By Innocent Nahabwe
If there was a business that is growing fast in Uganda, then it’s music. Almost on a daily, more than a dozen new artists bring their new songs to Galaxy FM 100.2 in the hope of being the next big star.
Even with the instructions that all music goes through the music director, some find their way to me. Often, I will send them directly to Herbert. If I have a minute, I talk to them and we listen through the songs together.
I respect Herbert a lot because it’s not easy to listen to so much trash daily and remain sane. Some of this trash comes from some top producers. So long as you have money, with or without talent, with or without a sensible song, some people are willing to eat your money and give you something that sounds like music but when in essence, it’s painful to the ear. Even my usual straight talk fails me. I fail to find the right words to explain to a hopeful future that clearly, what they produced isn’t music but a punishment to the ear.
A few wow you with their raw talent and great music even when it’s not well executed. What stands through however, is that those with managers tend to do better. Here I mean real music managers not those hangers on that carry the CDs and flash disc around. I also don’t mean boyfriends disguised as managers but managers who will plan, direct and execute strategic plans for your music. Managers that can manage the brand, make it “sellable” to advertisers and the corporate world. Managers who will get you the right team of writers, producers, videographers, managers who will set for you boundaries to know what to do and what not to do for the sake of your music, managers, who will hold you accountable for your actions and put you in line and managers who will manage your marketing plan and make sure you earn money beyond just the stage.
Just like in the radio business, the music business is crowded. The competition is cut throat. Only the top 10 radios get any meaningful business. All the others are like maids at a party. They might get sum but it will be once in special occasions. Similarly, in music, it’s the same top 10 that will get the endorsements, gigs and call ups. Even the radios mostly take the top 100. It’s a rotation of the top 100 songs that runs all day. To get airplay, you need to be among those. You must stand out. That rarely comes consistently from raw talent. It comes from a well packaged, well marketed music product, that will often than not, need a manager. A professional, who, lines up the small bits to make the star that you are shine bright through the sea of “wannabes “.
There was a time when one would easily wing it. In the early 2000s, there were clear market leaders. Afrigo Band and Eagles Production in the band category, Jose Chameleon , Bobi Wine and Bebe Cool – later Radio and Weasel joined – for the men category and Juliana, Iryn Namubiru for the ladies. There were a few breakout stars like Blue 3, Desire Luzinda, Chance Nalubega for the ladies and Coco Finger, Peter Miles, GNL Zamba, Rocky Giant but there were clear leaders. The companies were also many that needed musician . I think the marketing budget was also bigger. It was easy for a music album – often of 4 songs- to be sold to Kasiwukira or XYZ or Abitex (this one rarely paid in full) for over 100M. Corporate companies were doing so many shows and events that paid artistes. Sponsorships were big and life changing. Eagles Production for example got a full band and had all their events sponsored by NBL, MTN who spent hugely on Bobi Wine for the Katoochi just like Bebe Cool had a deal worth more than 600M for Motorola. Such deals, coupled with the abundance of events and gigs made it easy to dominate the industry, finance video shoots, dominate media, etc. it’s not the case now. Most companies that were spending big have since cut, many went out of business, the artistes are also too many. Before COVID-19, it was common to find artistes back stage outnumbering the revellers at an album launch. Yes, artistes are that many.
So, to stand out, the brand you have must be well packaged and sold as a solid product. We have enough examples of great talents that have since fizzled through once they quit their management. GNL has not been the same since leaving Kuteesa, Coco Finger struggles but has never been where he was when he was with Emma Carlos, just like Zulanda, Irene Ntale after quitting Swangz Avenue.
I am hearing artistes beefing with Black Market Records. I hope when they leave, they get better management that gives them a better chance.
See, an artiste can earn Upwards of 10M in a day consistently for years. This is huge. Not many businesses do that. It’s therefore important to manage this profitable business as the business it is.
The writer is the owner of Galaxy FM, a leading radio station in Uganda