Album-launch events and film premieres have traditionally been considered cash-spinners, sort of hunting escapades when one knows pretty well that the prey is already dead and up for the taking.
In the past, when artists— especially musicians— did not want their lives to be sullied by poverty, cassette releases were the in-thing, before cassette players got overtaken by CD, DVD as well as other technologies employed by pirates.
It is through pirates’ nefarious acts, actually, that the Paul Chaphuka family did not reap the most from Ndichiritseni album, probably one of the best recorded albums of all time— thanks to the able hands of Achikulire Che Paul Banda and the inimitable Imbirani Yahweh Studios (IY).
But, like the cassettes, IY is history.
Pirates’ mischief forced musicians to seek other means of remaining relevant, even when financial returns were not guaranteed.
That is how artists such as Piksy started releasing singles such as ‘Somebody’, which was first released on Times Radio’s Zathu Zomwe youth magazine show. The chorus goes:
Mtima wanga watopa
Mtima wako watopa
Coz I really need somebody to be my friend
Yes I really need somebody to love
Yes I really need somebody tiyambe moyo wina
And that somebody is still you…
In fact, when it comes to single releases, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation’s Joy Nathu has become a darling to local artists. Through his ‘Made on Monday’ programme, artists have found a platform for improving their attachment to their fans and unveiling new products.
Just two days ago, it was the turn of Sangie and Pisky, who have collaborated in the single ‘Sizingatheke’.
It is one of artists’ ways of remaining relevant in a fast-paced arts industry.
Of course, before artists embraced the idea of releasing singles via radio stations, music streaming websites were the in-thing, touting themselves as the next fool-proof and viable means of beating piracy and rewarding musicians’ creativity.
The trend started with some of the world’s famous music streaming websites such as Spotify, Bits Music (owned by Apple) and Tidal (owned by J-Z).
Not to be left behind, Malawian artists joined the fray and websites such as Malawimusic.com and mvelani. com mushroomed.
In an ideal world, music streaming and, sometimes, downloading websites offer artists the opportunity to earn a living out of their creativity.
Some websites such as iTunes only provide snippets of tracks, which entails the provision of part of a song, instead of the whole song. For example, for a track that lasts three minutes, only 45 seconds of the track are played in a bid to offer listeners a taste of the song.
This is common on websites that provide album catalogues. For example, on iTunes, one gets snippets of tracks. This means that one only listens to 45 seconds of, say, a three-minute song.
Not just that. Some of the tracks on websites are promotional songs, in which case some artists give the website the right to let people download the tracks.
Other Malawian sites, notably Mvelani.com, helped the cause of local artists in the sense that there was a royalties-per-song-play scheme at some point.
The good thing about sites like these is that some of them are hosted in the United Kingdom by, say, Amazon web services – who have good servers and encryption technology.
While artists continue to benefit from such services, they have not stopped exploring; so much so that, as at now, the practice is for artists to premiere singles on, for example, Times Television and Mibawa Television.
Just last week, Skeffa the Jamming Machine Chimoto premiered his ‘Mthunzi wa Chitedze’ single on Times Television, where music lovers were able to buy the song using mobile money platforms.
Chimoto’s manager Levison Msakambewa did not hide the fact that music is a business and that, that being the case, every opportunity should be utilised to better the financial standing of artists.
That is why they utilised the premiere opportunity to sell the single.
“We are taking advantage of the premiere on Times Television to sell the song. It is a top song and people will like it. We will give people the opportunity to buy the song using mobile money service platforms such as Airtel Money, TNM Mpamba, Standard Bank’s Unayo and National Bank of Malawi’s Mo626,” he said.
Surely, if more artists would embrace this idea, they would stop relying only on live shows to make a killing.
And, in so doing, their lives would remain unsullied from resource constraints and all the pains the world throws at them.
And it will be said, for generations, that the emptiness of hopelessness failed to pull them off the course of music.