Youtube channels: The BIG debate and the reality for Zimbabwean artists #earGROUND

Jah Master , Master KG , Nomcebo

This has been probably the most debated topic in the music circles for sometime now. The shift in music distribution to digital platforms is happening too fast than we can comprehend or grasp. Its like we are learning on the job and we have to adjust fast. Youtube is the biggest global creative content distributor.

By Plot Mhako

The Covid_19 induced lockdown has seen a sharp growth in consumption of content online. Artists, musicians to be specific are not going to be able to do live audience performances in many countries, not any time soon. This could drag for longer than we think. Therefore the internet becomes the centre stage. Artists have to market and distribute their products online and importantly make money off it.

In Zimbabwe for an artist to monetize their content comes with several limitations. The financial situation is the first barrier. To get a Visa, Mastercard or a Paypal account is a difficult thing to secure. Banks offer pre-paid Visa / Mastercards that are not eligible for Youtube monetization configuration. Secondly, the postal service is less reliable. A letter may take ages to reach you or may never arrive. Once you complete the Youtube registration process, Youtube has to send a physical letter with a code which activates your Adsense account. This makes it difficult for a content creator / artist to complete the Youtube Partnership application for the monetization registration process unless they have a willing friend or relative, collaborator or distributor in the diaspora. 

What are the requirements for one to monetise the Youtube channel? 

Here are the key Youtube requirements for eligibility 

  1. Have more than 4,000 valid public watch hours in the last 12 months.
  2. Have more than 1,000 subscribers.
  3. Have a linked AdSense account.

The debate has been raging online for a long while now and recently the release of Jah Master’s hitting Hello Mwari on the Nash TV riddim Nashnation attracted a lot of debate within the music circles. Some arguing that Jah Master should have uploaded it on his channel instead of Nash Tv as the media company would remain with the #ColorsVibes video long after the month long challenge has ended and will most probably profiteer more from the project than the artist involved. Well, we are not privy to the contractual agreement between the artist and the executive producers (NashTV) who own the project.

We have no detailed information on who owns what and how revenue (if the video is monetised) will be split up. 

The challenge has just ended and the Hello Mwari hitmaker has received his USD$1000 from NashTV a very welcome development given the prevailing situation in showbiz. 

Some quick facts: Jah Master’s Youtube Channel has 2080 Subscribers and Nash TV has 123 000 subscribers. It remains debatable if Jah Master was going to reach the numbers had the video been uploaded on his channel or not. Some will argue that a hit song is a hit and this song was going to blow up on whichever channel. Others believe it was the collective power of a great song and powerful endorsements from other artists and importantly bloggers such as ZimCelebs who went on overdrive to push the song. However we can’t downplay the significance and importance of Nash TV in creating the platform, promoting, recording, shooting the videos and investing in the visibility of artists.

We have so much talented artists whose music is on Youtube but are buried in oblivion. No one notices them. Whats the role of Youtubers and Bloggers in getting this content the attention and views?

One important development to consider in this conversation is what happened across Limpopo where Master KG and Nomcebo just celebrated the 100 Million Youtube viewership reach for the viral song Jerusalema’s video. Is the video uploaded on Master KG’s Channel? NO! It is on Open Mic productions the record label that Master KG is signed to. The channel has almost 600K subscribers. 

The question is, do we have properly functional record labels in Zimbabwe? Do contracts matter? Are producers benefiting from the content? 

The situation in Zimbabwe has seen some record labels, video producers and content distributors work as aggregators putting together content on their platforms for a wider reach.

The biggest challenge is on communication, agreements and education. A lot of it is done without full disclosure at most to the artist and composers of the content. If the key players could have written agreements on how the distribution and royalties will be distributed it could ease the tension that has been building up for years leading to some accounts being hit by copyright strikes, some going down and some artists losing out on thousands of dollars and some losing their content carrying good numbers. There is need for clarity, good cooperation and written understanding. 

Jah Prayzah has the biggest artist Youtube channel in Zimbabwe with 287 000 subscribers.

The contentious issue has been around whether its ok for an artist upload their song or video on someone else’s channel or have it solely on their account.  To get a clear picture think of a Supermarket and and Wholesaler.

Should an artist put content on their channel and grow it there or should they look for a platform that already has a following? 

  • Its neither a Yes nor a No! I would say it depends on a number of factors: 
  • To begin with, consider how established you are. If you’re a brand new artist who’s just trying to get your name out there and build a brand, it might be a good idea to put your music on a well established platform. 
  • For a more established artist : set up your own channel and put your music there. 
  • If you already have a strong social network presence and a sizable following on the internet, having your album on your independent YouTube channel makes logical sense.
  • If you’re relatively unknown on the internet, it might be wise consider popular channels whilst building up a following and some brand recognition using several social media platforms. Drive that following to your channel but depending on the content and its uptake the subscribers may take a while to grow. 
  • For the record solely Living off of YouTube views is a pretty sweet fantasy. 

How much does Youtube pay per 1000 Views ? 

Well this varies on a number of factors and in some instances some videos don’t get any revenue. Videos festooned with ads make roughly $2 per 1,000 YouTube views — which is a crude but useful formula, as the revenue depends on a ton of factors, such as what country the clip is viewed in, length of video, number of videos that run and if the viewer watches part, full or skip the adverts. I will do another article on this giving all the details. 

Until next time, the plot thickens. Keep your ear grounded.