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We've Only Got Ourselves To Blame For Celebs' Shady PR Stunts

Mainstream media is not interested in artists' work as it is in scandals and tricky publicity stunts that have little to do with their talent.

24/02/2017 04:58 SAST | Updated 24/02/2017 04:58 SAST
Bonang Matheba / Instagram

"If your work is good enough, people will find ways to get their hands on it." I find it alarming how many people genuinely believe that this saying is true, especially when it comes to the arts.

If there's one thing we can all learn from history, it's that more often than not, good work can go unrecognised for centuries if not forever. Claude Monet, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Vincent Van Gogh - an endless list of artists, writers and musicians whose work we now hold in high regard; were dismissed and ignored their entire lives.

The challenge of getting good work the exposure and support it deserves is one that persists to this day. There are many talented writers, musicians, actors and other artists who we never get exposed to. We've recently started seeing this topic addressed on social media through trending topics such as #OpenUpTheIndustry, #CreditTheProducer, #UnseenSingers, and others.

The arts and entertainment industry, here in South Africa, and around the world, is a business at the end of the day. Your success depends on who the audience for your work is, how big that audience is, and how much you can continue to grow that audience.

Where social media helps the public discover talent that was previously unrecognised, mainstream media can be used to amplify audiences for bigger artists. Unfortunately for mainstream artists, mainstream media is not as interested in their work as it is in dramas and scandals that have little to do with their talent. Enter, the tricky world of celebrity publicity stunts.

The goal of a 'good' publicity stunt is to deliberately get the media talking about you so that you have the attention of those broadcasters' and publishers' audiences. Some people would argue that a musician like AKA, with nearly 1.5 million followers on Twitter alone, didn't need a 'fake breakup' PR stunt to launch his new single, "Caiphus Song". I disagree, but not on the basis that he doesn't have a big enough audience for it. I would rather argue that your goal as an artist is always to grow your converted audience.

If you have 1.5 million loyal listeners, why not take the risk of trying to raise that number to 2 million by getting yourself into a couple of newspapers? If your fans are truly loyal, they'll focus on what they love you for in any case, your music and not the gossip.

A lot of people didn't really believe that AKA and Bonang had broken up on Friday afternoon. But they wanted to believe it.

Also, have you had a look at the engagement numbers for fake news and gossip publications? Society won't admit this, but it loves to consume stories that reinforce previously held worldviews.

People don't really believe in the story that there are mermaids in Jacob Zuma's swimming pool in Nkandla that help him evade the law. People don't really believe that there are Tokoloshes with giant 4-5s lurking in remote bushes. A lot of people didn't really believe that AKA and Bonang had really broken up on Friday afternoon. But they wanted to believe it. They needed to believe it so that the stories could reinforce the narratives they already created in their minds.

Gossip columns live to create sensationalist, harmful and usually baseless rumours about celebrities every week. They've even earned enough money from this brand of writing to thrive while more reputable publications struggle to make ends meet. If we as the public have normalised these gossip mags lying to us with little to no repercussions - why shouldn't we let celebrities do the same if it'll benefit them?