Music Industry v Music Business

George Mukwita, (above) former co-host of our weekly radio show, now at college in Lusaka, sent through this interesting piece for the blog:

“These days the worldwide recording business seems mainly to exist to promote tours for the artists. Every artist and music producer who is in the business knows that the big money now is mainly in concerts, and not in record or CD sales. Every newly produced song/video is targeted at a certain audience for whom the artist hopes to perform while on tour – the songs and videos promote the artist’s material, mainly for concerts and not album sales. Why? Because there is so much free stuff on the internet these days, illegal downloads have left music stores and outlets in limbo as physical CD sales continue to drop drastically the world over.

In fact these days a lot of artists/musicians choose to personally leak their own music as a marketing strategy – what are they marketing? Certainly not CD sales or iTunes sales – because the music has been released for free, (in music language leaked for free). The objective therefore can be seen to draw as much attention as possible to the track and artist, to popularize their music, create hype and automatically push demand for shows/concerts.

I say this strategy works very well if you are JayZ, Beyonce, U2, One Direction or the like, but my point is that it’s only a selected few that can pull this off. Every other artist and their promoters – especially in developing countries like Zambia – must make it a point to push their work harder on radio, local TV and now very much on the internet. Success in most cases is as a result of a careful and calculated risk mostly undertaken by the promoter and less by the artist.

It’s not always the the most talented artists that headline the biggest concerts or most concerts but often it’s the hard working artist with the best promoter, hence the expression “hard work sometimes beats talent”. Artists and their promoters must go out of their way not to do different things but to do things differently, until even other promoters start calling for shows/concerts starring their artists. Everything starts out in the studio, where producer and artist blend to create sounds that are hopefully appealing to the target market – catchy songs always work! Once this is done, promoters must quickly create a hype, push the songs on TV, the internet and radio as well as organizing newspaper interviews and TV appearances, building a demand for concerts. Every artist dreams of performing at a sold out concert with people singing along to every song!

If you listen carefully to the new music today you may agree with me that it’s recorded in a certain way to make it easier for fans at a concert, whether hearing the music for the first time or not, to sing and dance along to it. Most young urban African artists describe this whole process as “The Music Business” – something 78% of Zambian artists are familiar with but not practicing, as they are still stuck in ‘the music industry’ hoping to make money from selling CD’s – it won’t happen!