Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

When celebrities become vendors

By Godwin Muzari and Bornwise Mtonzi

When forgotten musician Peter Tangwena began selling CDs at Mereki Shopping centre a few years ago, he became a subject of serious ridicule because he had reduced himself to a vendor when other musicians were concentrating on their core business.

Selmor Mtukudzi (left) sells her CDs in the city
Selmor Mtukudzi (left) sells her CDs in the city

Various jokes were made about Tangwena with some claiming that his albums were not even among the CDs that he sold because he knew no one would buy his music.

Others said it was Tangwena’s way of saluting musicians that had given him stiff competition in the industry and a sign of accepting defeat.

Indeed things were hard for Tangwena because he had gone past the days of fame with his songs “Siyana Newangu” and “Mutinhimira”. The musician had to devise other means of survival. And at that time, it was a disgrace for a musician to sell CDs.

But things have now changed. Most popular musicians and filmmakers have turned to self-marketing and many are going on the streets to sell their products.

They might be celebrities but the high level of piracy and lack of innovation among record companies have pushed the artistes to the streets.

Although authors have also been affected by piracy and various conflicts with publishers, very few have actually taken to the streets to sell their books. Because of the nature of the literature market, authors supply their material to schools and academic institutions, which makes their line of trading decent.

They also take advantage of literary gatherings and online platforms to sell the books. At this year’s Zimbabwe International Book Fair many authors went around selling their books.

But their counterparts in music and film are forced to go on the streets because they target a mass market. They now compete for street space with pirates and some have also conceived means of evading municipal police officers in order to maximise their street sales.

Musicians like Jah Prayzah, Mathias Mhere, Fungisai Zvakavapano-Mashavave, Kudzi Nyakudya, Peter Moyo, Prince Musarurwa and Selmor Mtukudzi have taken their albums to the streets.

Fungisai recently launched her album at the Harare Agricultural Show where she sold her CDs. For his recent two albums “Kumbumura Mhute” and “Jerusarema” Jah Prayzah went on a street marketing campaign and personally sold some copies.

Selmor says she gets better income from selling her own music. Most of the musicians have employed many sales representatives to do the work daily. They set speakers at street corners and play loud music to advertise the selections on sale.

Some office occupants in the CBD have complained about the noise at their doorsteps and it is the other reason why council authorities sometimes go after these music vending artistes.

One thing that most of these artistes concur on is the issue of piracy which they say has wiped their income. Because record companies have not been innovative enough to counter pirates while law enforcers have not been strict on piracy, the artistes have decided to go it alone. They set tables side-by-side with vendors of pirated discs and that life has become normal for our musicians and filmmakers.

“We used to believe in the recording companies but now it’s a thing of the past. You know our fans these days prefer to buy our music on the streets where they think it is cheap. Selling on the streets is another way for us to fight piracy,” said gospel musician Nyakudya.

Fungisai said selling her music is another way of meeting her fans.

“I have just released a new album and I’m promoting and marketing it with the aim to meet the end user in person. “It is an opportunity for me to connect with fans and avail my music in person so that my music is accessible especially now when the music distribution and marketing channels have dwindled,” said Fungisai. The Herald