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Cashing in on Music in Brazil

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Brazilian musicians have found a way to prosper and exploit the realities of music distribution in the modern age. The biggest problem for most artists – both beginners and those who are more established – is how to earn an income from their work. In the digital age, it is next to impossible to stop people freely copying your work and passing it on.

The impact of digital technology on the global music business has been earth-shattering. It’s estimated 95 percent of music digital downloads are unauthorized, with no payment to artists and producersWhile the legal digital music business grew for the sixth consecutive year in 2008, with a 25 percent increase in global sales to a trade value of US$3.7 billion, this only makes up 20 percent of total music sales (IFPI) (http://www.ifpi.org/). Even legal digital services like Apple’s iTunes have suffered (http://www.apple.com/downloads/).

An economic solution to this conundrum is critical for the growth of creative economies in the South.

The traditional music industry model from the analogue age – where copies of music are tightly controlled and royalties and profits funnel back to recording companies – has come unstuck in the digital age. With digital recordings, it is easy to copy high quality music and distribute it for free through the Internet, by audio music players like the iPod or on discs.

Many are saying a corner has been turned: free distribution is the new future and illegal copying is the new normal. The model for music making has been turned on its head: from high investment and high returns, it is now low investment and low returns. And this model chimes very well with the world most Southern musicians live in. The chances for most of emulating the champagne and jets lifestyle of the Rolling Stones or Beyonce is beyond their reality. But they can build a slower and more sustainable income with the new digital model.

A music phenomenon in Brazil’s poorer neighbourhoods, tecnobrega (brega means cheesy or corny) is a mix of electronic beats from the 1980s, mixed with found snippets of strange sounds or sound bites, combined in a so-called ‘mash-up’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashups). It makes for an easy-to-dance-to mix.

“Tecnobrega is a regional music, the music that people here in (the state of) Para most enjoy,” DJ Edilson told the BBC. “The secrets are the beats which drive people crazy.”

With music becoming easier and cheaper to record to a high standard, and distribution of music less and less a money-making opportunity, musicians have turned to economic models revolving around live performance to make the bulk of their income.

“What is going on is that people, sometimes in very poor areas, are appropriating electronic instruments like computers and synthesizers to create their own music,” said Ronaldo Lemos, a professor at the respected Getulio Vargas Foundation (http://www.fgv..br/ ) and project lead for the Creative Commons Brazil (http://creativecommons.org/international/br/).

“So this is a phenomenon that is going on not only in the tecnobrega scene but with many scenes around the world like Kuduro in Angola, Kwaito in South Africa, Bubblin’ in Suriname.”

The tecnobrega model works like this: People set up makeshift studios in their homes. They use a personal computer and a software programme to mix and blend the songs. Once the songs are ready, they either organize themselves, or more often, perform at a sound system party. There are said to be as many as 4,000 sound system parties per month in Belem (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bel%C3%A9m) and it is a hugely competitive market. The sound system parties can vary from a small crowd to heaving groups of 10 to 15,000 people. 

The money for performing at these parties is good. A musician performing just once can make 2,200 realis (US $919), and can do this 12 times a month. This is a good income compared to the minimum wage in Belem: 700 realis (US $292). It is estimated it generates US $1.5 million a month in Belem.

In Brazil, where many do not have broadband Internet and thus can’t download music, fans buy pirated and cheap compact discs (CDs) in markets. Local musicians make their own CDs and give them free to local street vendors. While they make no money off the CDs that are then sold by the vendors, they do drum up publicity and profile. And they then use this to draw large paying crowds to their live gigs.

In just a few years, tecnobrega has become a multi-million dollar music business in Brazil. Once an artist has gained experience performing live at the parties, they can develop the skills to organize their own events, and boost their income accordingly.

One singer who has successfully exploited the opportunities raised by the tecnobrega phenomenon is Gaby Amarantos (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKjH__ghQa4 ). She now regularly appears on TV. 

“We have found a new way to work,” she told the BBC. “It is a new format and a new market model because we produce the music ourselves and the cost to make one song is very cheap.”

“What happens is that the musicians skip the intermediaries,” said Ronaldo Lemos.

“So the musicians do not make money from the CDs that are sold by the street vendors, they actually make money by playing live at the so-called sound system parties – the aparelhagem parties as we tecnobrega say here in Brazil – and also by selling CDs after they play live.

“No-one expects to make money from the CDs – they use it as a way to advertise the music and to advertise themselves as artists, and then their expectation is that they get invited to play at the sound system parties and clubs.

“The more their music gets distributed, the more they will make money in return.”

