Choosing money over integrity
Is supporting a political party akin to committing brand suicide for an artist, or does it simply make good business sense?
It’s no secret that South African artists are not paid anything close to what their overseas counterparts earn. Making as much money as they can has become a priority. And if pledging their allegiance to a political party means upping their income, many will do it, regardless of the damage a questionable alignment can do to their brand.
To musicians such as Mzayifani Mzondeleli Boltina, popularly known as iFani, business is business and has nothing to do with politics.
“It is not about liking the political party. It’s about making money,” says iFani. “If as an artist I was asked to be the brand ambassador of a political party, then I might look at things differently.”
The rapper says he doesn’t see anything wrong with artists endorsing political parties, as it’s a personal choice.
“As an artist, if I was asked to be an ambassador of Orlando Pirates, I would not turn it down, even though I know that some of my fans might not like it.”
A political affiliation may not seem like much to an aspirant musician, but brand expert and author Donna Rachelson warns that this can damage an artist’s career.
“I always tell my clients to try and associate themselves with people who are more credible than they are and with stronger, more powerful brands, because this enhances their brand. Whether it’s a product or a political party, you need to ensure that it is 100% aligned with your core values and what you stand for,” she says.
Rachelson herself makes a point of never associating herself with people who are not credible.
“When you associate yourself with something you don’t believe in, you become inauthentic and you lose credibility. I would really encourage people to never do something purely for financial gain. They should rather be driven by what they stand for.”
Three years ago, City Press reported that a company owned by kwaito artist Arthur Mafokate, was paid R5,3 million to provide entertainment at an event hosted by the National Youth Development Agency.
Artist manager and owner of About Entertainment, Lisa Loeb, who represents artists like Lerato Molapo (Lira), Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Unathi Msengana, says artists should only affiliate themselves with political parties if they want to make it a life-long commitment.
“If you are purely a musician, I don’t think it’s a good idea to align yourself to a political party,” she says.
She feels differently about someone like Sbusiso Leope, also known by fans as DJ Sbu. “He is such a big name and a role model that I don’t think being politically affiliated would affect his career in any way.”