THE changes that have been brought by the outbreak of the COVID-19 will have a big effect on the music industry such that it now requires a shift in mindset and approach as a business.
This is a wake-up call to “big” artistes as the showbiz terrain has changed and in such a situation artistes have one big window to explore which is the digital space.
COVID-19 has fast-tracked digital changes and most artistes never had a chance to adjust, but had to make adjustments while the mill is running.
Without being too much of a pessimist, it appears the lockdown status quo will last longer than we think which means most artistes may not be able to hold live shows and tours for a long time.
This, therefore, directly impacts on many artistes’ income streams.
The transformation caused by the outbreak of the virus is not only witnessed in the creation and distribution of musical content, but also in the way people are consuming music, their tastes and preferences are also changing as they get spoilt for choice.
For a long time online music distribution as an option was a foreign narrative from afar that many thought would take years to reach Zimbabwe, but the reality is here.
We have to adapt or we lose out.
Are artistes, producers, promoters and consumers ready? Are we well-informed, empowered and equipped to fully utilise the internet to our advantage?
Sadly a lot of players are still learning and some have no clue yet of how this new animal looks like and works.
A lot of living and deceased artistes are losing hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars to online piracy as their music and videos are monetised by tech savvy unscrupulous people who are preying on a less informed music community to make money without benefiting the owners of the content.
Some artistes are struggling to adjust and to come up with new strategies that work and may soon be forgotten as the internet has become this big creative workspace and distribution channel.
What are the new ways that artistes and their handlers need to grasp? The new strategies go beyond posting on Facebook and YouTube.
There are many platforms available to artistes for them to reach a global market, collaborate and grow their music.
There is a need to engage and incorporate young, innovative, informed, tech savvy people into one’s management team to complement and boost the drive and navigate the new space.
Artistes and their managers will need to identify key industry players, the digital activators and engage them.
The artistes and their team need to have a strong rapport with key players in the industry especially in the new media.
The attitudes among the artistes need also to change as they cannot bank on past glory of being a big artiste who has a big physical following.
An artiste is as big as their catalogue, brand, relevance and at most their last release.
The bulk of music consumers on digital platforms are young people and these young people are loyal to good, unique content and visuals matter the most.
This generation is more exposed and spoilt for choice and variety than ever before.
There is a new crop of artistes emerging and these will definitely give once-big artistes a run.
The fresh talent is working so hard and slowly disrupting the space using the internet.
The likes of Holy Ten, Poptain, Mark Ngwazi, Anita Jaxson, Jøy, Sharonrose, Nutty O, Thandy Dhala, Awa, Probeatz, Ananya and more are very hungry, exposed, innovative, fresh and forward thinking.
The “big” artistes need to read the writing on the wall. While their discography, following will fuel them for some time, there is no guarantee that this is sustainable.
There is a need for one to have a crop of new artistes that they assist to grow, associate with and they do not have to see the new generation as mere competition.
The more established artistes should not block their growth, but help them to grow through collaborations, support, motivation and sharing of ideas.
Such acts will help the already established artistes grow their goodwill, music, following and longevity to their relevance.
Active engagement with all stakeholders is paramount and this has to be a continuous process.
A passive content creator will attract a disconnection and the same goes for artistes whose communication is only one way. In simple terms, talk to people, talk to your fans, the media, promoters and anyone who matters to your craft.
Have a working public relations strategy and brand development plan, engage and do not wait for people to look for you.
The artistes and their teams need to continuously gather creative intelligence and be proactive.
Individualism will not work especially for an industry that was already fragile before COVID-19 hit.
There is a need for participation, collective engagement and to have a voice on key issues that affect the sector, issues such as government policy, royalties, copyrights and others.
Artistes in Zimbabwe often have a docile tendency and apathy towards important issues.
Plot Mhako is a writer, music critic and blogger who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org/@plotmhako