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No money for artistes in the music business
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No money for artistes in the music business

Many musicians in Malawi are struggling to finance their careers writes Lonjezo Idrissa a  22 year old correspondent from Zomba, Malawi ,who argues that the illegal reproduction and distribution of music and payola are preventing many musicians from profiting from their music.

Most musicians in Malawi spend their time crafting sensible songs for their fans. They also spend their time trying to find money to fund their careers. In addition to paying their producers to stage live shows, musicians also require money to book halls or other venues and to pay the people who support them. This means that for an artist to express his or her talents, he or she needs money.

Generally a career in music works better for those Malawian musicians who are able to finance their careers themselves or those whose families can give them financial support to follow their musical dreams. Some also have sponsors who help them to produce their songs, pay them monthly salaries as well as host live shows for them. For other musicians who don’t  this kind of support  however, they  have no choice but to channel whatever little money they make from small businesses, and pocket monies from their parents to fund their music.

Currently, there are many musicians who have produced only one or two hit songs, not because they lack talent but because of their struggle to find money to produce their songs. Some are unemployed and have to borrow money from their friends to produce their music. Other artistes are so desperate for funding that they even sell their clothes, mobile phones and shoes to find money. Music is a business, without capital the artiste’s cannot get his or her business off the ground or become successful.

The illegal copying and distribution of music also known as piracy is one of the reasons Malawian musicians are being denied the money they should be making from music to support their lives. As a result many musicians with a passion for music regret the time and money they spend to produce songs.

For example, hip hop gospel artiste Suffix recently lamented the illegal copying and distribution of his latest album Before I Sleep. Suffix shared the sad development with his fans through social media. “Just a few days after my album launch, some friend (Malawian) had the guts to buy my CD just to rip it, upload it on his Google drive and starts sharing the download link for free on a so called Christian hip hop Albums WhatsApp,” said Suffix through Facebook. Suffix further said, “I am so hurt!! Piracy is so evil I wish folks could understand how much artists sweat and invest in their art.”

There are many musicians who are famous around Malawi but they are broke. Some have produced hit song after hit song but are still at the same place financially as they were before joining the music industry. This is because of burning studios which reproduce and illegally sell the musicians’ songs before the musicians make  money from their music or even recoup the cost of producing their music.

Local musicians have been using their songs and social media platforms to speak up about yet another problem. They say despite spending their money to produce their songs, many DJs are also demanding money from them to get their songs played on the radio. This is very frustrating and painful for many musicians who struggle to find money.

To address the issues Malawian musicians face, just as unemployed graduates are being encouraged to start small businesses,  Malawian musicians too need support to develop entrepreneurial skills to operate in the music business.

The urban artist Tay Grin recently interacted with artistses in Mzuzu where he said:“Talent is not enough. The music industry requires that you also know the business side of the industry. Talent is very important because that’s where it starts from. That’s the foundation. But in order to promote the talent the business side needs to be applied as well,” Tay Grin explained.

Finally, burning studios must be eradicated in Malawi by ensuring that musicians albums are sold in shops just like they are in other countries like South Africa. If the music is downloaded online, there must be a small fee that the audience has to pay just like on iTunes. South African based rappers like AKA, Emtee, Casper Nyovest and Nasty C have reached where they are because of having copyright protection for their albums and not having to grapple with burning studios in their country.

There are also a lot of recording companies that helps them to push their music to another level. The Music Association of Malawi (MAM) should invite foreign recording companies to support both upcoming and established musicians. In that way,  the lives of Malawian musicians will be improved as compared to the way they are today.

The MAM should also move ahead with helping musicians to create outlets to sell their music. Speaking in an interview with Malawi News Agency (MANA), President of MAM Chimwemwe Mhango said the way musicians are selling their music on the street is degrading because musicians are respected people and not street vendors hence the need for proper sale outlets. This was said in April 2017.

When these steps are taken perhaps Malawian musicians will  one day be able to afford to make music and will be allowed to make money from their music.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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About me

I am a student at The University of Malawi, Chancellor College studying Bachelor of ArtsCommunication and Cultural Studies (majoring Public Relations). I am a writer, poet, editor,social critic, advocate of different fields, researcher, motivational speaker, and would like to be a public relations manager.I love writing because I like encouraging the youths, and adults to be strong, hardworking, to focus on their lives, and to be aware of some  the challenging  matters in the society and their solutions.

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