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Musicians should be professional

What a lot of musicians are not aware of is that being a musician is a job like any other, and those who make this job seem like a joke are in fact not doing their job well. There is a reason why this line of work is often joked about.

By Fred Zindi

“Don’t quit your day job!” is a phrase commonly used by people when advising failing musicians. More often than not, those musicians who do not take it seriously enough misrepresent the image of the industry. Which is why staying professional is very important. If you are a musician, your response to that advice should be: “Thanks! It is my day job!”

So what does this all mean? It means that in order for music to be your job, you need to make it into a job yourself. No, scratch that, not just a job, but a career. This is your life. This is what you work hard for everyday and this is your goal in life.

You either have this sense of drive to be a musician or you don’t. You cannot force yourself to do something you don’t want to do, or cannot do. It works the same way as when a student works incredibly hard and studies really hard to get to their dream of being a doctor, a teacher, a scientist, a lawyer, an architect or any other job. Being a musician requires the same amount of work. Jah Prayzah and Oliver Mtukudzi are living examples of musicians who work really hard to get the best results. The evidence of their achievements is there for everyone to see.

However, there are other musicians who treat everything so irresponsibly when it comes to their music. Their amount of professionalism when it comes to social interactions is next to nothing and yet they expect so much in return.

There seems to be this idea among some musicians that all you need to do is to play and not care about anything else, and somehow something magical is going to happen and you find yourself on stage a couple of years later opening for Beyonce, Busy Signal or your favourite musician. That is not how this works, unfortunately. Otherwise everybody would be doing it.

First of all, I can’t emphasise enough how important it is to be professional. Treat yourself like a professional and others will do the same in return. This means to be presentable! Don’t make anyone think of you as “another greasy musician”.

Treat your musical project like it is a business. Make it your own thing and cherish it like it is your baby. If you want it to succeed so badly, treat it seriously and work hard hours to make sure that what you do is professional and can compete with everything else out there.

Strip it down to its core and make sure the songs you write are professional and up to that genre’s standards and that the recording quality is top notch.

Then make sure you and the rest of the band are amazing at performing so you can impress in a live setting as well. Make people want to come back for more! Not to mention making sure the players you share this experience with are just as professional and talented with their instruments.

Have professional gear that works and provides a high quality sound. Go to a professional rehearsal space to make you feel like this is a serious business for you and not just a hopeless dream. If you go to rehearse in a dingy, dirty and uninspiring space, you are influenced by that and it will reflect in your business.

Pay attention to every single detail and make sure everything is perfect and professional, the same way a business would. You are promoting yourself to people who you want to draw in as your fans who will stay. There is no room for error here. Think like a business.

Remember there is a lot of stiff competition in this business. No matter how hard you work to bring yourself up, there is always someone out there working just as hard, to put you down.

When someone does something to help you, thank them. Return calls when you say you will, and don’t leave someone waiting for a response. If you show you are reliable and treat people with good will, it is more likely that you will receive that kind of treatment in return.

Do not get me wrong, playing music just for fun is great, and I have no problem with that. This is meant for those musicians who want to turn this passion into a career but don’t realise the work that needs to be put into it. This illusion that the music industry is easy and that everyone can do it and thus avoid doing business-related work, has led many people down the wrong paths. The people you want to talk to and the people who guarantee your career (including your fans) are industry professionals and you should strive to be the same.

In Zimbabwe, there has been a lot of controversy regarding one musician in particular who has been allegedly acting unprofessionally. On September 29 at the Mafikizolo/Jah Prayzah show held at Odyssey Hotel in Kadoma, Soul Jah Love was also billed to perform but did not show up. No apology was given to the promoters, 2 Kings Entertainment or the fans. This was viewed as unprofessional behaviour.

I spoke to Soul Jah Love’s manager, Benjamin Nyandoro who tried to explain what took place. “Don’t forget Soul Jah Love is diabetic. Sometimes he strains himself too much in order to perform. On that particular day, he had just done a gig at Shoko Festival and driving all the way to Kadoma proved too strenuous for him. But his band was present in Kadoma. This is why the expectant fans were mad when he did not show up. He needs to slow down and I should be blamed for pushing him too hard”.

But, wait a minute. Is this not the same artist who let Esau Mupfumi down on two occasions at The Platinum in Mutare a couple of years ago by not appearing for scheduled shows? Nyandoro was not on the scene during that time. Wasn’t he acting unprofessionally when he failed to fulfill agreed performances which had been advertised, thus also letting his fans down?

There are several other concerts he did not fulfill after that. These include the Premier Plus Maheu Promotion show at Glamis Stadium three months ago and the Beitbridge show where he turned up the next morning after the scheduled time of the event. How does Nyandoro explain all this?

Without apologising to his fans or his promoter who had given him part of his payment in advance, Mupfumi decided to force him to give a compensation performance at the Platinum, which he eventually did with Sulumani Chimbetu, who was roped in just in case he failed to appear again. Mupfumi, after involving the police, revealed that he ferried the musician from Harare to make sure that he would not disappoint his fans again.

Mupfumi was delighted that the decision to lay criminal charges against Soul Jah Love, which saw the controversial artist spending a night in jail, had created a positive outcome as the apology show was a sold-out.

Violence has become the norm at most shows where Soul Jah Love is booked, either because he comes late or fails to turn up.

Promoters have lost equipment when violence erupts because of the musician’s unprofessional behaviour.

Nyandoro and Soul Jah Love need to find a solution to this unprofessional behaviour as promoters are slowly losing confidence in the artist and fans who eagerly wait to hear Dai Hupenyu Hwaitengwa, Ndaitenga Hwa Amai Vangu, Ndini Uya Uya and Pamamonya Ipapo, only to be disappointed by his non-appearance, are also getting impatient.

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