I hate tables in front of the stage at concerts. I hate the fact that there are spaces to sit closest to a pop musician whose very performance set is designed to get people to not seat. I hate that artists have to sacrifice a good feeling for themselves and a lot more willing people, who have a stronger expressive connection to the art. People who dance. People who represent what Burna Boy envisioned when he sang “When the gbedu dey enter body.”
It’s a music show. A pop music show. It isn’t a comedy event. Stand up and dance. Rise up and throw the energy back at the artist. Bring down the house. Explode. Release!
Growing up in Nigeria, and consuming foreign media, one of the worst feelings ever for me was the heavy pangs of FOMO that hit me every time a concert clip came on TV. I loved the artists, I loved the music, and I wanted so bad to be among the people sharing in the rapturous moment. One serial joke in my family was that I roused from a late afternoon nap because it was dinner time, and I began to cry. Turns out I had projected so much of Michael Jackson’s performance, that my young eager mind had transported me there in my dream. Alas, that was short lived. It was snatched from me. Wicked world.
Concerts are an integral part of my job as a music journalist. Together with fans all over the world, we spend several hours with the music in all our devices and in our highest and lowest moments. These artists and their creativity serve us in many personal ways. That brings a connection that makes them family. In fact, based on the level of love and how far you can explore your fandom, people have been known to commit dangerous acts. The avid ones join online communities and argue without reason. The extremists inflict violence all because of their favourite artist. A chance to share in the pleasure of having the music performed isn’t mere entertainment. It’s a family celebration. A get-together of love.
And that’s why tables are a problem. Tables at the front of the stage ruin the ability for the love to be showered and appreciated at the level that it deserves. No one listens to Wizkid’s high-octane and demanding catalogue and seats for the entire night. Tables, with the nice chairs demand that you plant your butts on them. Wizkid and the purpose of the concert demands the opposite.
And that’s where there’s a clash. Where the fan disagrees with the table and how restrictive it is in music spaces for both fans and the performer. It makes perfect business sense for the organisers and promoters of the concert. A table is worth a minimum average of 20 General Access (Regular) tickets. Excluding brand sponsorships, tables are the next big money-maker for promoters. Promoting a show is tough in Lagos. Making a profit is even harder. The economics of the business has to be right.
That’s why there’s a clash. The artists and his mass of fans are united in the desire to experience the best possible interaction at concerts. Promoters desire greatly to give an experience and make profits for the business. Money always trumps love or the pursuit of good vibes. That’s why the tables exist. Some promoters strike a balance by creating a pit with the stage, where they give limited access to the most eager revellers. And then the tables can have their prime placements. Others simply move the tables furthest from the stage, or they elevate the tables and flood the ground levels with the standing committee.
But when that does not happen, and you have an artist who needs to draw energy from the crowd as fuel to go on, then there’s a clash. If the artist is as influential as Wizkid, he selfishly breaks protocol, satisfying himself, and a huge number of fans. The promoters already have their money. The real victims are the rich people who coughed out a ticket for their prize spots. They get to hang with the masses. Their money does not count at this point as a enforcer of societal class dynamics.
I have seen Wizkid do this twice. He needs the energy to give a good performance. He doesn’t respect structural organisation. He just wants to feel “his people.” Regardless of how much damage it causes the business, none of that matters. The schedules have been cleared; everyone has spent money, so everyone gets a good stab at maximum enjoyment. Everyone gets to turn up!
To the fans this is Christmas. To the promoter, it’s a healthy nightmare that can be managed. People in Nigeria tend to have amnesia far too common. Next year, they will call up their friends, purchase those expensive seats, and come out with no recollection of what happened the last time. When it surely occurs again, there will be heckles of discomfort, and pockets of side-talks. But no one does anything about it. No one does anything that counts.
There’s no perfect way to solve this. Creatives and businessmen tend to clash a lot. Their brains are wired in opposite directions, and so the issue of tables will still exist. While it is undesirable to many, it ensures that the business stays alive. It enables it continue to organize experiences for music fans. Something has to give. Some formula to needs to be invented. People need to have value, and Wizkid needs to respect the business.