Remember the days when anyone who did music ‘must have failed at everything else in life’? Those days are finally seeing their final light. Creative careers are getting more respect from the corporate world, the older generation and fans themselves thanks, in part, to the success of artists such as Tuku, Winky D, Sulu Chimbetu, Ammara Brown and Jah Prayzah. They proved that you can make worthwhile amounts of money from music if you approach it the right way rather than as a mere hobby that you hope will make you money eventually. Let’s look at some of the ways Zimbabwean artists have managed to monetize their music:
A way to monetize that has become popular is using platforms such as YouTube where you can monetize content you own once it has been uploaded to the site. This includes songs, music videos and all other materials that can go on there. Artists are gaining millions of views and this also comes with an opportunity to earn advertising revenue cheques from Google (which owns YouTube). Bear in mind, you need a lot of views and for people to actually click and watch ads on your channel for this to make any sense but it is a revenue stream nonetheless. I won’t get into the specifics on this post. Digital Advertising revenue can also come from other avenues such as websites, blogs among others.
Endorsement deals/Corporate partnering
Over the last few years, musicians have been getting more corporate endorsements, advertising gigs (radio and TV), speaking engagements and brand ambassador opportunities while no longer relying on just album sales and shows to make money. One example of great corporate partnering is Karizma who licensed his music for use on MTV Africa’s hit show Shuga (Down South – Season 5). These are the game changing moves Zimbabweans are doing. To further drive the point home, the role of a manager is quite important as the go between for the musician and any company.
Collaborations are no longer only based on ‘hufesi’ but a contractual transaction where a musician is paid for a feature. Another way this transaction is handled could involve a like for like feature where neither artist pays the other. These type of collaborations are more common between artists of different countries looking to gain entry into new markets courtesy of the other. This opens up opportunities for shows which bring in the bulk of most artist incomes.
Social Media/Product Placement
The musicians themselves (and their management) are finding more creative ways to become viable brands that bring in much needed income. Tweeting or posting on Facebook, SnapChat or Instagram making reference to, subtly placing or directly promoting a product/service has become a great way to earn some cash for Zimbabwean musicians. They are using music videos, for example, to promote brands that want in with the musician’s audience/target market. The market rates depend on a number of factors such as the star power of the musician, budget of the sponsoring company, number of social media followers (if they are being paid to promote something on there) and more. To put that in perspective, it is estimated that Beyonce earns around US$1 million per Instagram post. Wow, just wow!
Worldwide, multiple revenue streams are always what a musician aims for. This is why you see musicians getting into other industries to extend their brand such as signature fragrances, clothing lines, acting gigs etc and look for partnering opportunities with large companies among other things. In 2014, Maskiri was one of the first to do something different by launching his own fragrance. What a move it was! Not sure how that has worked out for him seeing that it’s 3 years on but it was a highlight of his career.
Springboarding is about creating a broader vision considering how volatile a music career can be. Some musicians use music to gain popularity and money before using that to build something much bigger. Most musicians have and probably try to sell t-shirts which is not a bad gig but when everyone else is doing it sometimes you need to dare to dream bigger. T-shirts are hardly a long term solution for the most part. Merch has long been associated with musicians as an additional revenue stream and if done well, can bring in more income than gigs do.
Once you get to the top in the music industry, there is only one way you can go… DOWN. When the music is no longer getting you where you want to go, musicians wants to know there are 3, 4 or 5 other places they can turn to.
There has never been a better time to become a musician than right now. That being said, all this does not happen without hard work and smart moves. The ones making the most of all this have dared to take more risks and go past what everyone else does. It all begins with small things we think are obvious to most musicians such as licensing their music, thinking outside the box, registering with the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA), hiring a good manager, having a booking agent, PR rep and most importantly, letting someone else take care of anything that has nothing to do with the core focus of the musician which is making MUSIC. Not all these are essentials but there are experts in different fields for a reason. Music IS a business and monetization is a must.
It’s definitely that time for Zim musicians to cash in!