The furious pace of innovation in the tecnobrega scene is all about generating more revenue and more income. New styles emerge to cater to new tastes: cyber tecnobrega, brega melody, electro melody. And this passion for innovation has kept the tecnobrega entrepreneurs ahead of the traditional music business in how it uses digital technologies.

Lemos calls tecnobrega a “globoperipheral music”: it transcends rich and poor divisions and geographical boundaries.

Other examples include Argentina’s Cumbia Villera, or Brazil’s Funk Carioca.

“The number one lesson would be innovation – if you want to survive in the music industry right now you have to innovate,” said Lemos.

Published: March 2009

Resources

  • Good Copy, Bad Copy: A Danish documentary film by director Andreas Johnsen about the global explosion in movie- and music-making because of the digital revolution. Website: http://www.goodcopybadcopy.net/
  • A documentary trailer for a film about tecnobrega in Brazil directed by Gustavo Godinho e Vladimir Cunha. Website:http://www.vimeo.com/1993239

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Berber Hip Hop Helps Re-ignite Culture and Economy

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Music is being used to revive the ancient language of the original North African desert dwellers, the Berbers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berber_people). And in the process, it is spawning a whole new generation of entrepreneurs and generating income. 

The Berbers are North Africa’s indigenous people, primarily living in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia, but their language and culture – called Amazigh – were replaced as the lingua franca of the region after the Arab conquest in the 7th century. But all these years later, the language is enjoying resurgence under Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, who is helping to promote the language through television programming and a new law making teaching of the language compulsory in schools by 2010.

Amazigh people – the name means “free humans” or “free men” – total more than 50 million. Their group languages, called Tamazight, are spoken by several million people across North Africa, with the largest number in Morocco.

For young Moroccans, promoting the language is more interesting when hip hop (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_music) is thrown into the mix. 

Where once Berber culture was shunned in Morocco and the language banned in schools, the revival of the Tamazight language has led to a flourishing of summer arts festivals, thriving Tamazight newspapers _ and Tamazight hip hop.

One hip-hop outfit, Rap2Bled from the Moroccan city of Agadir, stick to social issues, singing about unemployment, drug addiction and the emancipation of women.

“My mother and grandfather don’t know any Arabic…Before they couldn’t watch television, read a newspaper. They hadn’t got a clue what was going on in the world. They didn’t know anything,” Rap2Bled singer Aziz, who goes by the street name Fatman, told to Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

“But now there is a TV channel in our local dialect and a newspaper. But our aim is to put the language on the map by fusing it with hip hop. More than 60 per cent of young Moroccans only listen to rap and western music. So we thought why not fuse Berber with that and make it really accessible?”

Just 10 years ago, rap and hip hop were virtually unknown in Morocco, with only a small group of hip hop aficionados listening to big American stars like Dr Dre, Tupac Shakur and Notorious BIG.

But today hip hop culture and way of life (of which rap and hip hop music are a part) have become a powerful force in Moroccan culture. Moroccan rap focuses on local issues like unemployment and injustice and is ubiquitous on radio and TV.

The Casa Crew, from Casablanca, has become so successful since their beginnings in 2003 that their fan base stretches to Spain and Algeria.

“First of all, to designate rap simply as mere ‘music’ deprives it of its real impact,” Caprice from the Casa Crew (http://casa-crew-00.skyrock.com/), told the Arab Media News, Menassat. 

“Rap is a life style, and mainly a culture of convictions. The fact that rap is spreading in countries like Morocco is an excellent sign. On the one hand, it’s proof that the youth are starting to react, to think they have the right to express themselves in any way they see fit, without anyone judging them or denying them of that right. On the other hand, the development of rap means that the space for artistic freedom is growing particularly when considering that a majority of Arab rappers are dealing with subjects that we were forbidden to speak about a few years ago.”

The Amazigh revival industry centres around large music festivals. Timitar Festival in Agadir (http://www.moroccofestivals.co.uk/timitar.html) gets crowds surpassing 500,000, with more than 40 artists. Morocco’s biggest festival helps Amazigh artists meet world musicians and learn how to reach music fans outside of Morocco.

Another pioneer of Morocco’s music industry is Mohamed ‘Momo’ Merhari, a young music entrepreneur and winner of the British Council’s International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2008 (http://www.creativeconomy.org.uk/).

Momo is a music consultant and co-founder of the “Boulevard des Jeunes Musiciens” (http://www.boulevard.ma/), the largest contemporary music festival in North Africa, featuring 50 bands over four days, and reaching a live audience of 130,000 people. The annual event showcases new talent from the worlds of hip hop, rock and jazz fusion from all over the region.

