“One of the most refreshing things about Nyege Nyege Festival was there was over a hundred acts and NO HEADLINER. It seemed like the festival was geared more towards selling the EXPERIENCE (come camp by the Nile river and forget your worries) than a particular headliner which made for a very noncompetitive chilled out atmosphere. Nairobi festivals however…” posted Tetu Shani on his Facebook.

Is that the future of festivals? That it lies in every act being a headliner and not specifically limiting one or two main acts as headliners? Nyege Nyege Festival 2016 seem to believe so. They went with this idea and created an experience that lives on in our heart to date.

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Audiences can really get a feel of what to expect in a festival from the onset when they know who the headlining acts are, a local DJ tells me. But another artist disagrees and pints to Nyege Nyege Festival. They may not know the artists on the smaller stages, but they can get a feel for the festival from this acts and that opens audiences up to new experiences.

But the fact remains that for most punters, it’s the headline acts that sell the show—but why not? After all, they get the biggest crowds of the whole event.

The Shortlist reports; But genuine headline acts could well be an endangered species, given the results of recent analysis from music industry bible Music Week.

They studied the main stage headliners for the UK’s five mainstream festivals (Glastonbury, V, T in the Park, Isle of Wight and Reading & Leeds) and found just five acts that released their debut albums after 2006 had topped the bill. Yes, you do the math(s): out of 140 headline slots since 2006 just five have been occupied by ‘newcomers’.

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And, to add insult to injury, the list of five is comprised of Mumford & Sons, Calvin Harris, Avicii, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Florence and the Machine. The first three – fair enough – but Noel Gallagher has been releasing albums since 1994 with Oasis (and his set features many of their songs) and Florence was only promoted after Foo Fighters had pulled out.

Looking at Nyege, they have at least hinted that are festivals looking to break ‘new’ ground of sorts; it was the first time for Nyege to host over 100 underground acts.

The live industry seems to be on a curve with the old guards looking to pave way with to the new generation.

Major festivals make up the majority of the live sector’s income, but to justify a 3,000 bob ticket, an act needs a solid two hour set of solid gold hits – and not many acts are surviving long enough to produce this body of work. Many promoters who get reggae acts to Africa know they can surpass the two-hour mark but even they charge less than the 3k ticket.

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Local and regional festivals charge the 3k for acts who can’t even put up an hour of a show. Many have argued with the era of technology, the audience has become saturated to other options of music and hence not most headliners can command a bonafide following.

“No fan is concentrating on a particular DJ, artist or album,” notes James a student and music fan. “I listen to Drake’s Views album and still listen to Chronixx Roots and Chalice.”

But with this revelation, most of the old guards are questioning the rise of Soundcloud headliners who get one record right and amass large following.

Quantity versus quality begs the question? An old guard would take a year or two compiling an album with a new artist releasing singles monthly. The audience always feeds off from the artist and when there is nothing coming, they will opt for another meal. And maybe that is why we are seeing the path festivals are taking in not championing for headlining acts.

Once again, the live industry that morphs daily. Maybe in this maze, the punters, the promoters, the industry and the audience are still the real culprits—and perhaps when the 2030 festivals lineups are announced, huge acts absent, then the new age of musicians will unify the audience, even if only for two hours of a hazy summer day.

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