Musicians, promoters need each other

Ihave heard many music promoters complaining about how they used to look after this and that artist before they got big, but the same artists have not come back to them even just to say “hello”.

By Fred Zindi

This is to remind all those cry-babies that those artists were coming to you not because they loved you, but because they wanted you to help them advance their careers. Now that they are successful, they do not see the need to chase after you as they are now dealing with people who are more relevant to them. So there is no need to get hurt or feel left behind. It is only human nature to see people behave this way. Everywhere, you will find that the more successful one becomes, the more acquaintances one makes but as soon as he is down and out, the less friends he will have.

Musicians tend to view promoters with suspicion. Indeed, most promoters are out to make money out of successful or popular musicians. However, not all promoters behave this way.

I remember going to my good friend, the late Prince Tendai Mupfurutsa (call him a promoter if you like) a few years ago who had already made his millions through his Ekaya Petroleum business, asking him to sponsor Afrika Revenge, a very talented band that I had seen in Bulawayo. He agreed and poured some of his precious dollars into the band. A few years later, I again went to him to seek sponsorship for Soul Bone, another talented group made up of four disabled musicians who dished out scintillatingly soulful and amazing vocals. He also agreed to sponsor them. I can vouch for him that he never made any money out of these musicians. He was not focused on financial gain from these artists, but was happy to know that he was putting his money where his passion was, that is the advancement of these musicians’ careers. I know that it was his love for music that drove him to do these things. So not all promoters are in it for the sake of making money, although the majority of them are. Indeed, there are some promoters who provide generous services to musicians. These should be respected.

However, successful musicians should not forget the hard road they travelled to reach where they are now.
They should not abandon those who helped them to advance their careers, including their fans who form part of their rise to stardom. Your rise to a higher level does not mean that you should start looking down on your promoters and fans. It is these same people who helped you to rise, who also have the capacity to bring you down.

Musicians should learn to respect all those who helped them to advance their careers.

The undisputed titan of South African jazz, the late Hugh Masekela, always talked about Archbishop Trevor Huddleston and Uncle Sauda, who taught him to play the cornet, trumpet and flugelhorn. He remembered them throughout his life.

Jah Prayzah in his latest album Kutonga Kwaro also acknowledges people who have played significant roles in his life and those who have helped him towards his success. In the song Unondiziva, mention is made of names such as Silent Killer, Kadoma-based 2Kings Entertainment promoter, Tich Mharadze, Marondera-based Daniel Masaiti, Dondo-Chikonamombe (Thompson Dondo), Esau Mupfumi and his manager, Keen Mushapaidze. Such recognition is important as it shows humility on the part of the artist despite his success. There is an old saying: “Treat people the way you want to be treated and life will instantly get better”. Perhaps this is why life is getting better for Jah Prayzah.

Many musicians view promoters with suspicion. Indeed, there are some promoters who are out there to exploit successful musicians. But, remember, the musician and the promoter are in the same business. There ought to be mutual respect. Some promoters have gone out of business as a result of trying to advance the careers of musicians. So when a musician becomes successful, it is prudent for one to look back at the road they have travelled and begin to appreciate the fact that if they did not have these promoters to help them, they would be nowhere today. There is absolutely nothing wrong with going back to these people and inviting them to lunch and to reminisce about the past.

In the early 1990s, I remember giving the same advice to Brenda Fassie, who had shunned JJ Promotions when she came to Harare for a performance under a different promoter. She said to me “I don’t want to see JJ ever again in my life. He is not organised and he owes me money from our last show here.”

(JJ was the name given to a Bulawayo-based promoter, short for Jeffery John Chavunduka who focused on bringing South African acts such as Chicco, Chimora, Juluka, Yvonne Chaka Chaka and Brenda Fassie to Zimbabwe.)

I said to her, “You must appreciate that JJ was the first promoter to bring you to Harare. He is the one who gave you the ability to measure how popular your brand was in Zimbabwe. He lost some money at your last show and that is why you were not paid. He agreed to pay you back at the next show but now you have shunned him and gone to a different promoter. Are you aware that it is easy to lose money in this business? Give him some respect. Instead of condemning him, take him out to lunch and discuss your concerns with him”. She heeded this advice. They had lunch together and they agreed to stage another show, which was very successful.

Here are a few golden rules successful musicians must follow in their careers:

lAppreciate those who have supported you, forgive those who have hurt you, help those who need you. Business is complicated, life is complex, and leadership is difficult. Treat all people — including yourself — with love and compassion, and you can’t go wrong.

lDon’t try to make yourself great by making people you have worked with in the past look small. The moment you think you have the right to belittle others because you are better than they are is the moment you prove you have no power. People tend to make others feel how they themselves feel, whether it’s great or small. If you can’t offer help, support, or love, at least do everything in your power not to hurt them or make them feel small. Treat everyone you meet with honour.

lWe don’t meet people by accident. Every person you meet in your business will have a role to play in your life, be it big or small. Some will help you grow, some will hurt you, some will inspire you to do better. At the same time, by singing for them, you are also playing some role in their lives. I am sure Masaiti in Marondera rushed to buy Kutonga Kwaro as soon as he heard that his name was mentioned on the album. Know that paths cross for a reason.

lBe professional in your approach to business. Your honesty and integrity will be respected once you show it. This will allow relationships between musicians and their promoters to thrive. Speaking your truth allows people to be honest with themselves and with you, and acting with integrity keeps relationships on a high standard.

Mutual respect in needed between musicians and their promoters if the music industry is to move forward.
Please take this seriously and reflect on it.


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