In January, Morocco’s culture minister Touriya Jabrane promised to introduce a range of measures to financially support Moroccan musicians, composers and the industry as whole.

Published: March 2009

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Ring Tones and Mobile Phone Downloads are Generating Income for Local Musicians in Africa

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

African musicians hoping to support themselves through their recordings have always had to contend with the added burden of poor copyright control over their work. While musicians in the West are supported by a highly regulated regime of copyright protection – ensuring some to become the richest people in their respective countries – most African musicians have had to stand back and watch their work being copied, sold and exchanged with little chance of seeing any royalties. Global audiences know of the success of artists like Fela Kuti, Youssou N’Dour, Manu Dibango and Miriam Makeba, but most African musicians can look forward to scant earnings from recording their music.

Anyone who has walked through the markets of Africa will know there are plenty of pirated CDs for sale, yet it is of no use to a musician who never sees the money. Poverty is endemic amongst African musicians as a result of this loss of income. While music is a global business worth US $40 billion according to the Recording Industry Association of America, pirated music in Africa is rampant – some estimates by the Recording Industry of South Africa put it at over 80 percent of available music. How much money is being lost can be judged from the estimated daily income of a pirate music vendor in Africa, ranging between Euro 762 and Euro 2,744.

But a solution to this problem is being pioneered in Botswana in southern Africa. A partnership between mobile phone provider Orange Botswana and Small House Records/Mud Hut Studios, ensures musicians get a slice of the profit pie. Managing director Solomon Monyame of Small House Records has signed a contract with Orange to share the profits from ring tone and song downloads to mobile phone subscribers. With more than 76.8 million people currently subscribing to mobile phone services in Africa, and the number growing by about 58 percent each year for the last five years, the potential royalties market for African musicians is vast if this initiative is replicated across the continent.

In the paper “Development Goes Wireless” to be published in the spring 2007 issue of the journal of the Institute of Economic Affairs, lead researcher Karol Boudreaux of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center and Enterprise Africa!, discovered mobile phones and mobile phone companies can give artists a new way to control royalties for their work. She found that in the absence of effective copyright control mechanisms – as is the case in many African countries – the mobile phone company can step in to save the day.

“When you walk through the markets there you see so much music available on the street, but there is little intellectual property rights protection,” she said.

“In other countries, like the UK, you have strong intellectual property rights protection, but this just isn’t the case in much of Africa. The mobile phones are a very good way to get around this problem as long as cell phone providers are willing to make the contracts. Botswana is very lucky in that they have a very good contract environment, but this isn’t necessarily the case in other countries. It is a win-win for music providers and mobile companies.”

The NetTel@Africa project started by USAID and the Center to Bridge the Digital Divide, in partnership with many African and US universities, is also championing copyright protection strategies.

How important creative industries are becoming to economic development is slowly being recognized. It is now seen as an important component of modern post-industrial, knowledge-based economies, but equally also a way for economically underdeveloped countries to generate wealth. Not only are they thought to account for higher than average growth and job creation, they are also vehicles of cultural identity and play an important role in fostering cultural diversity. Initiatives like UNESCO’s Global Alliance for Cultural Diversity attempt to document this phenomenon and back it up with hard numbers.

UNESCO also has a project to establish musicians’ cooperatives across Africa. As such, the musicians are able to pool their production resources, which are individually insufficient to ensure the economic viability of a small or medium-sized business. In Burkina Faso, a co-operative is working with the International Labour Organisation. Click here for more information.

Festivals like Mali’s annual Festival in the Desert in the oasis of Essakane, 65 kilometers from Timbuktu, is an example of how African musicians are finding their own way to reach audiences. Targeted above all to promote African and Malian Music inside the continent, the Festival has also boosted international tourism to the region and almost 10 percent of last year’s 6,000 visitors came from outside of Africa.

Another initiative for African musicians is the DigiArts Africa network. It was founded by UNESCO and aims to increase communication between artists, industries and educators, make musicians self-sustainable, use the ICT industries to support and contribute to cultural activities, and better promote African musicians within and outside Africa. Click here for more information.

Well-known Senegalese musician Thione Seck is blunt about the economic effect of piracy on his income.

“Were there no piracy, I could have bought an island, seeing the number of songs that I composed in more than 30 years of my career”, he told a local newspaper.

According to Abdoul Aziz Dieng, president of the Senegal Music Works Association (AMS) and Chairman of the Board of the Senegalese Copyright Office (BSDA) (www.mali-music.com), out of 10 Senegalese artists’ CDs available on the local market, “only two are legal”. For audio cassettes, the ratio is three pirate copies out of every five sold.

