Music concerts: Who really takes the money?

Musician Mansour Semanda, known as King Saha performs at a concert in December 2023. PHOTOs/ Michael Kakumirizi 

What you need to know:

Music concerts are big business as they come with tickets that attract a Value Added Tax, Income tax and Withholding tax in addition to other costs to stage a show.  

At his comeback concert at Lugogo KCCA grounds, Ugandan musician Clever J, who gained popularity in the 2000s with tunes like “Manzi Wanani” and “Ensi Yaffe,” was not able to draw a sizable crowd.

Clever J’s music career was supposed to be revitalised by the concert, which was arranged by event planner Abitex, but was a major loss.

He is not alone. Previously King Michael, self-described dance hall singer, tried promoting his concert for a very long time by participating in interviews and other appearances but things didn’t go his way.

Artistes for a long time have cried foul blaming promoters, bad weather, government and sometimes the media. So the question is: Where is the money and who gets the biggest share?

Mr Daniel Kazibwe alias Ragga Dee says that show business is complicated and not for the faint hearted.

Organising a concert
Mr Kazibwe explains; “To hold a show at cricket oval when working with international artistes like Jay Z the venue will cost about Shs40million, at Kampala Serena hotel if you negotiate well, Shs25 million is what you will part with.”

“We do advertising; for TV stations we pay up to Shs10 million, radio Shs5 million, bloggers, bulk SMS, TikTok, then city drive around - trucks Shs600,000; a day, sound system and petrol we are charged differently the bill comes to  about Shs1.5 million,” he says.

He adds, “The reason we don’t do advertising a lot is the high costs. Other costs include banners you pay daily at eye catching areas like Mukwano roundabout, Wandegeya, we also have digital screens Shs1.5 million per face.”

Another cost is joint security- anti bomb squad, regular police, bouncers- Shs60, 000 and the stage and sound and lighting can go for up to Shs50 million, generators go for Shs6 million,  musicians are also paid.

Ms Dorothy Nabunjo, manager at Karizm says a rough estimate puts you at Shs150 million and above depending on the service providers used and marketing involved, sometimes other musicians must be paid and the costs can go high.

“That money will cater for security, marketing, branding, production, hospitality licences involving ticketing and tagging. We offer arts and creative business solutions, events management, films premiers, talent management and booking,” she says.

Ms Phina Mugerwa, secretary general, Uganda Musicians Association (UMA), says one has to consider venue costs, cost of sound, stage-lighting and mostly the statutory dues.

 “We pay posters daily, that is why we do less adverts to cut the costs, there is the drive those trucks you see making noise with  speakers and that can costs up Shs600,000 a day; and when the truck goes into Wakiso district, you also pay,” she said.

She adds, “You can end up paying for Nakawa and when you cross to Bweyogerere you pay again, then you give free tickets to journalists and online teams. And not all musicians will sing for you for free, the dancers are also paid.”

Raga Dee says, “We pay Kampala City Council Authority, Uganda Police and we also hire bouncers; you can’t put up a banner without paying KCCA.”

Who takes the day?
On a good day, everybody should go home happy. After a concert like King Saha’s organised on December 8, it is estimated that more than200 people got jobs on top of musicians who sang. However, some musicians are sceptical.

According to Ms Mugerwa, most of the time promoters take the biggest share. Musicians capitalise on upcountry shows; chances that upcountry shows will fill because of the ‘noise’ by the media.  

King Saha performs in Kampala. PHOTO/ MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI

“You can see  Mansour Ssemanda-King Saha’s- concert was a killer but you will find that he was paid very little; also there are those that buy the shows out rightly where the musician’s work is to sing and all expenses are covered by the promoter,” she says.

She advises that it is better to hire rather than organise your own show because if you are hired, one will have ample time to do rehearsals. 
“Disadvantages include no definite assurance of getting the money back as it was involved in expenses including high taxes, cost of investment, paying everyone apart from you, solely responsible for the losses,” Mr Kazibwe explains.

Ms Nabunjo says: “On a good day, the return on investment is good, networking, creating employment for the people. The challenge is most of the service providers are not legally registered with the tax body.”
Some musicians need to be paid although it varies; some musicians have brands so the more expensive they become even when they don’t have hit songs but when they grace a show, crowds turn up in big numbers.

“Female musicians attract more revellers. Over 100 people worked with King Saha’s concert dancers, instrumentalists, and food vendors.

 “There is no way you can convince URA that you bought make- up, paid for rehearsals, some of these things are done informally though count,” lamented  Ms Mugerwa.

She adds, “That’s what we are doing to teach musicians and service providers to always keep receipts right; some of our service providers are informal businesses which are not registered.”

Mr Kazibwe says, “URA collects income tax, withholding tax; KCCA also charges claiming people step on the flowers and when the show goes beyond 11p.m it becomes overtime. The commitment fee you deposit with KCCA is not refunded if the show goes past 11.00 PM.”

Ms Nabunjo; “Imagine you have to pay 18 per cent  VAT, income tax, Withholding tax whether you made  losses or no profit.”

Tax man  
Mr Ibrahim Bbossa, URA’s spokesperson, says concerts come with tickets that attract a Value Added Tax (VAT), withholding tax and income-taxes are not taxed.  

“When you sell a ticket, you need to put VAT- that 18 per cent is collected from the customer; if a ticket is Shs20,000 you need to factor in the VAT, the challenge is some organisers want to deduct the VAT,” he says.

People in a queue at Uganda Revenue Authority. PHOTO/ FILE.

He adds, “Concerts contracts service providers, which attract a withholding tax of 6 percent of which the concert organiser should declare to URA; the only tax is income tax which is deducted after making profits.”