Entertainment industry insiders rule out war’s effect on summer music market
CAIRO: With the escalation of violence in Lebanon, a number of Lebanese artists have moved to Cairo, canceling their concerts and postponing the release of their albums or video clips.
This has left many wondering whether the summer, a high season for music releases, will be affected by the conflict, especially since the Lebanese music industry has dominated the Arab music scene in recent years.
We still haven’t felt the effect yet, says Mohamed Kasseb, musical content manager at Mazzika TV, an affiliate of major production label Alam El-Phan. He explains that since the war started mid-summer, artists had already finished working on their releases.
But some don t want to release their finished albums for the time being.
An album might be delayed but it won t be canceled, says Ghada Tosson, marketing manager at Mirage Records. Tosson explains that the producer, not the artist, makes decisions about album releases.
When Syrian singer Assala wanted to postpone the release of her album in consideration of the Lebanese plight, the production company reportedly declined.
A number of Lebanese singers have managed to postpone some releases at least in selected markets. Elissa put a hold on her new video clip and Nawal El-Zoghby reportedly pulled her newest single from Lebanese radio stations.
Eventually, all will release their pending albums and videos. It makes sense to postpone releases or concerts at the onset of the war, says Tosson, but eventually they will have to make a living.
But will audiences accept these releases? Especially since some Lebanese artists have repeatedly been forced to defend their decision to flee the war, according to Tosson, the answer is yes.
In fact, people may sympathize with these singers and buy their albums, she explains.
The trend now is to make patriotic songs and videos and it isn t restricted to Lebanese artists but seems to be a pan-Arab phenomenon. Diana Haddad, Nancy Agram, Fady Yazbak, Iwan, Sherine, Assi El-Hilani, Suzan Tamim and Saber El-Robai have either released patriotic songs or are working on them. Even Egypt s Shaaban Abdel Rahim has joined the bunch.
Kasseb notes that even the programming of music TV stations has changed. For Mazzika TV, he says, they have toned down the content of promotional material and decreased airtime for happier videos, all in favor of nationalistic music, both new and old. The idea is to avoid showing artists gleefully calling for audiences to buy their albums while the war is taking its toll on the Lebanese people, explains Kasseb.
The problem, however, will arise after six months, notes Kasseb. As many artists are not working for the time being, the winter releases will be lacking. Without new releases, the profitable venues of production companies don t have material to work with. The album revenues are not the source of profit, Kasseb explains, as people now opt for downloading songs online or copying CDs. Profit comes from selling ring tones and the SMS messages people send to TV stations to appear on screen.
Live performances will also be affected, but for a short time, says Tosson. During the first days of the war, artists were forced to cancel several concerts; some couldn t leave Lebanon and others were too depressed to hold a concert.
Singers from Egypt and the Arabian Gulf were the last-minute replacements at these concerts. But Lebanese artists are expected to go back to the scene soon and here lies the controversy with two valid arguments battling for support.
On one side, Arab artists, including the Lebanese, see that they should stop singing, at least for the short term, in solidarity with the war-torn country. Others see that they can show their support by doing what they know best: singing.
Tosson says that Lebanese singers can announce that their concert revenues will be donated to Lebanon, something that would further promote these concerts. Others can take the opportunity of having a large audience attend their concerts to rally financial or moral support.
A number of concerts are already being planned for this purpose, including a series of performances organized by the Cairo Opera House paying tribute to the musical heritage of Syria and Lebanon.