Professionalism in the music industry

Jah Prayzah
Jah Prayzah

SOUND TRACK: Tapiwa Gengezha

I have been obsessed with music from infancy. Every time my father would bring a newspaper home, I would quickly rush to the entertainment section and read the top stories.

One of the things that troubled me mostly was reading about a musician appealing for help or money from the public to meet their medical bills in the case of sickness. I often wondered what had happened to the money earned from selling their music, live shows and corporate endorsements.

After high school, I spent two years digging up information on music as a business, but I could not get the answers I was looking for. I then enrolled at the Zimbabwe School of Music to study music and the industry in greater depth. I had an awakening then after realising how hard it was for musicians to make money from music and to grow their brands to international status.

After a lot of research, interviews, workshops and attending music festivals, it dawned on me that the majority of musicians were not business-oriented, which is why a career in music was frowned upon.

Those who took up music were even derogatorily called marombe (vagabonds).

But today, we have a number of musicians that have professionalised their musical careers so much that they live stable lives and this is primarily due to good management. Musicians should learn from the likes of the late Chinx Chingaira and Cephas Mashakada, who fell on hard times such that they could not even afford to pay their own medical bills.

Musicians should plan for their future and come up with their own life insurance to take care of their families and themselves. Many male artistes are trapped by “womanising”. When artistes became famous, they tend to lose their moral bearings as they draw attention from women musicians. One promising artiste, Roki, fell into the trap of women and ended up with many broken relationships and several children while his career, which had a huge potential, floundered.

It is important for musicians to pursue further education or learn the basics of business management to be able to efficiently run their music careers. Talent without education is totally a lost gift. Other artistes opted to employ friends as managers when the latter have no clue on how to run a music business.

Musicians also need discipline to be able to tread the straight and narrow path in their careers. Many come for shows while intoxicated and others don’t turn up for shows at all. Discipline and professionalism attract investors and buy-ins from stakeholders. Other musicians, especially dancehall chanters, engage in violence and that destroys reputation. Musicians are role models and they should always bear that in mind.

As a musician, you should have your personal lawyer. Before you fall sick or die, write a will in order to avoid conflicts among your relatives, band members and your wife. Make sure your legacy is left in the right hands. A will is very important nowadays as it will be your last word. It will outline your wishes beyond the grave. We want musicians who are business-oriented like the late Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa. He was a businessman and above all, he was not afraid of investing. He also invested in others, coming up with his own Record Label — The Hi-Density Records. He was a promoter. During that time, he signed other artistes.

In order for musicians to reach the pinnacle of their career, one needs good management. You can’t run everything by yourself, but you need a strong team that is willing to work hard in order to promote your brand. These days, you just don’t pick a manager to run your music business without the relevant qualifications in music. A good manager should at least, have a degree in music management or brand management in order to run the business smoothly. As a musician, you should do separate investments and not rely on music only. You should learn from others always. Just because you are being played on the radio doesn’t mean you have made it, you still have a lot to learn and achieve.

Jah Prayzah has proven not only to be a talented artiste, but has turned his music career into a viable business. He has collaborated with other artistes in Africa, while Ex Q has outlived many of his urban grooves contemporaries because of professionalism.

The late icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, demonstrated a high level of professionalism and ran his music career as a business, which saw the birth and growth of Pakare Paye Arts Centre in Norton, itself a hub of emerging music talent.