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Speaker 1: Codename Plato

Can one live off the music industry in Zambia? Yes and no. I believe that the role that one plays in the industry ultimately decides that.

For example, in other countries where a much more developed industry exists, songwriters can live quite comfortably. Whereas in Zambia, as I have been told, songwriters can get up to about K300 per verse, excluding royalties. Music promoters or artist managers, on the other hand, are probably only as successful as the artists they promote or manage. Which brings me to my next point: if an artist knows his or her audience and is smart about the way they deal with the business aspect of things they would probably end up making more than some degree holders do. In our current state, however, I would say music producers are the happiest chaps. Everybody wants a bad beat they can rap on. So I would say producers have the highest chance of a sustainable career in music.

With regards to the second question, I don’t think artists should get paid for simply winning an award. If an artist feels that organisers profit more off award ceremonies than them I’d advise them to stop attending. I fully respect anyone who works on their craft, and we thank the heavens for you, but business is business.

Speaker 2: Fred Mwale

I’d say the Zambian music industry is developed enough for artists to sustain their career because a trend has at last come up in which corporate bodies are using local artists to promote their brands and products. For example, Wezi did a brilliant song that is currently used as the score to one of the new Boom ads, which is under Trade Kings. Another example I could cite is Mag44, who produced a radio ad for Capital Bank with the singer, Tasha. If this trend continues and other corporate bodies join in; artists would be able to sustain their career apart from the returns that come from concerts and CD sales.

In itself, I don’t believe the industry is developed enough to sustain an artist’s career. The majority of artists in Zambia find it very difficult to sell music because of the excessive piracy that goes on. Not to mention the defective, if not inexistent music distribution system.

Due to the lack of a proper countrywide sales system, artists resort to selling the music by themselves - which realistically speaking can only reach a limited audience before eventually dying out. If a much more organised and diversified music distribution system was to be created maybe, just maybe, things would be different.

Regarding awards and payments; artists should not be paid for winning an award. However, scholars in the field of Motivational Psychology tell us that in order to sustain an increase or stability in behaviour, the human mind desires to be motivated. Motivation enables one to be goal oriented and to perfect what they are doing, be it education, sports or anything for that matter, be it professional or vocational. Therefore, in the interest of creating an environment where artists give us a perfect product, artists should in fact be paid for winning an award because recognition can only go so far. Looking at the Zambian music demographic, recognition for winning a Zambian music award would not be the same as say, winning a Grammy or a European Music Award. Therefore, if the awarding organisation intends on helping the industry, they should pay the winning artist a substantial amount for motivation, which would go a long way.

Having myself experienced what our industry is like first-hand, for example, a majority of artists make their music from their bedrooms with equipment that is usually in need of replacement. One source of funding to help replace this equipment and improve the quality of music would be award money.

Guest Speaker: Jo-z Jay

The industry sustaining a career? Well no, not yet.

For an industry to operate at full potential, I feel there are certain areas or pillars that may need to be in place to sustain it.

For example, if one wants to take up a career in law we need to have courts, law firms and certain other institutions operating efficiently. In the case of Zambia's music industry I feel for now we are still in the initial stages. I stand to be corrected, but I feel there are more aspects to the music industry than just the studio, radio stations, TV stations, concerts and CD stores. These entities currently to a certain extent seem to be running efficiently, but there's more to it.

I feel we lack efficient and well established record labels, agents, marketing firms, strong law enforcement to curb piracy as well as distribution companies, just to name a few, for it to be safe enough for the 'majority' to take up music as a full time career.

We have seen a handful of artists make beautiful earns using just the few bodies that are currently set up in our city through individual formulas, which may not work for all. Things like an artist’s fan base come into play, as earlier mentioned.

To add on to that point, something I've noticed from certain established artists is that they usually reach a phase where they travel out of the country on musical trips. Most if not all of them, once they return boast of how they felt a lot more appreciated (especially in monetary terms) in other countries than they are in ours. I am persuaded to believe that this is so because there are more established bodies in other countries that allow for these artists’ careers to flourish a lot more than they do here. So no, I feel not yet.

Should an artist be paid for winning an award? That I think is really up to the group presenting the award. An award is a gesture showing that one’s hard work has been noticed and should not go unappreciated. The amount of appreciation attached to it I feel is up to those who want to show it. The previous speaker articulated their point on this really well; I feel no need to say more.

Speaker 3: Apollo Creed

I’ll start by addressing the second question first. My understanding is that it’s open to whatever benefits both organisers and sponsors. The end game is that it’s always business.

