or years the notion that Malawi has celebrities was easily dismissed.
This has to a larger extent been due to the creative industry’s lack of economic viability. Sectors such as music and acting, though attractive, have not offered its players dismal returns in terms of income.
Slowly, over the years, we have witnessed a shift in the lifestyles of our local ‘celebrities’. A good number of local artists are driving luxurious cars and investing in projects such as production of their music videos.
This shift may not represent the whole picture, but it has at least given respect to an industry that for long has been looked down upon.
Malawian artist Patience Namadingo, who recently unveiled his Range Rover, said nowadays the avenues to make money for artists are not limited to selling CDs and doing live shows.
The Sakaka creator said he has made full use of the numbers he has attained as he is able to make $1000 for every 1 million views he gets on YouTube on top of the corporate endorsements and deals that he enjoys.
“When I was doing my concert in Lusaka last year it was sponsored by Trade Kings who invested serious sums. They gave me K12 million just for me to market their brand. I am also signed to record labels from where I am earning serious money,” he said.
Art enthusiast and Mikozi Online lead Excess Chiligo attributes the change to the evolution that the industry has undergone which has in part eliminated expenses that artists incurred in the production and distribution of their work previously.
“The revenue may be more or less the same, but the expenses have been eliminated thanks to the digital space. The other factor is the distribution models that have been adopted now. Previously for one to reach 1000 people it meant K500 000.
“Today you can reach thousands of people with just K500 worth of internet bundle,” he said.
Excess also highlighted other factors such as the decreased cost of advertising and marketing events and the adoption of online performances which are sponsored and are low cost.
He said though local artists have moved to the digital space, they are not earning a lot from downloads as they should, since the number of Malawians accessing the Internet remains low.
Excess said: “Only those that are making use of international platforms such as YouTube, Spotify and Boomplay where the streams are monitised are able to rake in something. For one to achive that you need to penetrate the international market.”
He cited artists such as Patience Namadingo, Kell Kay and Onesimus as among those having such potential.
For example, Spotify pays artists between $0.03-$0.05 per stream with the revenue split at an approximate rate of 70/30. The artist or rights holder is entitled to a 70 percent cut.
Urban musician Saint has attributed the change in fortunes to the advancement of technology which has meant their increased knowledge of the same has allowed them to make money in different ways.
“The digital space has allowed us to have footprints everywhere. Such visibility has proved an attraction to companies and organisations who are now ready to work with us as brand ambassadors. That impact has been telling,” he said.
Artist and event manager Wisdom Phanga said the issue of piracy affected musicians, forcing them to work on their branding to position themselves to attract corporate partnerships and endorsements.
“Music is now being treated as a business. A lot of artists know that if well managed they can earn decently from the art. Artists know that they can no longer make money from album sales but rather through bookings of live shows. That is helping them as well,” he said.
Phanga agreed with Excess that Malawians need to do more when it comes to buying music online. He says that is an area local artists are failing to exploit to the full.
Artist Gwamba has given credit to the opportunities that have sprouted as a result of the social media. He said organisations are looking for online numbers which has made it easy for artists to get money from them.
“Our utilisation of our online presence has been the difference between us and the generations before us,” he said.
Rapper Fredokiss said: “Our generation is exposed and ambitious. We never had role models hence we had to set our own bar. We ended up setting it very high.”