For most lovers of music uploaded on YouTube, the name DJ Chizzariana is not new. The South Africa-based Malawian DJ continues to build an empire on the video app.
With close to 24 000 subscribers, Chizzariana has built an audience that enjoys mixtapes of local music he uploads on his channel.
From reggae, Afro-pop and local urban music, the DJ-cum-producer is no respecter of genres as his aim is to entertain.
He recollects: “My passion for music started when I was young while listening to the likes of Alleluya Band, Kuunika Band, Lucius Banda, Coss Chiwalo, Charles Sinetre, among others and so I wanted to be a musician.
“During my free time, I started writing songs. When I came to RSA I tried to record one of my songs with a friend. I realised that my voice is not that good for music. That’s when I started learning mixing songs using Virtual DJ.”
Chizzariana says every time he was on YouTube, he came across various DJs compiling songs from different artists.
“I decided to start mine and mix songs from Africa. In 2016, I started doing it but not only with songs from Malawi but worldwide, then Africa, especially in Southern Africa. I then decided to promote more of my country’s music up to now,” he says.
However, his quest to entertain and promote Malawi music has sparked copyright issues.
“I do buy their CDs, some send their songs to me, and the rest I download from different websites; Mikozi, Joy Nathu, Malawimusic.com and YouTube as well,” he said.
He says some artists give him permission to use their music while others do not.
“So, if artists say no I don’t use their music,” the artist says.
Meanwhile, questions have been asked if Chizzariana’s endeavour is benefiting the owners of the music in any way.
“I have never thought of using my channel to make money because I don’t feel good about it. I look at how some of the talented artists that are not doing well, but every year, they are releasing nice songs. It doesn’t sit right with me, maybe that is why,” says the DJ, real name Chizzah Chisomo Thonde.
According to music aggregator and artists’ manager Dali Mizaya, forums such as from Chizzariana’s have opportunities for Malawian musicians to earn cash as well as visibility.
“It’s easier to tell a fan in UK or America to stream your songs off Spotify than to download it from MalawiMusic.com, Mikozi or Zonse Live,” he says.
When a p p l y i n g f o r international festivals or awards, organisers look at the artist’s profiles on Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs).
“Malawian musicians have lots of opportunities online to make money. With some artists, DSPs make money. artists charge based on a stream which is usually low and an artist can only make $4 for 1000 streams,” says Mizaya.
He says for a platform like YouTube, once your page gets to the 1 000 subscriber mark, then one qualifies for payment through ads.
“YouTube only pays channels through ads. So, for example an artist like Patience Namadingo has over 6 000 subscribers on his YouTube. He is eligible for monetisation. His Ndalama video got over 160 000 views. That’s a strong profile for a Malawian artist,” says Mizaya.
He also argues that artists can make money through sponsored content.
“So, it’s like advertisers putting their billboard on a roadside knowing over 100 000 people will see it,” he adds.
Mizaya says this works the same way TV stations sell ads based on viewership numbers and programming times.
“But this can only be achieved if the artist takes control of their content and how it is distributed,” he explained.
In order to bridge this information gap while also seeing to it that musicians make money, Mizaya calls on local artists to start using music aggregators.
He says: “Aggregators are basically the middlemen between artists and DSPs.They license the songs to the DSPs.
“So, I manage artists, and for an artist like Liwu, I would submit his song to Spotify through a platform such as Distro Kid or JTV Digital which either pay per song distribution or yearly subscription, depending on how they work.”