Online PIRACY: A ZIMBABWEAN STATISTICAL perspective #Earground

Last week, through this space, I offered my opinion on the need for a rethink of the status quo in Zimbabwe’s music industry. The responses were both overwhelming and scathing. This is understandable given that I touched on several issues affecting the creative industry in Zimbabwe.

Norman Mafuratidze, Earground

I wish to join the old debate on piracy, with a focus on online piracy given that creative works by content creaters, including musicians, late and living, continue to amass thousands of dollars online.
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Although the subject of piracy is broad, I would like focus on music, given that it is one of the widest victim of the menace.According to academics Choi and Perez (2007), online piracy is the practice of downloading and distributing copyrighted content digitally without permission, such as music or software. As digital platforms proliferate and competition for musical space intensifies, many artists find their music being uploaded on content distribution or sharing channels by other individuals without permission and in some if not most cases, raking inthousands of United States Dollars.

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Norman Mafuratidze

I had a wide-ranging discussion with some musicians and one of them told me that “there was no need to worry as I earn my proceeds from live shows”. Some musicians still do not understand how this pans out. Below I briefly provide rudimentary information on YouTube’s monetisation requirements.

For a channel to be eligible for monetisation on YouTube, it should:

Have at least 1000 subscribers
Have at least 4 000 hours of watch time within the past 12 months

Its content must also adhere to the YouTube Partner Program policies, YouTube Terms of Service, YouTube spam policies, and the Community Guidelines.

In this regard, many musicians in Zimbabwe qualify for monetisation. More has been written on this rubric.

On average, a channel can earn approximately $1 per 1000 YouTube views. This is earned through advertisements flighted on the channel on behalf of advertisers by YouTube. Advertisers only pay when a viewer clicks an ad or watches the ad for at least 30 seconds. They also pay where a viewer responds to a call to action. If your video gets millions of views but nobody clicks on ads, then no money may be made. In some instances, depending on the location of the viewer, a YouTube channel can receive $18 per 1000 ad views which equates to $3 – $5 per 1000 video views. This simply means that one can earn between USD3000 and USD 5000 especially where most of these views are from stronger economies.

The advantages of online piracy to artists in Zimbabwe are well documented. Arguably, many Zimdancehall artists acknowledge that their rise to fame was partly attributable to both offline and online piracy.


Entrepreneur and music promoter Benjamin Nyandoro, as cited in a thesis sometime in 2016, conceded thatpiracy has been accepted in the society”. In that same writing, musician Jah Prayzah pointed out that piracy has its positives. JP stated that;

“Although people download music illegally and this has an effect on our sales, the advantage is that music reaches every corner of the world and when we have live shows in the different areas, people already know the music and they come in their numbers to the live shows.”

Although musicians in Zimbabwe are embracing digital means of interacting with consumers, including the promotion of shows, their usage of online streaming platforms, including YouTube, remains in its infancy. To highlight the statistical implications of online piracy on especially the work of late musicians, I focused on a few musicians whose work has been uploaded on YouTube by other “parasites” with the hope that living musicians can understand this plague. Although the analysis is not exhaustive, it provides those willing to deepen their understanding of the scourge with a starting point.

John Chibadura’s Mudiwa Janet, uploaded by user illc has been viewed 1,1million times. At a conservative rate of 1USD per 1000 views, the user potentially pocketed USD1100 from this upload alone. Rudo Runokosha, uploaded by a subscriber named mrmozambique has so far amassed 1,1million views which implies a potential USD1100 as been taken away from the Chibadura family. Another user 037712 has close to 700k views from the same artist.

A remake of Paul Matavire’s video uploaded by Keaitse Films has been viewed 1million times.

Leonard Dembo’s “mustsee remix’ uploaded by user Jah-Rimuka has been viewed 6,6 million times. This means that about USD 6 600 might have been realised from one track alone. Dembo, who died in 1996, remains one of Zimbabwe’s most popular Sungura legends. In 2017, Dembo’s mother was reportedly struggling to make ends meet. Wellwishers went on to donate clothes, blankets, toiletries, and kitchen utensils among other basics to gogo Sukai Dembo. Her story was a painful read.

Drewmas Media which has been at the forefront of chronicling the lives and history of our late music legends, has so far revealed, through its documentaries, that most if not all families of music legends are struggling to make ends meet. Some of their graves are an eyesore. Yet, someone somewhere is earning thousands of hard currency out of their departed loved ones’ work. Living musicians in Zimbabwe have also fallen prey to parasites under the guise of “pushing works”.

Many channels are earning thousands of dollars in the name of ku pusher maworks, or is it “kupusiswa mumaworks?”

I will leave it here

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