Social media has had some very interesting conversations about Zambian music the last few days and I needed to know what technology is doing for the industry, so who better than record label CEO Bwalia Nkumbula of ZedArts to chat with?
S: How has tech impacted the music industry generally?
B: Tech has reshaped the music industry in many ways; allowing for more access to and a higher consumption of music through channels like streaming platforms, and also changed how the music industry structures work. The creation of music has become faster and there has been increased the levels of distribution across the globe as opposed to when the only way you’d distribute music was through CDs or Vinyl in limited areas. The streaming platforms have also introduced new income streams with artists being able to make money off their music.
If I was to speak on the cons of this, tech has somewhat taken away from the sentimentality that music had in the past with owning things like CDs or tapes. It has also allowed for a faster rate of music consumption which takes away from how music is valued now and the value of the process that goes into creating the music. Part of the reason why the Zambian music industry isn’t as advanced or as large as the rest of the world right now has to do with the lack of really advanced technology we have here around the music.
S: How has the tech helped your business personally as a record label?
B: Being a technological world and industry now most things are seen more on social media and other platforms as opposed to real life. From the creation of the music to distributing it, technology has made our work easier. It has helped me launch the Zed Arts Records Label and have a footprint in the industry.
S: Lately there have been concerns about the quality of music in Zambia, is the tech all wrong, or is the talent using it not using it not the best right now?
B: The answer could be both but mainly the lack of a lot of technology here.Most programs used for recording and even mixing and mastering are not fully available here which on its own limits access to a certain quality and how far we can stretch with certain sounds. The lack of exposure and knowledge on certain technology has also cost the quality of the music we make here.
S: What would an investment in the music sector regarding tech look like? Please feel free to add even the costly investments if any.
B: I think the main technology investment the industry needs is around music licensing and royalty calculation. Music here is easily pirated because of lack of technology that allows for music to be fully protected and licensed. We’d have to have tech that allows for systems, radio, blogs and social media – especially here – to locally understand the music, the IRSCs and even ownership. Some of our biggest hit songs are unlicensed. Therefore, in the cloud or the technology world they do not exist which means they cannot generate any revenue from streams made on different platforms.
S: How can the public help, apart from buying the music?
B: The public can help by firstly being open-minded to different kinds of artists and music, and not completely writing off Zambian music based off 5 bad artists or 5 bad songs. There’s more to Zambian music and there’s better quality, better music with better access.
They can also help by subscribing to Zambian artists that they enjoy and then sharing their music, incorporating it into their social life and social media. They can it to their reels, TikToks, and more as it helps push the music further.
Lastly, just being patriotic about Zambian music, arts and culture. We are growing and improving everyday and there’s really more to Zambian music than the mainstream music that’s around, with different genres, sounds, emotions and voices.