While vending is considered the least thing an artist can do, some artists have found gold in the trade. One such artist is stage play and movie actor Jacob Mwase alias Zacharia, who revealed to On the Arts that he is now a millionaire.
“I am now proud of my talent. Since, I went into the streets to sell my products, a lot has changed in my life. I sold Tinkanena Part One and Moyo Series One through distributors, but I can hardly show the products of the two, except that they helped me to make a name,” explained Zacharia.
He added that Tinkanena Part Two and Moyo Series Two were first put on the market by distributors, but the returns were not attractive until he took matters into his hands.
The artist said since he took over, the returns have almost quadrupled. He is now selling Tinkanena Part Three and Moyo Serie Three alongside the previous productions.
“There is a big change in terms of returns. What happens with distributors is that they buy from you few copies, but reproduce many copies behind you. It has been surprising to observe that some artists are very famous, their products are everywhere, but meet them, you would be shocked to note that they are struggling financially,” said the artist, who always masks the controversial character.
Zacharia is not the first artist to venture into selling his own product.
Since music producer OG Issa stopped buying and distributing music and movies, many artists have been on the streets in the cities selling their products. For many, such a step is despondency, but for Zacharia, this is the way to go. He said since he started the practice, he can now afford most of the equipment he uses for his productions.
“In just three years, I can reveal that I have made over K5 million in returns and most of this is valued in the equipment as I believe in investing. It’s an achievement, which I think could not have been realised had I not sacrificed to go into vending,” said Zacharia.
Walking down the streets of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Zomba cities, what welcomes you is loud noise of recorded audio adverts promoting artistic works. In Blantyre, the common faces at Nandos and Limbe Market are Zacharia, Mr Jokes, Joe Gwaladi and Ethel Kamwendo, among others. In Lilongwe, the Great Angels Choir, Marvelous Deeds and Kamuzu Barracks Gospel Singers are some of the common faces.
In random interviews, the artists said despite that it is a hectic process, they are now benefiting more from their sweat than before.
Standup comedian Mr Jokes, real name Andreya Thonyiwa, described the absence of serious and honest distributors as a setback to quality production.
He said the advantage of distributors is that they help artists to have time to sit back and think of the next productions.
“If you are on the streets, it means you are busy and hardly do you have time to be lonely and think about the next production,” lamented Mr Jokes.
He, however, described vending as viable in-terms of returns, arguing that they make sure they are everywhere and this has covered the gap which pirates utilise. Mr Jokes added that most people are willing to buy directly from the artist because they know they are buying original material.
These might be really playing them an advantage as spot checks with several artist revealed that on daily basis they sell around 500 copies. Mr Jokes revealed that on a bad day, he sells a minimum of 250 copies.
“The strategy is to reach all corners of the country and what we do is to have vehicles in all the cities. On a good day, we sell about 1 000 copies and normal days atleast 600 copies. The advantage is that cash continues to flow and we are able to meet costs of fresh productions and distribution,” explained Mr Jokes.
Mathematically, with a sample of the average daily sells of 600 copies, the artist makes around K300 000 a day as they sell each copy at K500 (about $0.7). With technology, the artists are now able to burn more copies for sells, which cuts costs of production.
Currently, the comedian says he is selling Stand Up Comedy Collection 4 and the sales are attractive.
Music distributors were pushed off the market by the fast changing technology.
The coming in of CDs and DVDs prompted the phasing out of tapes.
Subsequently, technology bred burning software, giving anyone with a computer ability to copy any material on CD or DVD and burn it on a blank disc.
In October 2013, OG Issa’s Hanif Osman told The Nation: “There is dirty piracy. Music sales have drastically fallen. We used to sell 80 000 to 90 000 tapes in a month.
“It is history now because people have more access to pirated music. This is why we are not venturing into discs distribution.”