Why do our artists die poor?

By Gabisile Ngcobo
08 August 2014

These are the artist that had coined it at the peak of their careers, stood on world stages and wowed their fans, but so many of our talented artists die poor because of bad decisions.

Simon 'Mahlathini' Nkabinde and Brenda Fassie are among local celebs who have been rumoured to have died poor.

Renowned global business speaker and JSE youngest director, Vusi Thembekwayo, wrote on his blog that South African artists are as talented as those in the rest of the world.

However, he is concerned about these artists trapped in poverty.

“Are they lazy? Are the financially illiterate? Are they too dependent on someone else to make a living? Or do they just have a fresh batch of bad luck?” he asks.

He says the British musician, Freddie Mercury was only 45-years-old when he died as was worth an estimated 100 million US dollars.

"The legendary Mahlathini – who in my view was a talent equal to that of Freddie Mercury – died at the age of 61. There are no reliable sources of information for his net worth, but it is commonly understood that it was not much."

He believes that artists need to themselves as “talent-preneurs”.

“They make their living through their talents. They must concern themselves with all aspects of their business, sales, marketing, logistics and even financials,” he wrote on his blog.

He thinks artists should get well versed with the numbers such as net cash, accounts receivables or payment terms and working capital.

“They are logical pieces of information that tell you how much you are creating, if at all.”

He says he has seen countless talent-preneurs including singers, actors, idols judges, dancers and even speakers sign away their business to someone else.

“They sign with an agent who earns 25% of their money (off the top) for facilitating a transaction. So for merely picking up the phone, taking a booking, sending a contract and getting the often non-complex logistics in order, talent-preneurs will pay 25c of every rand they earn to someone else. That’s ridiculous. Imagine Standard Bank giving away 25% of everything they earn to someone else.”

Many talent-preneurs need to understand that personal branding is not marketing, he adds.

He cited artists like Jay Z and Michael Jackson and mentioned that they ran their business like a business.

“They were in charge,” he says.

Vusi would like to see artists who know the numbers and investing in their brand beyond an acting role, a radio show or TV presenter gig.

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