The internet has transformed the music industry in so many ways. It has changed how music is made, distributed, sold, marketed and ultimately consumed.
By Plot Mhako
Stars are born on the internet and some careers are also buried on the world wide web. Value for a composer, producer or performer is no longer achieved in the traditional and conventional ways. With these fast changes taking place continuously it becomes very difficult for an artist or even their team to keep up with the trends and technological innovations. This calls forth for expert assistance. A lot of things can still appear simple and (DIY) not requiring deeper tech knowledge but a combination of certain skills and knowledge will be paramount in steering the musical career for longer and also the ability to monetize.
Some musicians have been quick to realize that they needed a third hand to handle this, some were smart enough to learn whilst some were too ignorant and gave away the most important part of their work „copyrights“ to cunning tech-savvy people. Well, that’s not the focus of my discussion today.
I want to talk about TOUTS yes maHwindi , Zvinamira and Rank marshalls in showbiz.
These are the people who managed to develop a voice online and can to some extent influence music consumption trends. They are basically pundits. Ndivo vanofayisa bhazi. Similar to the public transport system in Zimbabwe. You have your traditional artists who rely on formal public transport (ma Zupco, maBhazi ekumusha, ma Cross border busses) to transport and push their music. These normally work for the long haul artists whose music needs time to sink deep, artists who are not in a hurry for the quick hype, artists who are more concerned with their music crossing the tollgates. They are not hype-driven and their music is oftentimes not pop. They are your Gospel, Sungura artists who rely on mass consumption for shows in remote areas and are often content with that. Conductors will use very traditional means to fill up and the drivers are more patient and tend to be mature or more cultured in nature.
Then you have the Mushika-shika, Urban ranks type (your hip hop, Dancehall, Afropop). The type that is hype-driven. With this type anything goes, from controversy, beef, hype, vulgar, toxicity. The end justifies the means. The record must get trending even if it is not worth the hype. The Touts / Rank Marshalls know how to sell a dummy but also if you are lucky you can get grooving to a genuinely good product. They are very emotional, territorial, loud, disrespectful and can put up a fight. They are serial marketers. All products by their favorite artists are the best and their perceived rival whack. Some double up as hypemen for a particular combi and a rank marshall (blogger) too. They promote other combies but are very conscious of their allegiance. During shows they can be hangers-on. You see them vakarembera pa door or pa stage. Some are close to the combi owner but some are simply fanatics.
The downside is that Touts can also potentially ruin the brand they are marketing as they are not really ethically guided and despite not being bonafide officials their alliance can be easily interpreted as the unofficial representation of the artist.
Interestingly, no matter how beautiful your combi can be, if you do not have good touts then your business may struggle. Go on Youtube and look at the graveyard for Good music. Very talented, great content but no Tout to blow the horn.
Touting can be excessively annoying, generate apathy just like propaganda, but at times it pays. It shapes public perception and ultimately consumption patterns to some extent. Have you not seen a combi operator with some ugly and tattered combies but for years they are still on the road and the other guy with the best vehicle fitted with some dope features not surviving the street hustle?
In short, every combi needs a tout, even when most people know where they are going, Touts will sell anything. Likewise, every artist needs a blogger.
Random and unproven thoughts, until next time, the plot thickens.