Piracy: Vampire sucking music industry’s lifeblood

Enter8
The legislature should enact strictly enforced laws which criminalise piracy in all its forms

Learnmore Zuze
It’s only in Zimbabwe where the entire work of a musician can be bought for a dollar. All the albums that Mtukudzi has ever recorded in his life are available on a single disc for a dollar, courtesy of piracy.I had a good old friend who was gifted with a reedy voice.

It’s been years since his death but his music has remained popular in the country.

This man, whom I will not name for professional reasons, once mesmerised the nation with his unique brand of music.

His addictive lyrics had revellers singing along back in the day

Last Sunday, as I was visiting the neighbourhood he used to live in, I decided to pay a courtesy call on his family.
As I approached his house, memories of the good old days flickered through my mind. I recalled the days when this place used to be a hive of activity.

Oftentimes, there would be a few journalists seeking to interview him. Frequently, you would encounter up-and-coming musicians looking for his expertise.

Visitors’ cars would be parked outside and any new person would quickly notice that there was someone prominent who stayed in the street.

However, as I arrived on this day, a different atmosphere enveloped the place.

An unusual sombre silence engulfed the dwelling. I vainly stood outside the gate for about five minutes hoping to be noticed.

As I set to leave, I heard a squeaky sound of the door opening. A frail-looking old woman stuck her head out with an inquisitive look. Upon seeing me, her face broke into a smile of recognition.

For the next 30 minutes I sat with the late musician’s mother in the deteriorating structure while she chronicled the downward turn that life had taken since the death of her famous son.

The wife, I learnt, had left for Botswana the previous week, as she has resorted to cross-border trading to fend for the family.

My supposed courtesy visit inevitably turned into a philanthropic one in the wake of the family’s challenges.

As I left the place, I reflected on the painful irony of the popularity of the late artiste’s music on radio and in different “old school” joints while his own family wallows in poverty.

I felt strongly that something meaningful ought to be done about pirates (people who reproduce artistes’ work without permission).

I have spoken at different platforms on the evils of piracy and I know of many people who are quick to point out the “recklessness” and “irresponsibility” of musicians and their failure to invest during peak times in their careers.

Well, this is true in some instances. Nonetheless, I feel that a sincere fight against piracy might not entirely stop but at least it might minimise the profusely bleeding wound inflicted by piracy.

At the recent National Arts Merit Awards, it was heart-rending to see a tearful Enock Chihombori of “Gringo” fame recount how his efforts went up in smoke as pirates benefited from his sweated-for project – “Gringo Troublemaker”.

It is pitiful to have talented musicians like Josphat Somanje who have many hits to their name beg music promoters to engage them for shows.

It was sad to see veteran musician Allan Chimbetu handcuffed while trying to sell a Samsung phone at Ximex Mall.
It was even sadder when gospel crooner Kudzai Nyakudya was arrested for selling his own music.

I accept that, indeed, gone are the days when artistes could buy houses from music sales alone. However, I believe that musicians and their families at least ought to afford a decent meal from the proceeds of their music. Some argue that piracy has its own advantages but a closer look proves that the damage far outweighs the advantages.

Zimbabwe is famous for struggling artistes who bear the shame of poverty everywhere they go.

Pirated music vendors confess that they rake in between $30 and $40 a day in sales and that translates to about $700 per month. Wasn’t that money enough to see off a late artiste’s family?

Couldn’t that have gone a long way in school fees and general upkeep?

The worst pain inflicted by piracy stems from the staggering costs of recording a music album.
Most people think that one only needs a few minutes to record a song.

However, a trip to the recording studios proves that it may take as much as nine hours to do a four-or-five-minute song and studio time is charged per hour? Now, calculate how much an artiste has to fork out to record a 10-track album at $20 per hour.

Besides studio time, one needs to pay musicians who work on the album as well as provide them with transport and food. As well, the practice sessions have to be paid for, not to mention sleeve and graphic designers.

After this gruelling process, piracy barons need only one copy to duplicate and sell five thousand copies for a dollar each.

Anywhere in the world, music sells for a dollar per song and not per album, even on the internet.

It’s only in Zimbabwe where the entire work of a musician can be bought for a dollar. All the albums that Mtukudzi has ever recorded in his life are available on a single disc for a dollar, courtesy of piracy.

A lot has been said about ending piracy but with little success recorded. Unfortunately, musicians risk irrelevancy should they not record work.

In my opinion, there is only one solution which works, it is the same solution which has seen a huge fall in cattle theft crimes.

The crime of livestock theft attracts a sentence of not less than nine years’ imprisonment according to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act, Section 114. Likewise, the legislature should enact strictly enforced laws which criminalise piracy in all its forms, laws which attract a deterrent sentence per each disc pirated.

Such an approach looks to be the only way out of the woods because all other intelligent devices and tips have failed to subdue this vampire so badly sucking the music industry of its lifeblood.

Learnmore Zuze is a Zimbabwean author and researcher and can be reached on [email protected]

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  • msv

    Piracy is hurting artistes families Pamela.Think about it.You have a job and an artiste has to survive on jis talent