Plunged into deep waters in March this year, the ever-resilient entertainment industry promptly turned to virtual platforms driven by technology to create live-stream concerts and events that were nothing less than state-of-the-art.
Many local artists and bands have successfully live-streamed their shows over the past months, among them bands like Good Luck, and musicians Nasty C and Arno Carstens. Now, with the easing of the national lockdown restrictions, a new approach is needed and a hybrid of both live-streaming and limited attendance looks to be the way of the foreseeable future.
What is clear is that there is an audience out there. The question is – with unemployment rates now the highest they have ever been, and people counting every cent, how many people can afford to pay the ticket price to live-stream their favourite musicians rocking it out on the Big Screen? And if they can, how often are they doing this?
We asked Sholto Sims, Regional General Manager of the Distell Group South Africa – the driving force behind the Distell E-Stream Initiative – what is needed to assist those who are part of the industry to ride this wave. We also spoke to him about the free-to-air live-stream platform that Distell launched in April this year to support our entertainers, production crew, and others role-players.
Q: The entertainment industry is in flux and is facing a paradigm shift in the way that the industry approaches its revenue-generating streams. What do you think the solution is for this?
A: I believe this is where Business needs to step in. Our entertainers, producers, and production crews need to support themselves and their families. Sponsored free-to-air platforms can create consistent revenue-generating as well as relevant opportunities to assist them. We need more businesses to conceptualize platforms that can accomplish this – much like our on-going E-Stream show series. We simply cannot support everybody, hence we are encouraging other business entities to create and grow similar platforms.
Q: You have been the driving force behind the Distell E-Stream initiative. What is the impetus behind it?
A: When the Covid 19 Lockdown was first announced, the team came together to discuss how we as a company could promote and support the local entertainment industry, which was one of the hardest hit. It was devastating to witness how quickly all visibility and revenue streams dried up for our friends in the industry. We wanted to create a platform that would provide a stage, maintain relevance, and also create an income for some performers, production teams, and other industry role players in order to keep on going through this tough time. It was extremely important to us that we create and provide free quality at-home entertainment for our consumers and in fact, all South Africans who were starting to feel the economic and social impact of the global pandemic.
We have also used this platform to consistently drive the Covid 19 safety protocol messaging during our shows as well as bringing world-class entertainment right into the comfort of the consumer’s own home via various streaming tools. As a company, these are some of the most important objectives that we seek to accomplish through this initiative. I am grateful that we have been able to do this successfully through the E-Stream platform.
Q: Six months down the line, the Distell E-Stream initiative continues to support the local entertainment industry with a monthly 2-day show series. Do you plan to continue this indefinitely?
A: Yes for sure, this has been our vision from the start. Distell has always been instrumental in assisting multiple types of entertainment platforms and this is therefore no different. We learn and evolve with every event and always look forward to the next stream as we can thus implement these learnings. The intent is to provide this support for as long as we can, to ensure that we make a real positive impact on the industry, and to ensure that we continue to create a platform for as many people in the industry as we can through our show series. We are also planning on taking this initiative on the road once regulations will allow.
Q: While many businesses have created similar platforms, this is the only consistent free-to-air streaming initiative in South Africa of this kind and of this magnitude. What is the real impact it has achieved in terms of creating work and generating an income for those in the industry – and also providing quality free entertainment for people to enjoy at home?
A: The Distell E-Stream platform currently employs over 50 people per month which is not nearly enough, however, we are trying to do our part. Producing a high-quality show series of this magnitude takes quite some doing, and it’s a phenomenal team effort. With the E-Stream platform, our intention has always been to bring high-quality free entertainment to people to enjoy at home. We activated early during the Covid lockdown when it was imperative that people stay home and stay safe – thus we knew our shows would be an important incentive to people to party safely at home. The Covid 19 safety protocol has been encouraged by our on-air visuals and MC’s during all our shows over the past six months. As a company, this is one of our top priorities.
Q: The Distell E-Stream platform is very much your brainchild. To what do you attribute its success?
A: We may have put this idea on the table and followed through to execution however this initiative could have only come to light through partnerships and teamwork. None of this could have been executed without further idea generation, hours of consultations, brainstorming ideas, and contributions of multiple artists, managers, and extremely knowledgeable stakeholders. In actual fact, many a conversation happened very late at night right through into the early hours of the next morning.
The common denominator was that all these role players had a common vision and extremely strong willpower to ensure the success of the project. These role players are all experts in their field and also cater to multiple music genres and entertainment platforms – the diversity in the line-up ensures that we cater to almost everyone. This being said, much of the success of this initiative results from our strong radio partnerships with Cape-based radio stations Good Hope FM and Heart FM as well as all the artists supporting us through their own social media platforms. These have all been instrumental in getting the word out and keeping the vibe going. This is a 100% total team effort.
We asked Distell Regional Trade Marketing Manager, Phila Mabuza why he believes other businesses should invest in similar initiatives of their own.
A: Yes, that’s a good question. The answer is that it just makes good business sense. We reach over 200 000 people per month through the E-Stream platform on Facebook, and the other live stream platforms we utilize – like Youtube, MixCloud, and the SA Music Library App. In addition, this campaign reaches between 400 000 and 450 000 people per month through the social media and digital platforms of the participating artists. As Sholto pointed out, we have created a platform through which we can actively encourage people to practice the Covid 19 safety protocol s– to wash their hands frequently, to stay home, and to practice social distancing when going out. We reach thousands of people each time we go live with a show and we consider it our duty to consistently reinforce the Covid 19 safety messaging.
From October onwards these monthly events take place over two days each month, with the most recent shows – the Hunter’s Chilled and Savanna Angry Lemon parties – live-streamed on 9 and 10 October.
All E-stream shows can be viewed online at www.facebook.com/estreamcpt/
Alternatively, download the SA Music Library app from the Play Store or App Store. Look out for the YouTube and Mix Cloud links on the E-Stream CPT Facebook page at estreamcpt. These are activated an hour prior to each show. To be part of the conversation during the shows follow E-Stream CPT on Instagram at @estreamcpt; or on Facebook @estreamcpt.
The Distell team supports responsible drinking and encourages all South Africans to go slow, stay safe, and consume alcohol responsibly, wherever they may be. Alcohol not for sale to persons under the age of 18 years.
Sholto Sims, Regional General Manager, Distell