Music is a huge part of the average Zimbabwean’s life with many genres available to choose from. Music is one of the biggest unifiers of people as it fosters interaction of individuals coming from diverse backgrounds. This is evident in the many music-based leisure and entertainment activities that characterise every weekend. Musicians constitute the majority of what are considered celebrities locally – this speaks to how influential they are considered to be. Often times we have heard musicians bemoaning how hard it is to make it in the local music industry. This then begs the question – how do local musicians make money? I endeavour to respond to that question in this article.
This is not a very significant revenue stream for local artists. It is hampered by piracy and the propensity for people to access songs from peers or purchasing cheap bootlegged copies. WhatsApp & ShareIt make shareability of songs very easy. If digital sales were as popular as they are in other countries maybe they could be more effective. Some are trying out paid digital downloads but they are stifled by the cost of internet access and in some cases the erratic availability of network. Those who get to make in-roads through album sales actually manage so by coming up with ingenious strategies – let me highlight some examples. When Jah Prayzah came out with the “Mudhara Vachauya” album he did his initial album sales through vendors who sell newspapers. He strategically did this on the very day the official album launch was scheduled to hold. Macheso also once employed an ambush style strategy whereby he released copies for sale 2 days prior to the official launch of his “Dzinosvitsa Kure” album. Money can actually be made from album sales; it takes wit and innovation.
Some musicians manage to put together excellent album launch events that end up raking in lots of money for them. One of the most obvious revenue streams, amongst several others, is through the attendance of such events where people pay to get entry. The past events have shown that rich people tend to showcase their pocket muscle by bidding for the first copy or making pledges. During the album launch for Tsviriyo by Jah Prayzah the first copy was auctioned away for $12 000. When Winky D did his album launch for Gombwe two gentlemen faced off in an auction that saw Winky pocketing a cool $70 000. To top that off, the event was attended by at least 6 000 people – attendance fees were $7 & $15 for ordinary and VIP respectively. As evidenced by these two examples some artistes make quite some money through album launches.
These are considered the holy grail of revenue for local artistes. The secret is in ensuring that one holds live shows every weekend. Live shows can be personally organized or by invitation to themed events. Several musicians are well known for regularly holding live shows, be it locally, regionally or abroad. Examples are the late Oliver Mtukudzi, Winky D, Jah Prayzah, Freeman, Killer T etc. Musicians who are able to ensure they have a full booked itinerary throughout the year are guaranteed to have a consistent inflow of revenue.
Paid Brand Ambassadorships
To concept of influencer marketing has become so widely adopted by businesses that most big businesses are following suite. It actually seems as if the most preferred pool businesses look to for paid brand ambassadors are musicians. Many artistes have been signed up for brand ambassadorship deals namely, Sulumani Chimbetu (Zimbabwe Prisons & Correctional Services), Aleck Macheso (Zimbabwe Red Cros Society), Blessing Shumba (Ring Driving School), Jah Prayzah (Chicken Slice), Winky D (GTel & was once brand ambassador for PSI during the male circumcision drive).
Some musicians are getting money from having their songs streamed, downloaded or ring-toned through mobile service providers’ platforms. Buddie beatz (Econet), OneMusic (NetOne) & Teletunes (Telecel) are the most common platforms that provide such platforms for musicians.
So we all have heard songs being played on radio or television right? Well, they aren’t just played for free; every time a song is played there is a certain amount that is credited to the artiste. There have been outcries of course about certain broadcasting stables defaulting on payments or paying too little – fact still stands that some musicians do make money out of this.
Recording & Producing
Some musicians have diversified themselves into more than just singing alone. Some have established recording companies and now earn money by recording & producing songs for other musicians. Examples are Clive Mono Mukundu, the late Fortunate Muparutsa, the late Prince Tendai, Audius Mtawarira, McDee etc. Basically, some artistes once they are well established they decide to venture into becoming producers also – this augments their revenue streams (whilst developing other artistes).
Awards & Recognitions
Not all awards and recognition events ascribe money to the accolades but some do. For instance, at the Star FM Awards held on the 1st of February a number of artistes walked away with significant prize monies. Jah Signal clinched $2 000 for song of the year award whilst ExQ got $1 000 coupled with R10 000 spending money for a trip to South Africa. Therefore from time to time and provided that awards events are well-sponsored, musicians do get some huge amounts of money from such events.
Some artistes take advantage of their huge fan base to come up with business enterprises. A local example is the hip hop artiste called Tehn Diamond. He launched a fashion label dubbed TND – ‘Tisu Ngoda Dzacho’. The product range includes t-shirts, unisex wear, socks etc. Essentially, it’s about tapping into an already established pool of prospective customers – your fans.
I must point out though that the local music industry still needs a facelift. The majority of musicians out there are struggling. The other aspects lie squarely on the artists themselves – many lack professionalism and don’t invest enough resources and time into their art. People generally want to pay for quality stuff and as such musicians would do well by boosting the content & presentation of their music. I did point out that live shows are a hit for revenue generation – however, artistes must migrate from digital soundtrack backgrounds and adopt live instrumentation. That will revolutionize their live show events.