and festivals is that [the latter] has a unique identity, a culture which is often defined by the people who go to the festival,” he said. “Today Gidi Fest represents the progression of urban youth culture on the continent, in terms of music, culture, food, art, it shows where we are on the continent and where we want to be. It’s affordable, it’s accessible, it’s outdoor, it’s fun… there are no…’levels’.

Music festivals are an established feature in other parts of the continent, particularly in Eastern and Southern Africa, West Africa however, lags behind.

“West Africa’s probably where it’s lacking the most and I’m not too sure why,” he said. “ It’s not like we haven’t had outdoor experiences before. Easter used to be full of Fiestas and Bonanzas when I was growing up, there’s not as many of them now. Maybe our music audience hasn’t evolved enough to want to appreciate the music experience beyond the hype. Not the audience though, because from my experience they want that experience, they love it. There’s just not enough on offer, no one’s willing to take the risk.”

And the risks associated with festivals are not small: bad weather, crowd management, security, safety, to name but a few, and in Nigeria such issues can seem amplified, particularly in light of the country’s current economic turmoil.

“The risks are high and the margins are small,” he said. “The lack of infrastructure here and the lack of venues makes things harder and we only have two or three major promoters here. It [the economic downturn] has affected us. We’ve lowered our ticket prices. We’ve had to restrict how many artists we can book from the continent, last year we had Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania, Congo all represented. This year we’re restricted to South Africa. That aside, with festivals you’re not going to break even for the first five years, It’s an investment.”

Rather than rely solely on traditional forms of revenue such as tickets and sponsorship, Okeke and his team have draw lessons from the international festivals by focusing on multiple streams.

“Sponsorship is great, it’s the only reason we’re able to do this for now, he said “I’d like it to be that sponsorship is the cream on top, We’ve developed our own ticketing platform called ‘Seatgate’ to enable us to be able to sell tickets ourselves. Merchandise, food and beverage, are important elements as well. We also sell our content.”

Okeke’s plans for the festival are clear; finding a permanent site, becoming self sustainable and expanding the brand across the country.

“We initially wanted to do more festivals on the continent but now we’re focusing more on home, so Benin, Port Harcourt and Abuja,” he said. “Ultimately by year five we want to be self sustainable, we are trying to develop a culture where everything makes sense, so with or without sponsorship Gidi Fest happens. One of the major things for us is bridging the gap and establishing Lagos as a real tourist destination. This time round there are people flying in from New York, South Africa, Kenya and London, just for the festival, so it’s working.

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