Opinion: Bringing international artists to PE


We were lucky enough to have three fantastic international acts in our city recently, and former UB40 members coming in November. There’s no denying that they love our crowds. Even Per after Roxette’s show in February went onto Facebook to comment saying:

“Wow! Outdoors! A standing crowd, no chairs in sight! And soooooo many people (10.000? I don’t know…)! We haven’t played P.E. for 21 years and get a reception like this! What can we say? WOW! Super enthusiastic crowd and a band in fine form made this something very special to remember! Thanx everyone for showing up and making us feel like the biggest band in the world! Once again! Love!”

So why don’t we have more international artists coming to Port Elizbabeth? It’s a question I’m often asked, and the answer isn’t entirely straightforward.

There are huge economic benefits to the city when you think of everything involved: accommodation, support services, venue hire, logistics etc. and then the out of towners who then stay in our hotels and B&Bs. But how do you get the artists here in the first place?

It has to be financially viable for the promoter bringing the artists to the city – it always comes down to money at the end of the day. And to be profitable, you need bums on seats. Mariah Carey will never come to our city for example, our venues don’t have the capacity they’d need to cover costs to bring the artist here, let alone the logistics and services which surround one show.

We also don’t have a venue with the capacity for more than 5,000 to 8,000 people which is the number of tickets to make it viable for a lot of indoor concerts.

But that’s for an indoor venue, although we can get 46,000 into our stadium, because outdoor events cost a lot more in terms of security, technical, logistics etc. you need even more people to make an event profitable.

And our stadium doesn’t hold enough people for the big names, and those artists who could be hosted in our stadium don’t receive the support from Nelson Mandela Bay. As in they won’t sell enough tickets to make a profit. And that’s what it comes to at the end of the day, the promoter is a business and is there to make money.

But then there’s demand, Port Elizabethan’s are notorious for booking late for a start, and even not supporting the events that happen in our metro. Be it because they cannot afford the ticket price, or they wait to see what the weather is doing.

International artists can bring a great boost to our local economy, but not only do we need the right venues to hold enough people, but more of our community need to support the artists when they come here. So it’s not for want to trying to get the big names here, it’s a case of getting the infrastructure here to do it.