Zimbabwe’s music industry has been growing, with a number of artists gaining regional and global attention.
This is cause for jubilation.
Over the years, the growth of Zimbabwean music has been sporadic because the main drivers of music world over, that is record labels are scant and less-impactful when it comes to the Zimbabwean context.
Attempts to establish giant recording labels have been made, as of late two big labels were established in the previous years which had the potential to become entertainment powerhouses and yet crumbled like a deck of cards.
Amongst them include Kenako Muzik, which was established by a businessman Peter Gwaze.
It worked closely with artists like Ex Q, Roki, Nutty O, Dobba Don and Soul Africa, among others.
The label provided career breakthroughs for producers like PTK, Oskid and Dj Tamuka.
With the same vision, Jah Prayzah established his own label Military Touch Movement, which was comprised of Tahle Wedzinza, Ex Q, New Guy, Nutty O, Andy Muridzo, Chiweddar.
With all these superstars, the record label crumbled likewise.
It seems as if most labels in Zimbabwe have an expiry date.
Well, there are a number of record labels in existence but generally it is a daunting challenge to establish successful, income generating and transparent record labels in Zimbabwe because:
(1). Capital driven – vast capital is required to cater for the resources, technical team (artists, song writers, producers, creative directors, marketers, PR, dejays, managers, music distributors, social media managers, sound engineers) on the other hand the economic conditions can compromise the success of labels.
This is because all these professionals will eventually be on the pay roll of the label. Some might end up as non profit making organisations of which all the stakeholders of labels have commercial interests.
(2). Politics of record labels – it is difficult to push all artists from the same label simultaneously, labels end up pushing an artist who is in his/her prime time, their favourite or the most senior in music.
This is the starting point of grievances, simmering grudges which tear labels apart.
(3). Inadequate royalties – record labels are obliged to sink in resources to produce the best out of their artists. Nevertheless, in Zimbabwe, the regulating body ZIMURA pays low and inadequate royalties. Basing on the cost-benefit analysis, it is unprofitable to open a label in Zimbabwe.
(4). Ambigous contractual obligations – in Zimbabwe it seems like most record labels are more of groupings or artists converging zones without any legally binding instruments and artists can leave the label willy-nilly without following legal remedies or proper chanels. For instance, lets look at how Andy Muridzo departed from MTM.
(5).Feja Feja industry – the arts sector as a whole is a Feja Feja and opening a label is one of the longer ways of building durable music infrastructure which most artists are not ready to part of.
For instance, labels are professional, strategic, have a plan on what to release, etc.
On the contrary, most artists like Chibhubhu, dropping anything at any given, overriding their managment and team when it comes to decision making which is not the case for labels.
(6). Arts sector is largely informal.
Food For Thought
The fact that most artist treat music as a side hustle rather than a full time job means that we are not ready enough to embrace labels because all the technical team (PR, managers, distributors, consultants, producers, sound engineers, cinematographers, directors, marketing team) will be working on a full time basis in an industry other considers a side hustle is a cause for concern.
Moreover, chances of reaping the fruits of this worthwhile investment of establishing a label are slim.