Before I proceed, I would like to commend my fellow contributors for their insightful remarks thus far.

Is the Zambian music industry developed enough to sustain a music career? That is a tricky question, with a lot of hypotheticals and what ifs and could-have-beens. The one question I can answer with utmost certainty: Is the current business model in the Zambian Entertainment Industry strong enough to sustain a music career? My answer to that would be no…because, there is no business model to begin with. Apart from music acts like the ‘Witch’ and a few I might have never heard of, Zambia has never really had musical acts that had long sustainable careers of international status. Our industry has no history of credible music business models to fall back on as a reference point for questions on what to do now. And we are in a very exciting and tumulus time in history with the explosion of the internet, the numerous opportunities for connections and reach it gives us, and the vices of piracy it brings (though, that one doesn’t really need the internet to thrive).

The old sustainable business model used worldwide was this: record a hot demo tape and try to get a music agent. The agent would show your music to his exec friends or colleagues. If they like you, you get signed to their label and they do the whole shebang for you - recording space, marketing, distribution, etc. The radio deejays were hallowed gatekeepers. All you had to do was make good music that sold.

Now with the boom of the Internet, podcast radio and various online music hosting platforms, one can bypass that. Currently, a lot of artist in the west are on the new business model. It’s still in its infancy and is experimental, but it’s giving opportunities and power back to the artists: no middleman, no crappy bureaucracy, no caged royalty packages. Etc. You can still have a label that pushes your music. It’s less work to have it, but you don't need it, if you are committed to the grind and are good at creating partnerships to assist with distribution etc.

Instead of being owned, I think if Zambian artists stopped complaining about corporation sponsorship (which is okay and important, but might feel like foreign aid sometimes. It means well, but can create over-dependency) and started brainstorming on ways to sell, connect and reach their audience they could make a sustainable industry.

I also think the Zambian public needs to inculcate a principal of purchasing music and art in general. Funny enough some artists complain that no one buys their music when they themselves have never bought anyone else's either. Be the change. A lot of us are guilty of this, myself inclusive. But it’s good to see folks changing mindsets. For example two of my colleagues regularly buy Zambian music and art.

Speaker 4: Jedidiah

The question is 'Is the Zambian music industry developed enough to sustain a career in music?' I, for one, would like to place emphasis on the fact that the question is referring to the present situation and not something that is likely to happen in the future and that it is a question of sustaining a whole career and not just earning someone a little something for a while. With those two cleared out, I can safely say no. The industry isn't enough to sustain a career for the majority of Zambian artists at the moment.

Let me start by addressing the issue of corporate bodies. The ratio of Zambian artists to corporate bodies is by far unequal. Also very few of these corporate bodies have ever taken the initiative of using artists to promote their brands. The few that have taken the initiative only use and pay the artists roughly once or twice a year, depending on their need for advertisement. Very few artists have benefitted from such and the ones that have only benefited from it once or twice in their lifetime. Does that count as something that would sustain a music career? That's a no by far!

The second reason is piracy. This point has already been exhausted enough by the previous speakers so no need to dwell much on it. I’d just like to point out that some artists even spend more on producing their CDs than they earn back especially the un-established and upcoming artists, who literally beg for their CDs to be bought.

Concerts too are occasional and wouldn't be considered a stable source of income. And for most of them, it’s the established ‘big’ artists that get paid. The upcoming ones usually volunteer to perform for free in their desperate attempts to be seen on stage and gain recognition.

Websites such as Retunes, Kountapoint, and The Nativez also seem to be more of an expense than a gain as artists pay to be on these sites. Whether they are later on paid for the number of downloads their music attracts, I don't know...Although I strongly doubt it. The only reward they gain from the sites is publicity and recognition, I guess. I stand to be corrected.

Overall, I'd say only 10% of Zambian artists have actually made a successful career out of their music with the other 90% using other career disciplines to sustain their music with little or no monetary gain from it.

About adding monetary value to music awards, I see no fault with that. As a psychology student, I will back what one of the speakers had earlier stated by emphasizing the fact that most careers are motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards. Quite alright, the intrinsic drives such as passion and self-fulfillment are basic and must fill the bigger part of it. However, they are not enough to get one to the top. Extrinsic benefits such as the monetary value added to music awards are just as vital. Recognition is not enough. If money is added to it, the awarded artist is empowered to reinvest in his music and produce better. What better way to motivate someone than that?


Thank you for reading the Kountapoint Music Forum. Leave your thoughts and comments bellow.

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