We can’t deny that the Namibian music industry has come this far from five years ago. However the struggles and challenges artists are still going through on a daily show that much has to be done to alter our current state.
It is no secret also that there are many reasons for artists to get frustrated by the current music business “system” with venues that don’t support new artists, radio stations only giving air play to certain artists, musicians playing at venues for free, illegal downloads, CDs pirating, lack of respect for professional musicians, just to mention a few. Despite the flaws, the question is who has the power to change the music industry?
Elemotho Mosimane admits that the music industry is going through a phase but live music is the breakthrough key. “Nothing can replace the power of live instruments and performance. People like it when things are easy and to play live is difficult. My only worry is one day when the next generation cannot truly play instruments or sing in real time because they have been cheating all along,” says Elemotho. To him Namibians still have not developed a deep appreciation for arts. “Music like other entertainment industries are often seen as hobbies and playtime. It is only when artists start earning real dollars that everyone pays attention. In today’s music climate, bands and singers are becoming more about personality than talent. Artists are often considered ‘brands’; whose success very much depends how they use technology rather than their musical talent. As a touring musician I am lucky to get payed for festivals, and sell my CDs,” Elemotho says.
For RnB singer, Peaches van Wyk, change starts with artists themselves but they can’t do it without support. “Like the saying goes, ‘if I could get fed for free as often as I hear music for free, I’d stop paying for food too.’ So musicians lose value, and aren’t respected. There is plenty of money in music. But it’s not getting to the artists. We can talk about the decline in quality but quality isn’t produced ‘part-time’. It is not easy getting one’s work there but artists can make use of social media to promote themselves, the power of social media is unexplainable but many don’t see that. Also if more can be invested in talent and entertainment we will see not only change locally but also beyond because music has a lot of influence,” says she.
The music industry is yet to find solutions to many problems including plummeting CD sales, increased piracy and new ways of listening to music online. With album sales decreasing year on year, the industry is in need of saving. Namibian Europe-based Afro-Pop artist, Jackson Wahengo, says both the listeners/radio presenters have the power to change the industry, however the biggest responsibility is on the artists themselves to produce worthwhile products. He adds that it is a struggle for people to buy music because there are so many ways one could get it for free. However, if we find ways to make piracy difficult, people will buy it.
“Normally in a functioning society there is minimum wage for artists, in Switzerland were I stayed for the past seven years a minimum wage for a gig was 200 CHF (N$3000). There is a live performance loyalty fee for artists, only that it does not exist in Namibia yet, every time I play a show in Switzerland we are obliged to fill in a form which is send to “Suissa” a copyright organisation equivalent to NASCAM, this organization than pays us yearly loyalties,” Jackson. The music industry all over the globe has suffered tremendously due to global economic crisis, hopefully the economy will get better and people will start spending more on entertainment. “Yes technology has downsized the skills, however on the flip side of the coin it has also enhanced our capabilities as players of instruments and singers, players of instruments might need to work ten times harder than others whose concentration is directed to only one area of creativity,” says Jackson.