The revolution of low-priced recording studios

Seventeen-year-old Blessings Isaac has always dreamt of being a musician. Having managed to record four singles, he feels he is getting closer to his long-held ambition.

Just like any desperate youth who is dying to make a big break into the industry, he had little regard for some little details which are equally crucial to the realisation of his artistic dreams.

Musician Rebecca Mwalwenje in a recording studio

“I paid K5 000 to have my song produced and recorded at one of the recording studios in Machinjiri where I live. I have also identified someone who will record videos for my singles and he has charged me K20 000 per song,” he says.

Isaac says having watched the likes of youthful rapper Waxy Kay rise to prominence after recording from the same studio, he hopes that he too can make his mark on the country’s music landscape. 

Our findings have revealed that the cheapest fee one can pay to record a song is K5 000 with the highest being slightly above K50 000, mainly for established producers whose clientele base is made up of some of the country’s biggest stars.

Daily Life Studios and Fresh D Records from Blantyre charge K5 000 per song. Street Vibes Studio in Zomba charges K7 000 per song.  In Lilongwe, Church Feel and South Side Records charge K12 000, Red Disk charges K17 000 and Royal Strings charges K80 000. 

Our research also shows that the standard prices which many producers demand to produce a song floats between K20 000 and K30 000.

Owner of South Side Records Gift Chingwalu says the K12 000 fee which he charges at his studio is not enough to sustain the operations of his business, but he is only driven by the passion he has for music. 

Veteran artist Billy Kaunda says in 1997 when he was recording his debut album Mwapindulanji, he paid K12 500 at Paul Banda’s Imbirani Yahwe (IY) Studio, an amount he says was huge at the time. 

“With all the technological advancement we have undergone over the years, indeed there have   been some improvements. However, I still salute the work that was done on that album. What other production houses are offering now is cheating the industry,” he says.

At that time IY Studios, which was established in 1991, was one of the trusted private owned production studios. Its coming on the scene had eased pressure on one of the country’s oldest studio, Andiamo, which is run by the Catholic Church.

It was around 2010 that the country saw the coming in of other private players in the industry, which included MC Studios, Pro Sounds, Eclipse, Mathumela, Magic Groove and Studio K.

However, the situation is different now as one can find a recording studio at least in every location, town or city.  Technology has offered a chance to people who merely own a computer, who, with the help of required applications, are recording and producing music.        

Renowned producer DJ Sley, who owns Chit-Chat Records and has worked with local top artists such as Lucius Banda, Tay Grin, Fredokiss, Gwamba and Kell Kay, says producers who are charging as low as K5 000 do not value their work.

“For one to operate a recording studio, you need to have a pair of monitors (speakers), audio interface, a computer where your digital analogue workstation is, mid-controller, condenser microphones and headphones for recording.

“These are the essential equipment. But most importantly you also need to possess the technical know-how. But some of these producers have no respect for the trade; hence, the low quality of their work,” he says.  

Renowned radio personality Joy Nathu, who is host of Radio 2 FM’s popular urban music programme Made on Monday, says most of the individuals charging such low prices are in the industry for business and do not have a heart for music; hence their productions are of low.

He says: “Quality of any production matters. The best producers we have around charge higher fees and if the artists can afford, it is better to use such producers. They are taking advantage of up-and-coming artists who do not have a solid financial base.”

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