Big market, small returns

While Nigerian artists continue to make headway in conquering Africa in terms of their music dominance, Malawian musicians are not far behind. The local artists are making their own progress in as far as producing mature music is concerned.

Take Lawi’s Sunset in the Sky album, Lucius Banda’s Crimes, Tay Grin’s Festive Vibes LP and Peter Mawanga’s Nyanja Vibes. These are just some of the very many music offerings from local artists that have the ‘wow’ factor in them.

Released new album late
last year: Lawi

But what sets the local artists apart from their counterparts in Nigeria and other advanced countries is that in Malawi the music market channel which folded a long time ago.

Faced with piracy and  the digital age, artists are now complaining.

“I think we still need a proper music distributor like what used to happen with OG Issa. I have tried on my own to release 1500 CDs and I have seen Malawians scrambling for original CDs. The market for music is there, but how to sell the music is the challenge,” said artist Lucius Banda who released Crimes in December 2017.

He said there has been enough awareness on the evils of piracy and well meaning Malawians are now making a conscious decision to buy original CDs.

“When they buy pirated music, it is because they cannot access our original music, otherwise, the market for music exists,” said Banda, popularly known as soldier among his fans.


Another artist who has just released an album is Lawi. His manager Emmanuel Maliro said the lack of music distributing companies in Malawi is negatively affecting art.

“We do invest millions when recording music but once the music is out, it becomes an issue to sell it. There are no regular markets making it hard for us,” he said.

But Maliro said all is not lost as Malawians now appreciate good and mature music.

“However, the key is to produce mature music. Malawians will buy that with no problems. Lawi’s album is going at K10 000, but the demand is very high just because the music is real, the lyrical content is original and sound output is of high quality,” he said.

Maliro claimed that Lawi makes music for the love of the art.

“That is why he is able to continue making music despite challenges in selling the music. Lawi is not into music for money, it is his way of life. When you do music for the right reasons money comes last,” said Maliro.

E-music distribution

Others have argued that gone are the days when artists used to sell the old fashioned way as there are now digital music sales. Lucius Banda, however, said he does not believe Malawi is there yet to embrace this marketing channel.

Said Banda: “The proceeds from online music sales are pathetically low. For an artist to get a K100 000 it takes a lot of downloads. Of course my music is on and I am yet to see how much I will make from this platform. Otherwise my experience with other platforms has been disappointing.”

And Maliro chipped in: “Malawians are downloading an American movie which is 5 days old in the cinemas in the US. The situation is worse with songs. When it comes to online, Malawians believe they have to get it for free.”

Losing it to royalties that never were.

Urban artist Tay Grin, who released an EP during Christmas season, said there is a lot of revenue being lost currently.

“As an artist, I am not happy with the current situation. There is revenue being lost from royalties as there is no clear monitoring system in place,” he said.

“Locally, we are not being able to properly sell music online as people just share through WhatsApp or download from free sites making it hard for artists.

“A lot of work needs to be done otherwise at the moment we are doomed. Piracy needs to be tackled, more stringent measures are needed to stop the pirates and authorities need to invest in monitoring systems and ensure accountability for royalties.”

Commenting on the challenges, Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma) executive director Dora Makwinja said they are hopeful that the new Copyright Act will help to curb rampant cases of copyright infringement.

Currently, artist Banda is selling his own music during shows, through Puma and Total filling stations and on digital platform.

Lawi is selling on his own through his manager’s market network while Tay Grin is using digital platforms.

All artists however are more into live shows for tangible revenue. n


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