Nam music goes digital
Windhoek – If you were born way before independence, then you certainly lived through an era where you were sent out to play every Saturday afternoon because your parents had their friends over for a bit of imbibing – and your clumsy self was going to get into the way of their fun by stepping on their records.
Those were the good old vinyl days and on such occasions, the stuff would be cluttered all over the living room floor.
Vinyl came and went, paving the way for the music cassette and in came the tape decks. Just as the world was getting the hang of jammed tape decks and damaged tapes some geek at one multinational company ushered in the compact disk (CD).
Music CDs seem to have run their course, as decline in sales over the last few years has forced local music retailers to consider going digital with their enterprises.
Music producer and a former co-owner of music retailer Universal Sounds, Robert Shipanga and DJ Zuva of the Oviritje Music Shop have lamented the decline in CD sales for local music.
Low sales were the source of troubles at Universal Sounds that went bust two years ago after creditors dragged the retailer under the hammer.
Shipanga is now exploring new ways through which his brand can remain relevant in the face of a looming digital age.
Today, the CDs are phasing out and those in the know have it that the digital age is upon us. Hard hit by this development though are the music retailers.
Universal Sounds, which was one of Windhoek’s oldest music shops in the Central Business District closed shop about two years due to a decline in sales.
“We experienced loss after loss. The last time we made a profit was sometime four years ago,” Shipanga told The Southern Times.
CD sales at his shop, Shipanga said, went on a downward slant during the past three years experiencing a drop of approximately 90 percent.
He maintained that the lifeblood of music shops in Namibia is in the hands of the jukebox owners, who he said are responsible for roughly 90 percent of the sales of music at record stores across the country.
“Every Tom, Dick and Harry that you find listening to music hasn’t really bought the CD. Piracy prevails around here. But because of current regulations by Nascam (Namibia Society for Composers and Authors of Music) jukebox owners have no choice but to settle for the original copies,” he added.
The current tally of jukeboxes in Namibia is in the region of 30 000. There are about 5 000 shebeens in Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, alone and around 50 percent of them have jukeboxes.
“To date no artiste in Namibia has sold over 3 000 CD copies and I can wage my head on that,” Shipanga said.
The digital way
Shipanga was, however, quick to indicate that this is not the last time the music-buying masses will hear from him and that people should brace themselves for the second coming of Universal Sounds.
“We’re not giving up on the shop yet. We’re currently sorting out the digital music side of it since that’s the direction in which the world is going,” he said.
His sentiments were corroborated by DJ Zuva, whose music shop is located at the infamous Herero Mall informal market in Katutura.
Ironically, DJ Zuva (real name Zuvasana Kahorere) solely purchased all Universal Sounds’ music at an auction after it was hounded to the ground by its creditors.
“The sales of CDs have dropped drastically and currently we are seeking an audience with our suppliers, the Oviritje musicians, so as to explore ways on how we can sell electronic versions of their music,” DJ Zuva said.
Big Ben takes the step
While both DJ Zuva and Shipanga are procrastinating and pondering the issue, veteran Afro pop musician Big Ben has taken the leap of faith with the introduction of an alternative way to sell CDs in Namibia – the music download card.
The portable card operates with a non-refundable quote, which can only be used once on a prescribed website, the benefit of which is that one can download an entire album at half the price of the CD, but depending on the selected retailer.
Big Ben told local media recently that people spend more time on their mobile and digital devices, to the point that they do not even buy CD players anymore.
He maintained that while some Namibians would prefer to buy music online, such efforts are hampered by the fact that many of them do not have the right bank debit or credit cards to use online to buy music and other items which restricts them to over-the-counter transactions.
“The download card will enable my fans to buy the music over the counter and to have the music in digital format,” he reportedly said. The first consignment of download cards has arrived in Namibia.