The past couple of years have seen a drop in album releases from some of the relatively more established artists in Botswana. Save for just a handful, most of the new material has been courtesy of new less experienced artists trying to make it in an increasingly tough industry. Only few local artists including Vee, Charma Gal, Franco, and Kabelo have been able to survive off their music.
The question then is what is it that this few artists are doing that their fellows aren’t? Is it the quality of music; poor Management; lack of airplay; inadequate support; or just a simple case of bad luck? The launch of Copyright Society of Botswana (COSBOTS) was a welcome development but with the international music dominating the local airwaves royalties will remain just a meagre fraction of the local artists’ overall earnings.
Some have blamed the relatively small market but if it works for the few why can’t it work for the rest? This is why veteran promoter, HHP’s long-time manager, and the brains behind the now defunct Mascom Booster Bash, Seabelo Modibe, has taken it upon himself to organise the first ever Botswana International Music Conference.
“I take part of the blame for the poor state of affairs most of our artists find themselves in,” Modibe tells Lifestyle. “Instead of advising our artists on how things are supposed to be done I have been criticising while offering no solutions.”
Modibe says the idea of the conference was triggered by calls from some local musicians seeking advice on various aspects of the music business.
“We need a serious music conference that can offer long term solutions to some of the problems faced by the local industry.” He says he has been consulting with various stakeholders like COSBOTS, Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture (MYSC), and artists with the hope of collaborating on the project.
He also hopes to bring on board various international speakers to share their experiences and skills with locals. “One of the ideas I want to import is the Namibian model of doing things,” Modibe says. “In Namibia you cannot have your song play on radio if you are not a member of a collective society. Otherwise how are you going to get paid your royalties? Right now our artists here do not register with COSBOTS before submitting their music to be played on radio and they end up missing out on royalties.” He says there are many artists outside of Gaborone who are still not registered with COSBOTS.
It is for this reason, Modibe says, that he is trying to bring the Namibians on board to share how they do it. He also hopes to host one of the top Namibian artists, The Dogg. With a population more or less the same as that of Botswana, Modibe says he wants The Dogg to share with Botswana artists how the Namibians manage to sell more music than their Botswana counterparts. He also wants them to share how they manage to fight piracy. “Despite the rampant piracy that we see in this country there has not been any anti-piracy initiative for the past three years. There are not enough anti-piracy messages out there. We as the stakeholders have to seize control of the industry.”
He says through the conference he hopes to have all players (artists, promoters, government, unions, corporate sector) under the same roof to share and exchange ideas on how to improve the industry. He says the growth of artists has to match that of the industry. “You cannot have a growing number of artists and a shrinking industry.” He says the government also has to come up with laws that enhance instead of killing the music industry. Modibe says he also hopes the conference will instil a culture of professionalism in local artists, managers and promoters. The main aim of the conference, he says, is to provide an intimate environment where musicians, Deejays, promoters, managers, COSBOTS, BOMU, other industry professionals can mingle freely with speakers asking and answering questions in a relaxed atmosphere. It promises to be a pivotal platform for the advancement of the industry. The conference is scheduled for the end of October, 2015.