Piracy, fledging economy drives Malawian gospel musicians to the streets

A fledging economy that have shrunk the spending power of Malawian consumers and resulted in fewer CDs being sold on the market and a thriving piracy racket has forced gospel musicians to pursue other forms of getting their product to the buyer.

A new trend has developed that has seen artists, mostly gospel musicians, cutting out the middle man and selling their CDs on the street.

This works positively in two ways; cutting out the middle man has brought the price of the CD down and the appeal of buying the product directly from the musician has driven street sales.

Over the past decade, a huge piracy racket has resulted in dwindling CD sales and chaos in the previously thriving music market. Resultantly, Malawi’s biggest and oldest music distributor O.G Issa closed shop last year, citing heavy losses as a result of piracy.

Gospel singer Ethel Kamwendo Banda
Gospel singer Ethel Kamwendo Banda

Sensing an opportunity, several gospel musicians took to selling their CDs on street corners to the backdrop of blaring music playing from the speakers on top of their cars.

Prominent among these were top gospel musicians Lloyd Phiri and Thoko Katimba who claimed to have made record sales with his CD and DVD Ndidzayimbabe.

Katimba and Phiri even took their music sales across the country where they were instant sensations in the towns and trading centers. Several choirs have also been sighted selling their music from cars boots on Lilongwe and Blantyre.

And when Nyasa Times spoke with her on a street corner in Limbe, new entrant to the venture, top selling gospel music sensation Ethel Kamwendo-Banda said getting onto the streets to sell her music has helped push sales in a way previously unimaginable.

With the aid of a PA system attached to her white Range Rover and with the help of two assistants, Kamwendo-Banda was hawking her new live CDs and DVDs Zabwino Zonse and Chete which she launched in Blantyre last month.

In Limbe, where she was selling the CD and DVD at K500, Kamwendo-Banda was competing for attention with Lloyd Phiri and renegade secular musician Joe Gwaladi.

“We discovered that one of the biggest problems that encouraged piracy was because the vendors were selling our pirated music cheaply so it made more sense for people to buy the cheaper product while the sales of the original CDs suffered.

“So what we have done is to simply the packaging so that we can sell the music cheaper. And also cutting the middle man has enabled us to make the CDs and DVDs even cheaper,” she said.

However, secular musicians are yet to the catch the bug as most of them opt to sell their music in the convenience at filling stations.

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