I don’t know who Sheila Gashumba is because I am a man in his 40s, and it is for this same reason that I am not going to find out.
Some information did sneak in, and I have a vague idea of a pint-sized pixie with a dyed blonde top and Kardashian aspirations that are cruelly limited by the fact of being in Uganda where ain’t nobody got time for that, but I stopped learning there, lest I get that tweet: “You at your big age u hv nthng 2 seh abt yuothsz” that follows any statement my generation makes about any young entertainer that is less than absolute adoration.
As if it is not African tradition, that has been handed down from the elders, for centuries, that old people only ever say two categories of things when talking about the youth: We either send them to the other room to get our sapatu, or we talk trash about them.
The only adults saying nice things about the youth are dangerous ones: either they are trying to have sex with them or they are trying to sell them something and take your money.
Trust me. I’m old. I know these things.
But to avoid the angry tweets, this article will therefore not reference Ms Gashumba’s predicament at all; I shall just talk about what I know, which is things outside whatever parameters she occupies.
Let us begin with the nail on the head. Kanye West is paid millions to sing a few songs for a few hours a night, while, on the same night, a nurse in the same America is paid $35 an hour to save lives.
This is the world we live in, kids. The price of your work isn’t about how valuable it is, or how useful it is, or how much effort is put into making it.
GuKanye West earns more than nurses. Imagine.
Maybe Law, prostitution or the Government of Tanzania which is running so well may be different, but in general capitalism, certainly that practiced in the media, hard-working, dedicated, disciplined people might make a lot of money, but their talent and hard work alone are not what determines their price. It’s mostly extra things.
This is because TV, radio and newspapers are not in the business of buying your talent from you and selling it to audiences. They are in the business of using you to collect audiences and selling them to advertisers.
That is why socialites can get 400k to be on TV, and Trevor T can’t get more than 50k.
You have never heard of the fictional Trevor T, of course, but let me fabricate him for you. He’s charismatic, witty, handsome af and so cool, he makes Will Smith look like King Joffrey.
One afternoon after he was done abusing marijuana, Trevor T boda’d to a TV station and asked for a slot on their schedule. But this was the same day a notorious Instagram Slay King had just been there waving his 600,000 followers at the Station Manager’s Macbook Air.
“Slayer guarantees an audience to sell to the soda company,” reasoned the Station Manager. “Six hundred thousand people have already shown interest in looking at him. Doesn’t that mean 600,000 faces for the station to shove soda ads into?”
Meanwhile, who knows Trevor? Even though he does do a hilarious impression of the Mandarin from Iron Man 3,
Luckily enough, it turned out that Slayer was very dim in the head and didn’t have enough wit to sustain an audience for longer than it takes to double click an Instagram pic, so Trevor was hired to produce and script for him.
Essentially, then, Trevor would do all the work, but would still get paid less than the host.
I told Trevor to do his Mandarin impression on Instagram. I told him to go on every week and make coronavirus jokes as a Ugandan version of the Mandarin. If he did that, I said, then, given time, he might be the next Tumu Siime. Then he would go and get his own TV show.
But who am I kidding. There will only ever be ONE Tumu Siime. ONE! If you like him, let us share a social-distance high five. If you don’t like Tumu Siime, you can now grin and say, “Thank goodness for that.” It will be funny. Heh heh.
But if you want to interject at this point and say, “But Mr Bazanye, Sheila Gashumba has an audience! She’s famous!” Let me remind you that I don’t know who she is! Let’s leave her out of this!
The poor girl has already gone through enough. Imagine losing a job in these uncertain times. How will she even sell those samosas? How is she going to break into that market? We already have our favourite samosas from Portions. There is no call for more.
But don’t distract me. Let us continue with the hypothetical I have painstakingly crafted so as to avoid referencing Gashumba, about whom I know nothing.
So, one day Slay King woke up offended and humiliated at his paycheck which was, let’s say, 400k a month.
He worked for 45 minutes a week and was paid 100k per hour.
Incensed at last by such a paltry price tag, he upped and demanded a raise.
And was then asked to resign.
And here is the asshole part. (There is always an asshole part if you look low enough) Trevor, who was being paid 50k an hour, was his producer.
