While the local arts industry has certainly grown and become more vibrant, compared to a couple of decades ago, the economic welfare of artists still remains poor.
Without proper representative institutions standing in for artists’ social and economic welfare, the sector has lagged behind in terms of real growth and professionalism.
Music Executive, Solomon Bame Monyame, best known as Solo B, believes a lot needs to be done in improving the economic welfare of the artists. So far, there is no local organization that has addressed working conditions, health and safety or even minimum remuneration of artists effectively.
“It is a pity because most of the concerns raised by artists, such as the disparity between local and foreign artists’ remuneration, local content, work conditions, treatment by promoters, and the credentials of promoters, would be addressed by such an undertaking,” he said.
Solo B said there are a wide range of artists’ associations and institutions but none of them have reached their potential in providing the stated membership services. They are usually plagued by underfunding and poor leadership.
The music executive highlighted that a more professional approach from all artistic sectors is needed as this is often the downfall of an otherwise gifted artist. “We still have the scenario where an artist believes that they can provide all the services from creation through production to promotion and distribution and the overall management of both the artist and the product,” he said.
He explained that this behavior by artists is an amateurish approach to the industry and limits the quality of the product, the variety of products and the efficiency of distribution, which ultimately affects the level of consumer satisfaction.
He said, like all industry sectors, there are those who are just giving it a try. However, now they can now identify quite a sizable amount of artists who are totally committed to their art form and depend heavily on their art to generate income for themselves and their families.
“The creative industry is also very attractive to the youth and most of them are still in the process of self discovery,” he said.
An artist’s works are often flag bearers for their nations, projecting an image for a country on par with sporting achievements and often exceeding the nation’s geopolitical profile.
The music icon said creative industry easily expands into other related industries, such as Tourism, Sports and Recreation. Creative products are also easier to export than traditional commodities. “The creative industry is a definite target for diversifying the economy and I’m glad that our government has attached significant importance to this area,” he added.
He said artists are often described as the mirror of a society, and local artists are no different. “We often spend more time and effort discrediting each other as opposed to building one another. In fact, some organizations have chosen to specialize in such activities, making them appear more like a political party then an artist’s organization.”
Solo B said the significant development for the welfare of artists that is on the horizon is the establishment and the operation of the Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS). “This is going to be a game changer; both artists and consumers will be affected by this development,” he revealed.
He said artists will also have to accept the expectation from paying consumers of professional conduct, high quality productions and competitive performances.
Establishments that use protected works (copyright material) will be licensed and they will pay accordingly.
“The common notion in our society that to be an artist is to lack ambition and to be a drunken lay about is going to be dashed because we shall start to see artists investing more in their products and performances, and we shall see artists livelihoods improving as a result.”
He added that, through COSBOTS, the difference between local and foreign quality will diminish greatly and local artists will be able to enjoy an economic benefit from their work just like any other professional service provider.
“This is the economic diversification that we seek and, as an artist, it will make me immensely proud to play a positive role in the development of my country simply by doing what I do best,” he said.