Opportunities to combat piracy and generate income are also not limited to just musicians. Filmmakers in Africa are starting to learn how to exploit the opportunities thrown up by the fast-expanding mobile phone networks on the continent. Already a phenomenon in South Africa (www.filmmaker.co.za), director Aryan Kaganof is in the process of releasing SMS Sugar Man, a feature length movie shot entirely with mobile devices. The movie will be beamed to cell phones in three-minute clips over 30 days.

What are the effects of Piracy?

  • Artist
    • No royalty payments, no money to live
  • Record companies
    • No return on investments. Staff retrenchments
  • Retailers
    • Cannot compete with low prices. Staff retrenchments
  • Consumers
    • Many copies are of inferior quality. If tracks are missing or the sound quality is poor, no exchange or refunds
    • May be contributing to “organized crime” syndicates which are heavily involved in international music piracy

Source: Recording Industry of South Africa

Published: January 2007

Resources

Lively website about African musicians

BBC website on African music

Further reading from UNESCO: African music: new challenges, new vocations: Click here

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

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This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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Mauritanian Music Shop Shares Songs and Friendship

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Around the world, traditional music stores selling vinyl records, tapes and CDs (compact discs) are closing down. Digital downloads distributed over the Internet and mobile phones make it unnecessary to build a music collection in these hard formats.

While this has been a revolution that has made acquiring music as simple as firing up a digital download service like iTunes, it has many downsides as well. One of them has been the loss of vast swathes of musical history, as many songs recorded in the past have not made their way into digital downloads. And how can you find music online if you only remember part of a tune or song and can’t remember its title or the musician?

The background and knowledge that was once imparted by an informed person in a music store has been lost in the world of digital downloads.

A Mauritanian music shop is showing how a traditional record store can stay relevant and commercially viable in the 21st century. Entrepreneur Mohamed Vall’s Saphire d’Or store in Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nouakchott), is a treasure trove of the sort of long-lost recorded songs that normally vex lovers of African music. Pictures of the shop can be seen at the sahelsounds blog (http://sahelsounds.com/?p=887).

Vall has run the shop for three decades and amassed a large collection of rare African music on records and tapes. He has married this trove of African creativity to a clever business model: Vall doesn’t let customers buy the precious records themselves but instead will transfer the songs to a disc or a USB stick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB_flash_drive) for US 30 cents each.

He has also used traditional hospitality to create an atmosphere that encourages people to interact and keep coming back.

“I have the biggest collection in Mauritania,” Vall told The Guardian newspaper. “Any music you want from Africa – I mean the kind of music that puts Africa on the map – I have it.”

The shop is down an alleyway in the bustling capital and offers a refuge for music lovers.

The atmosphere encourages friendly conversation and lets customers take their time making a selection. Customers can relax in armchairs while browsing and drink some traditional mint tea or enjoy a snack from a communal bowl.

The shop uses traditional Mauritanian nomadic hospitality to improve the customer experience. It also uses the music it sells to heal rifts between the different cultures that cross Mauritania, as it bridges Arabic-speaking North Africa and the majority black sub-Saharan Africa.

“When you are here, it doesn’t matter who you are,” Vall said. “We get youngsters wanting 1940s ballads and old people whose minds are musical museums. We get toubabs (white people) who heard one song decades ago.”

One of the treasure troves held in the shop is the recordings made by West African orchestras during the post-colonial period.

The shop also acts as an interactive museum and archive of many African musical greats, from Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour to Nigerian afrobeat pioneers, Guinean pop legends and Maliaian and Congolese musicians.

Its collection ranges beyond Africa to take in musical genres from around the world, from blues to salsa to rock.

“The music allows you to travel in your head,” said one customer, teacher Abdoul Kaba.”When I first came to Mauritania from Guinea, I went round and round looking for zouk (West African funk) music that everybody listens to in Guinea until I ended up here.”

The shop also serves as a sanctuary for many from life’s everyday hardships.

“It’s not about the music any more. People come back because in here you can be free. You can listen to music and forget this hard life,” Kaba said.

Resources 

1) The African Music Encyclopedia: Search by alphabetical listing the continent’s musicians. Website: http://africanmusic.org/

2) African Musicians Profiles: African Musicians Profiles (AMP) is a website for the promotion and publicity of African musicians. Each musician “has a profile, and there are pages on news of recent and future events, special features, recommended CDs, relevant reading (biographies, reference books and magazines) and photos”. Website: http://www.africanmusiciansprofiles.com/

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.