But Trevor had found a way of getting to be producer of other shows, some of them daily shows, and so even at 50k an hour, he was able to bill up to 1 million plus a month. And as often happens in such companies, they pakikara upon you a huge workload, with extra responsibilities way outside your job description, which Trevor took on and did very well: he knew which diva had her cappuccino with soy and which manager’s side chick was not allowed near the CCTV cameras, and he had an almost magical rapport with the managers of all the rocko ardiss TV stations love to bring in to interview in every other show on their schedule all day long. If you ever see Fik Fameika on a Farming show, Trevor probably made that booking.
Trevor did all this, not because it was worth 50k an hour, but because he knew that is how you end up getting offered 2 million when you threaten to quit. And then 3 million when you are poached by a rival station. And then 14 million when you leave to go to Nairobi.
So, one of the jobs they gave Trevor was to find a replacement for Slayer.
This should have been easy, but it wasn’t, because of point two on the list of things that affects your price more than your skill and hard work: Scarcity.
Yes, a celebrity who can bring 600,000 fans to the show is worth more than a Mandarin imitator, but, one thing we forget to factor in during our audits is that, while celebrities are more scarce than us commoners, celebs are not more scarce than other celebs.
Being a popular IG star who is capable of saying, “Coming up next is Lydia Jazmine with her hit Nkwateko” to 600,000 fans is like being the best brick on the truck that is delivering bricks to the brick market. There are so many bricks that are just as good as you, that bricks, even adjusted for inflation and converted to appropriate currency, come a dime a dozen.
Which means that even when Trevor asked 256Khaleesi, or ShanneyKweens, the HerRoyalHoeness or DeuceBigalowUG, they all said the same thing: “Wati?? Tht 4o0k ov weya! U kip!” (Some of them in fake accents, of course. As is to be expected)
If a commodity is common, its price is lowered.
Trevor T looked into the mirror and thought, if only he could hire that guy in there: someone unique, someone who stands out, someone with irreplaceable talents — a dude who can do the Mandarin, can rap, and is so handsome that he makes Idris Elba look like Idris Elba’s rat, if only he could get a person like that, get him 2100,000 fans, then he would get the TV station to hire that guy. And not even for 400k. Surely that dude would be paid way more.
But then here came the next reason why the media won’t pay you enough: that the company can’t afford to pay you the millions you deserve anyway. Traditional media is dying. The company is cost cutting on toilet paper, kids. It doesn’t even have the money to pay enough for toilet paper and you want it to pay enough for you?
But even before Old Media began to let itself die, there was a cap to how much you can get paid by them: They can’t pay you more than you make for them.
How much you can make from the station is limited by how much the station makes off you. That means someone has to get enough sponsorship to cover all the costs of making the show, and then give the station a profit. And only if there is enough million left over shall you be balling.
This means your price is influenced not just by how good your work is, but by the work of the marketing and sales guys and in the case of Trevor’s media employer, it was a group of fat kukumen.
What are Kukumen? Well, as companies grow larger they develop an essential flaw: Large companies have middle management. Middle management may be great in banking, exporting coffee, pimping and Law, but in the creative industries, middle management seems to attract gaggles of… let’s call them “not very suitably qualified middle-persons” who say things like “The average Ugandan won’t get it,” or “It needs to appeal more to the youth” or “but she is a woman and this needs a male voice,” and then they proceed to take a great idea through a series of long, loud, jargon-stuffed meetings, during which they drain it of all originality and all innovation, and stuff its alimentary canal all the way from the bottom to the top with cliche and repetition and, finally, proudly release it, thoroughly converted into a perfect flop.
Which is why Fresh Prince of Bel Slayer, the guy from earlier in the story who quit over the 400k, was doing a music show exactly identical to the nine other music shows on nine other stations, instead of at least trying to do a show where he was able to exploit his actual talent. I don’t know what instagram talent is. Or if such a thing exists. I just know that successful instagramming is something that can be achieved by restaurant food but not by me.
So, all in all, this is a wretched, unfair, dismal mess. And it is because of what an evil, heartless, self-defecating turd capitalism is, (Pause and take a minute to be truly disgusted by that image of capitalism as shit that produces more shit out of its shit before we proceed).
I am not saying there are no talented, hard working, professional, popular people earning well in the media. But to earn well, your talent isn’t the only thing that has to be in place. The other monkeys need to be swinging in sync around your trees.
And a lot of you kids are not going to be that lucky.
You can’t depend on them to get it right with you just because you work hard and have talent. You’re on your own. You are screwed. That is the way the bank account is set up, the world is not fair. Chances are you will NOT get paid what you deserve
Have a nice day.