How Zim Musicians Market.

18 Jan

The term “long-play” (LP) is generally used to refer to a 12" vinyl record that plays at 33 RPM. Your parents will probably remember it. They used to play these on phonographs/ record players especially at a time like this; the festive season. Our grandparents called them “marecords” but this could not be entered into the Shona dictionary for obvious reasons. In lieu of the shongrish, we opted for a direct literal translation of “long play”- dambarefu.
But these could only carry so many songs on them. This is years before the CD, decades before the iPod and centuries before Spotify. But what if the LP could only carry twelve songs and the Winky D of the 1960s had made a 15-track album? Well, the other three songs were put on a smaller LP that came with the larger LP. This little extension of the album was called the Extended Play (EP)- or as I would love to propose to the Shona dictionary authorities; dambapfupi.
We’ve come a long way since then. One can release a thousand-track album and it can be burnt onto a single disk or hosted online (I’m talking to you, ZimDancehall). But you’ve come across the term EP recently, haven’t you? We’ve had Winky D, Gemma Griffiths, Takura, Tahle We Dzinza, Tanto Wavie and Hillzy release five/six-track long “EPs” and that’s just in the last few months. So many more artists are doing this but we all know it’s not because CDs have little memory. So why? Well, marketing.
The concept of releasing small bits of a product before going all-out is not new. Businesses have been doing this for centuries. Sometimes it’s to test a market, sometimes it’s to market the product and sometimes it’s both- like in the case of the music industry. An EP gives fans and followers an idea of what to expect in the full-length album and also creates hype for the upcoming project. Sometimes the EP comes after the album and serves the role of a promotional release. But does this always work?
The biggest artist in Zimbabwe is one Mukudzei- popularly known by his innumerable fans as Jah Prayzah and by me as “the guy who never releases EPs”. His strategy seems to work better, after all; he is at the pinnacle of the Zimbabwean music industry. The guy who never releases EPs releases one album every year- simple. For promotion, he uses the tried-and-tested method of singles. Usually, the lead singles are title tracks; Tviriyo in the Tsviriyo album, Kutonga Kwaro in Kutonga Kwaro, Sungano in Sungano, Hokoyo in Hokoyo, Mudhara Achauya in Mudhara Achauya, blablabla. So while not overlooking the fact that the guy who never releases EPs can get away with anything because he’s achieved the stardom, why does his formula work better?
Stars of yesteryear like Leonard Dembo and John Chibadura released six-track albums. This was the norm before the late noughties. The numbers only doubled with the coming of the new technology in Zimbabwe around the early 2010s. In light of this backdrop, aficionados are now accustomed to any collection of music being an album, not this whole EP gobbledygook. And if that album flops, they aren’t going to be looking forward to the “real” album- after all, they’ve heard a sizable sample of it. This isn’t the case with the guy who never releases EPs. He just serves the whole package and with curiosity, we go all-out. So give kudos to the guy who never releases EPs, or as we say in Shona; mukudzei asingabuditsi dambapfupi.
BrandIn.Co (or BrandIn & BrandIn) is a marketing research organization from Zimbabwe. Follow us on Facebook at BrandIn.Co and check out our website; for more tips and hot takes.

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