FOR several of the music producers in the city all roads led to Amakhosi Township Square a few days ago.
They came in droves and the turnout was high. The respect that Cont Mhlanga commands was obvious in the turn-out and composition of persons that came.
Thankfully, he did not speak off the cuff. He spoke from prepared notes and I was grateful. I do not enjoy stream of consciousness speeches.
Heavy hitters like Simon Mambazo Phiri of Sabela Music Projects, Ramadu of Austria-based platinum selling Insingizi and 10th District Music (that produces all-female imbube ensemble Nobuntu and ITribe) Reason Sibanda of AfroPlatinum Records (the one behind the self-styled Kasi Princess TKP and queen of Zimhouse music), Biko (hip-hop producer and activist), TKrued and others were in the group.
Filmmaker Priscilla Sithole was also representing women, as she has a music production initiative.
In the meantime Star FM is finally fulfilling its mandate of being a national broadcasting station. They have a fight on their hands all considered because Skyz Metro FM is throwing down the gauntlet.
“We are game changers because we do not follow rules, we break them and make our own,” declared Mhlanga in his address to music producers and studio owners drawn from Bulawayo Metropolitan.
Mhlanga went on to explain that he will be responsible for programming that is content and Qhubani Moyo be as chief executive officer in the new station set-up.
The company Cont represents won a licence to broadcast in Victoria Falls. The name of the station will be called Breeze FM.
According to Mhlanga the two radio stations will utilise three languages namely English, Ndebele and Kalanga and persons with the aptitude for all three will naturally have an edge over all else when it comes time to recruit more staff to run the various positions that would emerge as the stations begin to broadcast.
Skyz Metro FM music policy
“Everything to do with music will be controlled from the library which will be our engine room.
“Producers must submit their work to the librarian who will be responsible for the compilation and logging in of music.”
Mhlanga explained that their library would be classified according to “purpose” eg war, peace, up to 20 categories.
The music will focus on six genrés which the station is yet to decide on.
Mhlanga said the station intends to play 150 new songs every week. The music will be drawn from what he referred to as the three baskets: Unknown music, unknown artist new song and new material from established hit-makers.
“I want to deal with registered players because I want you to pay tax!” Mhlanga said to the stunned audience.
“Artists must decide how they want to receive their monies for royalties. They can decide whether they want their money to first go to Harare or they can get it from here.”
In the aftermath of Mhlanga’s presentation questions arose as to how Skyz Metro FM would differ from the other radio stations in terms of ensuring music is correctly logged in and royalties calculated.
Another area of concern was how the new station’s position or offer to artists would impact on existing relationships between rights owners and Zimbabwe Music Rights Association.
In a normal business environment, we should have record labels who submit their artists’ material to radio stations which quarterly or annually submit royalty payments to performing rights societies that administer copyrighted material.
Royalties are a creature of airplay which is ideally supported by advertising from corporate entities selling their services and goods. There should be segmentation according to specialisation and competency to improve efficiency across board.
The current situation is chaotic somewhat. Record labels in the traditional sense no longer exist. If they do, their business models have been altered by new developments in technology.
We know how the digital revolution has impacted on the way music is distributed.
There exists today online digital distribution outfits such as CDBaby and iTunes which have given more autonomy to independent record producers and individuals in accessing markets unencumbered by the red tape of traditional bricks and mortar.
In Zimbabwe we have had Gramma and ZMC record labels that had regional presence.
Lately, upstart outfits such as Bulawayo based Moonlight and Ingwe Studios have had forays into the sector before surrendering due to the economic vagaries precipitated by political and technological flux.
The music sector space is “democratised.”
Studios have proliferated in the suburbs because technology has placed the power of personal computer into the hands of music producers.
They use software such as Reason and Fruity Loops to make their music. The computer is the new musical instrument and a CD burner is the new assembly line!
We will continue with the Skyz Metro FM roll-out. It is relevant to this region. In the interim, the staff compliment has Moyo, Mhlanga, a librarian and a guy called Godwin Phiri, a volunteer.
The station is set to go on air in September 2015. The station is out of time and needs to get the basics solidly in place.
Yesterday, Sandra Ndebele would have launched her latest album Izenzo which she recorded in Zimbabwe and South Africa.
She is a woman I personally respect as, to borrow a phrase, a hustler of the first order.
Sandra potentially can become a leading music promoter as she knows how to pamper the corporate world.
Delta Beverages, Chicken Inn, Afdis, Kango, Nyaradzo, Firetech, Schweppes, Mzansi For Sure, Savanna Tobacco and Bravo were among some of the partners on her launch at Large City Hall !
Brace for a one-on-one with a very sassy and articulate southern sister!