Things go by contraries with Malawi music.
While the country’s pioneering musicians launched their careers full of hopes and ambitions that they would earn a living through their art, their music dream seems to have foundered on its voyage— and the blame-game starts with the vice of piracy.
Others point at hastily written lyrics, which have whetted the appetite of serious lovers of music.
Whatever the case, the truth is that music is no longer a cash cow when it comes to album sales.
Consequently, artists are repositioning themselves so that, while piracy eats through the fabric of their livelihood, they can still earn something out of their sweat.
Different artists venture into the music industry for various reasons. There are those that make music only because they enjoy doing so and they have no desire to make a name for themselves. And there are those that make music because they want to turn their talent into a career.
Making it in the music industry is very difficult. It often takes a very long time for one to breakthrough, especially when he does not know how to convince his target audience that his music is good enough and therefore worth their time.
Essentially, making a name depends on the reason why you are in the music industry.
Over the years, a lot of artists have attributed different reasons to their failure to make it in the music industry.
One of the country’s musicians, Skeffa Chimoto, said even though the government does not show interest in musicians and there is no reliable way of looking into the welfare of the artists, there is a way in which artists can use their talent to enrich themselves.
“Comparing our country to Zambia, I would say musicians in Zambia are given a lot of opportunities to explore their talent and make a living out of it. Mostly, besides performing on stage and depending entirely on their music sales, companies use them quiet often to advertise their products, unlike in Malawi where companies do not use artists when branding their products,” Chimoto said.
Chimoto said that there is a role musicians of this country are supposed to play if they are to succeed in their career since the government does not show any interest to uplift them in the country.
“As musicians, we need to take music as business and, to be honest, most of us do not take music as such. Whenever we make our sales, we squander the proceeds instead of investing them to advance our music career,” Chimoto said.
Chimoto was quick to observe that the problem with most musicians is that they lack proper management.
“Most of us do not have managers so that is a problem. When you don’t have a manager you destroy yourself because when you spend all money you generate from your music sales you rush into recording another album so that you should earn some money.
“A manager helps an artist to be able to manage their money and refrain from certain behaviours that destroy their reputation,” Chimoto said.
Music talent, Chimoto noted, is something artists can use to earn a living.
“Music can dress us, feed us, and clothe us if and only if we can take it as a job. For instance, I take music as business and not merely for fun. As such I sometimes sell t-shirts with my name on it before I begin some of my performances wherever I go to perform” Chimoto said.
Gospel musician Allan Ngumuya said research conducted sometime back by World Intellectual Property Organisation’s magazine indicates that the Gross Domestic Product of Malawi can increase by 0.56 percent if music can be taken seriously in the country.
“Unfortunately, musicians in the country do not take music seriously. They seem not to realise that through music, they can make a difference to both the country and themselves,” Ngumuya said.
Ngumuya also pointed out that he has survived through his music career since he was not employed by any company.
“I managed to travel to United States of America and buy myself the necessary equipment for my music career from the sales of my music; so, I believe one can be able to do anything provided he takes music seriously,” he said.
Ngumuya added that most musicians fail to take their music talent as a money making machine because they depend entirely on music instead of exploring other avenues.
“Musicians can use their personality to advertise for companies. One thing I have noted is that many of us depend on shows and sales only. What most do not know is that shows aid you in spending more, sometimes more that what you get after the show,” he said.
Ngumuya said as a Member of Parliament and musician, he is trying his best to fight for artists’ rights in order to curb some of the problems that stop them from benefiting from their talent.
“Most artists find it difficult to get their music played on the country’s radio and television stations. Radio deejays demand money from them such that when they don’t have some, their music is not played,” Ngumuya said.
This, Ngumuya observed, is quiet a big challenge.
“You find that these radio stations play 80 percent of the songs from abroad and only 20 percent from local musicians. I would like to make sure that radios change their way of operating and start playing 80 percent of their songs from local musicians and 20 percent from abroad,” he said.
Ngumuya said this will help promote artists and therefore help them to make a living out of their talent since people will be able to listen to their music often.
Commenting on the issue, Lawrence Khwisa, mostly known by his trade name Lulu, said music talent is a gift from God; hence, making money through it is also another gift.
“Not every music artist can generate money. There are some people who do music but they can still live without music and they make money whereas there are some people who think they can make money through music but up to now they have nothing to show for it.
“You cannot plan to sing and sell an album in Malawi. I sing for the love of music and not because I plan to earn money, even though I have no other job. I don’t plan to get K1 million when in the actual sense I get K20, 000.00. Therefore, I can just say earning money through music is a gift from God,” Khwisa added.
But, when all is said and done, a musician’s happiness lies in his power to attract crowds and generate money out of their interest. There is nothing like charity.
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