Sab’s Eye – Is music industry growing or stirring in reverse?

SaboiWith Saboi Imboela

Many people ask me what I feel about the current crop of artists and music on the market. My answer is always the same- I love the music and the effort that all artists make to formulate something out of nothing.

The biggest achievement is the creation of a distinct sound that can be classified as Zambian music. This is something that took long to attain but finally ‘Zed music’ is here and just when the first drum and guitar is played one can identify it as our very own sound from the motherland.

This was achieved by having so many artists, studios and producers that were motivated by each other and hence began to copy each other and finally began to sound more and more alike. A new song is released almost every day and while many of these do not receive as much airplay as others, they all ultimately contribute to what the Zambians have come to fondly love and call Zed Music.

However, while the music industry has grown in terms of the number of songs and   artists on the scene, the money and value of artists seems to be moving in reverse. A lot of people might remember that over a decade ago when Mondo Music, Muvi studios and other record companies began to produce and promote artists, the CDs were K50,000.00 unrebased.

Today, the value of CDs has dropped to about K20,000.00 and others as low as K10,000.00, in an economy where everything else seems to be going up. The money that artists are given now when they perform seems to have dropped about three to five times less compared to 10 years ago.

The worst thing is that while artists would refuse to be paid upfront a few years ago and opt for gate takings, these days artists do not accept gate takings but mainly go for upfront payments. This is so because the number of people that attend shows has disappointingly gone down and artists are never sure how many people will turn up at the show. So they would rather get their little money and leave the organisers, mainly bar owners to get all the gate takings and sell their beer as part of their benefit.

The fact that most shows are in bars or drinking places is also not good for the industry. There are people who do not drink but would love to watch their favourite artists perform in venues that are not bars or night spots.

Furthermore, artists who only perform in bars for people that are drunk will never know what it takes to perform to a sober audience or just how important that is for their careers. Simply put, they will never know what it really means to be an artist.

Therefore, it is my earnest hope that as Zambian music receives more attention nationally and internationally, the artists will not be lost in the process but benefit from their hard work and in due course get their sweat’s worth.