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The year of big digital innovations in the entertainment industry

‘It’s been a case of adapt or die’ – Shaun Duwe

“I’m so proud of what my teams have achieved, despite having the odds stacked against them,” says entertainment mogul, Shaun Duwe. “There is no denying the fact that the live entertainment space has taken a massive knock this year, not just locally, but globally as well, but we’ve managed to roll with the punches.”

Duwe heads up The Unit, a collective of enterprises that services all aspects of the entertainment sphere. Among others, it includes full spectrum talent booking agencies Jet Black and Bella Bookings; as well as branded entertainment and creative production agency Anything Goes, owned venues in Cape Town; COCO, GoldBar and Souk, and other festival properties.

“The drama of 2020 has forced us to look in other places to make things happen,” says Duwe, who’s teams are perhaps best known for putting on ULTRA South Africa and Corona Sunsets Festivals. “It’s been exciting to focus on further building our creative production teams to offer brands, artists, and fans experiences like no other,” he says.  

Indeed it was on the digital experience side, with creative agency Anything Goes, where the true evolution has come and it all culminated for Duwe and his team late at night on Thursday 3 December, with the launch of Sun-El Musician’s beautiful new album through Platoon, ‘To The World And Beyond.’

“It took our team many months from conception to execution,” says Duwe of the 45-minute virtual concert which ran until midnight on Thursday, after which ‘To The World & Beyond,’ was made available for global release through Apple Music.

“Sun-El Musician had this beautiful body of work and this vision; and we helped him bring that to life,” Duwe says.

The virtual concert featured all the best parts of the album in a seamless mix through a storyline that showcased each of the different artists that performed – including the likes of Simmy, Ami Faku, Msaki, and Azana among many others – the concept involved an Afro-Mystic interpretation of a traditional Zulu kraal represented in space, a journey from Sun-El Musicians native Zululand to the stars.,“Each song is unique and featured a unique hut, as Sun-El Musician took us on this journey through his world, and beyond,” Duwe says.

The virtual event was a resounding success, with nearly 4000 live views that night, and currently sitting on 75k views and climbing. “Fans stayed up late for the album drop just like an old school album launch,” Duwe says. The album launched straight into #1 on Apple Music.

For Duwe, however, the success lies not so much in the numbers, but in the quality of the production, especially now where everything and everyone is delivering content online. “There is a big difference between streaming something from your bedroom and a true digital experience,” he says. “When it comes to entertainment, the story you tell – and how you tell it – to your fans is the most important. The best content and experience-offering will always win at the end of the day.”

The virtual launch of ‘To The World & Beyond’ may have been the culmination of the year for Duwe’s creative teams, but is just one of three major virtual experiences they created.

The team was also behind the full virtual output which saw African Fashion International (JHB Fashion Week 2020), brought into peoples’ homes. The team created a fully bespoke AFI user interface custom built to deliver for them. “We’re very proud of that,” Duwe said. “It was a challenging project outside of our usual comfort zone, but I think that is what this year was all about.”

In addition, the team curated, produced, shot, and edited content with some of SA’s key influencers on location on the beautiful West Coast for Corona Chasing Sunsets. This, after the Corona Sunset Festivals had to be postponed. According to Duwe, the brand – with which he has a long-standing relationship – has worked very hard to craft its digital reemergence. Says Duwe: “The idea was to make a comeback showcasing its intrinsic values of ‘living outside.’ We feel that the range of outdoor activities in the spectacular settings of the West Coast really captured this essence and we can’t wait to start rolling out the content on various channels.” 

While Duwe is immensely proud of his teams and thankful for what they have achieved despite the maelstrom that was 2020, in the greater scheme of things he’s already looking to the future. “The way I see it, it is another arrow in the quiver, so to speak. When live shows do come back, we will have even more ways to connect and communicate with our fans and with brands, bringing a full 360-degree branded entertainment experience for everyone.

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