The digital revolution has come with new opportunities and challenges for various businesses across the globe. One opportunity of digital revolution is the ability to disregard the physical geographical boundaries and to make it possible for buyers and sellers to transact business simply at the click of a button.
With the digital revolution, music is being shared and sold easily. But, with no proper set guidelines in digital marketing, can Malawian musicians reap from the benefits of this revolution?
There are websites dedicated to selling of music online such as Amazon, Itunes and Nyimbo Zachimalawi (www.malawi-music.com ). Recently, mobile phone companies have also come in to give a boost to their brands by incorporating music in what they call caller tunes.
Much as it is a good development, many musicians have cried foul over some of the websites that upload their music for downloading especially the failure by these websites to remit royalties to the musicians. Musicians Association of Malawi (MAM)and mobile phone operators have been at loggerheads for caller tunes royalties.
Malawi urban music record label, Nde’feyo, sold some songs on Itunes but Ken Zizwa Limamwe, Nde’feyo’s co-director, says the process is not user-friendly for most Malawian artists.
Limamwe said that Itunes demands that one has to have a visa payment card to sell music on their portal.
“We had to create a foreign account just to sell our music on Itunes, it is a small market but it’s growing,” said Limamwe.
Looking at the process one has to go through to sell music on Itunes, it is clear that most Malawian musicians cannot afford to sell their music through such portals.
MAM President, Chimwemwe Mhango, said their association is working tooth and nail to maximize musicians’ returns. The MAM president further said they are discussing with their lawyers on how to regulate music flow online and also how to handle caller tunes.
“We are in the process of establishing a website where musicians can sell their music online without hassles, but right now, we are making legal documentation with our lawyers,” said Mhango.
Mhango added that his association and its lawyers are planning to civic educate MAM members across the country on what they need to do before signing any distribution deal.
The MAM president also raised concerns over mobile phone companies that are not remitting royalties to musicians.
“The problem is that it was Cosoma that signed a deal with these mobile phone companies and we do not know what they agreed. For example, Favoured Martha’s music has been downloaded a lot but she has not received any royalties,” he said.
Senior licencing officer for the Copyright Society of Malawi (Cosoma), Rosario Kamanga said there are control measures for the websites that are distributing music. One such measure is to get a licence.
He said discussions are underway on protection of digital material with International Confederation of Authors and Composers (Cisac) on a continental level.
“Their online markets used to be small back then and we did not emphasise on online market very much but now we have realised that the digital market for music is growing tremendously and something needs to be done to regulate it,” Kamanga said.
With proper guidelines in digital marketing, Malawian musicians stand a chance of benefiting a lot not only in financial returns but in getting the international recognition they have always longed for.