Namibia has one of the most unfair and unfavourable music economies in the world. In Namibia the music economy only works for some artists and others are left to fight with whatever little means they have.
No one should be happy with a music economy that works for some, but not everyone. While the music business is notoriously complex—with various platforms of revenue such as show bookings, endorsements, events and album/CD/music stream all those avenues only benefit a few individuals in Namibia.
This reporter took to Facebook and Twitter and stated that Namibia’s music industry only has about 8 musicians. A lot of people were not happy with that opinion but it is the shocking truth. Namibia’s music economy only benefits about 15 artists. If you take a look at a few things like show bookings, endorsements and even music streams on various music platforms for the past 5 years only a small number of artists are enjoying the benefits. The ripple effect only occurs for a few people in the industry, not the whole industry, that’s a recipe for disaster. This is also not an attack on any artist, I am basically looking at the structure of the industry and how the economy works, we cannot blame the artists if the economy works well for them…only the ones who are in charge of the music economy.
So who is in charge of the music economy in Namibia? I would say the musicians, the consumers and of course key industry players like events promoters and policy makers all play a vital role in the music economy. Why does it only favour a few people? I do not have an answer to that. What I can tell you though is why Namibia’s music economy is the way it is. Firstly we do not have a music city, a music policy from our government that would benefit majority artists, we do not have the music infrastructure to support the industry.
If you take a look at South Africa’s music industry one of the main reasons why they are thriving is because they have two music cities. Johannesburg and Durban are very critical for South Africa’s music business. Music needs a home. In fact it needs many homes. From education to rehearsal to recording to performance, a successful Music City needs a variety of quality spaces and places. Supporting a community where artists can get started, develop their talent and shoot for the stars, requires a venue ladder – a full range of live venues, from tiny clubs to large stadiums, and everything in between. Windhoek is the only music city in Namibia and that in itself is a huge problem, it cannot accommodate the whole industry. Boosting a city’s music economy brings multiple dividends: it advances artistic and cultural growth, strengthens a community’s social fabric, creates jobs, and boosts economic activity and tourism spending. In some cities, the public and private sectors are working – sometimes together, sometimes separately – to build new spaces, such as music hubs or accelerators for artists and music businesses
There is not much government policy that benefits the Namibian music industry, our government does not fund many creative/entertainment industry platforms. A government that invests in the creative industry stands to benefit in the long run especially when it comes to tourism. The only form of music policy in Namibia is through NASCAM, a body that is supposed to protect the interests of artists and make sure that their royalties are paid for when their music is used, even they only pay out royalties to a few Namibian artists, once again the music economy only benefits a few artists. The music infrastructure such as live performances, bars, clubs and music festivals, music promoters and many others also just work with a few individuals in the industry. If they indeed work with other artists, they are either not paid enough or have to work for free in exchange for “exposure”.
Why is a music economy so important? Music is a powerful means of connecting people. It bridges linguistic and cultural divides, and is a vehicle for identity and expression like no other. Collectively, the music ecosystem generates rich social, cultural and economic benefits. A vibrant music economy drives value for cities in several important ways. It fuels job creation, economic growth, tourism development and artistic growth, and strengthens a city’s brand. A strong music community also attracts highly skilled young workers in all sectors for whom quality of life is a priority. This in turn attracts business investment.
There needs to be cohesion in the industry, work with everyone not just the same 15 faces in the industry that benefit from a vast music economy. The moment that all artists can benefit in the industry, this builds the profile and portfolio of the industry allowing growth to take place.
A vibrant music economy creates a “cool” factor and the quality of life that makes people want to live and work there, giving it an edge in attracting and retaining talent in all fields, businesses and investment.