Moving around the major cities of the country, one is greeted with posters of shows taking place in that town.
They are strategically perched on trees, electricity poles or on verandas of buildings that attract a number of people. They are also placed in major newspapers.
The posters are a major source of information for music lovers as they tell who performs where.
However, these posters are sometimes used for false advertising by some music show organisers as they put faces or names of musicians who have nothing to do with the gigs.
It is almost a norm to see one artist appearing on different posters as one of the performers at more than one show happening at the same time and far apart.
For example, posters last weekend indicated that King James Phiri was to be in Mulanje and Bangwe, Allan Chirwa in Mzuzu and Bangwe and Thoko Katimba in Mzuzu and Mulanje, of course the same day.
Over the same weekend, Miracle—the daughter of gospel diva, the late Grace Chinga—was touted to perform in Mzuzu last Sunday.
Despite assurances by organisers that she would perform, it turned out that she was not there. This riled patrons to the show who demanded that the money they paid for the show be refunded, saying they went to the show to watch Miracle perform.
It seems such were just a tip of an iceberg as patrons say the trend is getting out of hand. They continue to be duped.
“Why they put names or faces of artists whom they have no agreement with is beyond imagination. They want to make money by tricking us. They know some fans will attend the shows specifically because of a certain artist and falsely advertise to them. I wish there was a way of bringing sanity as we cannot continue to be robbed like this,” says a gospel music fan, Cathy Mazingwa.
But what causes this?
“The thing is most of these organisers are business-minded; hence, their focus is mainly making money by using us before communicating to us or going by our demands. They want to pull crowds by using our names.
“It is not fair because at the end of the day, people lose trust in us as musicians. They feel we advertise ourselves for shows, but fail to show up,” said Chirwa in an interview.
As for the Mzuzu show, he said: “Adverts were made before we had come to proper terms with them; hence, when I told them that I am not going [for the show], they said it was too late for them to change the posters and adverts. Generally, adverts must commence upon complete agreement with the artist, otherwise someone will one day be sued.”
Long-time victim Thoko Katimba says the tendency does not represent what the musicians claim to do, namely spreading the word of God.
“What is happening is bad and it affects both artists and patrons. What normally happens in most cases is that we get calls from organisers who are generally our friends to book for a show two months in advance,” he says.
“Without further discussions, they call a week before the show and when you tell them you are tied up as there was no proper agreement, you find they already have posters with your name there and they are in the public domain.”
Mzuzu-based musician and show organiser Kelvin Sato believes the only way to bring sanity for both ends is to sign a contract after an agreement.
“We have deals based on friendship and when money comes in, we change goals forgetting we had a gentleman’s agreement with another colleague. We must learn to sign contracts once everything is in place as that will bind all those involved to play their rightful role,” he says.
A snap survey CHILL did reveals somehow that the tendency can be linked to the usage of one poster for a number of shows, which Sato agrees with.
Nevertheless, what is happening leaves music followers wondering if at all the music industry is regulated to ensure that there is sanity, namely that no musician coaxes people to their shows by indicating that a certain leading artist would perform.
Malawi has the Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC) which is charged with regulating, monitoring control of and preventing acts or behaviour which is likely to adversely affect competition and fair trading in the country.
CFTC director of consumer welfare and education Lewis Kulisewa says deceptive or misleading advertising is a clear infringement of the Competition and Fair Trading Act (CFTA) and the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).
“Any advertiser who publishes false or deceptive information commits an offence and may be liable to prosecution.
“If it is true that some advertisers in the gospel industry are publishing false information with a view to deceive consumers, that is an outright infringement of the CFTA and CPA. Those advertisers should be reported to the CFTC for action,” he says.
Kulisewa says the commission will investigate any allegations of misleading advertising and impose appropriate penalties in line with the law.
He says anyone found engaging in misleading advertising may, upon conviction, be liable to a fine of K500 000 or the amount of financial gain generated by the offences and be sentenced to five years imprisonment.
“The Commission would like to appeal to the business community to ensure that their adverts conform to rules of decency, sincerity and truth. We would also like to encourage the public to report any trader who engages in misleading advertising to the commission for remedial action,” advises Kulisewa.
Musicians Union of Malawi (MUM) president for the Northern Region Dyton Mbewe has since urged musicians to desist from flying posters of shows before proper agreements and confirmations are made with the artists earmarked to perform. n