Zim Hip Hop artist earns over $5,000 in 5 days using WhatsApp & mobile money to sell a single

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It’s inevitable that as technology continues to change so will music distribution and the artists who stand any chance of getting something out of their content are the ones who embrace the evolution rather than run from it.

In Zimbabwe, we don’t see enough of this evolution, which is why the strategy that’s just been used by local Hip Hop superstar Jnr Brown has caught a lot of people’s attention.

The rap artist’s latest single, Tongogara, from his upcoming album Morning Glory, is being distributed via WhatsApp for $1 with fans paying for the track via mobile money. So far it has earned the artist over US$5,000 in less than a week.

Inspiration through social media

On the 7th of February 2016, Jnr Brown shared a brief promo clip of Tongogara on social media, with calls for pre-orders to the track. However, the buzz around the track actually spiked when a live radio station recording at Star FM was also shared online two days later, creating a strong engagement, especially on Facebook where it generated over 40,000 views.

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On the same day, the advert for pre-orders to the track was also shared on the same familiar platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) with an mp3 version of the track scheduled for delivery to buyers on the 12th of February. Fans were asked to send $1 via mobile money to a specific number as well as their name to the same number for purposes of identification.

In the five days after the advert was posted, over 5,000 paid-up orders were processed, earning over US$5,000 for the single, a number which Jnr Brown’s team hadn’t anticipated.

According to Kuda Musasiwa (more popularly known as Begotten Sun), the man who works as Jnr Brown’s executive producer and the coordinator of this new content distribution route, the entire approach was actually an experiment inspired by the massive response that Hip Hop artists like Jnr Brown have enjoyed on social media.

Teaser posts generally enjoy massive engagement, which is usually accompanied by requests for the complete track. Jnr Brown’s crew decided to tie this in with an option for payment that would involve his local fans who aren’t exposed to convenient purchase and payment options for the latest hit tracks.

By introducing an option for mobile money payment (EcoCash, Telecash, OneWallet, and Nettcash are all accommodated),  tying it to WhatsApp which is the most popular media transfer channel for mobile broadband users, while underpinning this with a promotion through social media staples like Facebook and Twitter, Jnr Brown was able to reach out to fans that were eager to get their hands on the new single.

It’s also worth noting that the song has a decent price (it’s just a $1 and that doesn’t have any additional mobile money charges) and it has been well received by fans and critics who have rightfully showered it with a lot of praise for relevance and artistic excellence.

What happens next?

Right now Jnr Brown is enjoying a fair return on his hit but he has also been working on the video for the song and follow-up singles on his upcoming album. The revenue being generated from this WhatsApp route is clearly welcome, but sadly it can’t be tapped as a permanent solution for content distribution.

Besides the huge complication that rears its head through a potential ban from WhatsApp (the IM platform does not condone any commercial use of an account and a spike in traffic triggers such a ban) there’s the hassle of manually handling all requests for tracks, something that can’t be adopted for consistent content distribution.

Musasiwa believes an application which ties into any of the mobile money services and allows users to buy access to tracks via USSD commands would make the whole process easier. This way, fans can get a code which is used for redeeming tracks, albums, concert tickets or even artists’ merchandise.

With service providers like mobile operators hopping on board, this could open the door to a convenient revenue stream for artists and other content creators, especially since operators can enjoy revenue through mobile money payments while encouraging online engagement.

It sounds a lot like what Astro had in mind with its Mobi Store, as well as what the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association (ZIMURA) has been working on forever. The two attempts are yet to see the light of day but some of the people in the local music industry have shared a lot of concerns about how robust and reliable these alternatives would be.

In the meantime, the WhatsApp/Mobile money route will likely be used not only by Jnr Brown but by other artists keen on capturing the wave of excitement around their next hit track.

It won’t kill piracy, but it will ensure some sort of revenue is earned from their work. More importantly, it will be a very bold way of embracing the evolution of music distribution.

18 Comments

  1. Shark says:

    Kudos to Jnr. Brown for the hack and getting himself paid for his hard work. Yet the situation currently prevalent in Zim telecoms and access to data pose a significant threat to innovation and start-ups.

    Few can argue that the hack has been made possible by the fact that Whatsapp has preferential treatment on Mobile Networks in Zim. You can access the service for an entire week for a mere 0.95c. This puts any other competitor birthed locally at a huge disadvantage.

    India rightly banned Free Basics and any other form of preferential treatment of data access and or service via the internet. They have the foresight and appreciate that the internet provides a level playing for innovation and development at all levels.

    Locally however, our own kinsmen favour today’s profit margin over the potential of a robust and thriving tech-ecosystem. What is more saddening is the fact that the regulator seems not to see the problems the current setup has for future generations. All tech industry players need to rally behind challenging and changing the skewed internet access being propagated.

    If we let this be, soon we will look back and ask ourselves how we were so blind and foolish when our start-ups find it difficult to carve market share even for local markets. When individuals who read such stories and put together the dots give up before they even start because the competition is a Juggernaut with deep pockets and preferential access.

  2. Lisa says:

    Congrats to Jnr Brown and his team

  3. Mike says:

    This is outstanding

  4. Mutandwa says:

    This just proves that Zim Hip Hop artist are intelligent, unlike these crap Zim DanceHall artist who release songs day in day out and their wacky riddims too #NgavatsageMabasa #Tongogara #ZisoreRed #RealTalk

    1. Bvanyangu Rekwachiundura Josphats says:

      This proves that the Zim Hip Hop artist IS intelligent. We can’t draw conclusions on a group based on the properties of one member of the group.

    2. I says:

      @Mutandwa I think that’s too harsh to say the least, Zimdancell might have its shortcomings but it relates to what the majority of youths in the ghetto go through or witness on a daily basis unlike most zim rappers who tell an american story save for a few like T Gonz, breeze mbada and in this song JB. I would rather embrace someone anotaura nyaya yakaitika ku HKD Dzivarasekwa than a Zimbo anotaura Straight Outa Compton, if i want to hear about Compton i would rather listen to Ice Cube or Dr Dre vakabvako. There is nothing wrong with taking the style of the americans or the jamaicans but let us put the Zim story on those styles. JB did a good track good message that is why people are loving this track and he was wise enough to come up with a strategy that brings a financial retain for him in an unstable environment , but don’t criticise other genres strategies because they are working for them. The strategy used by JB worked because JB is not only in the limelight already but he did a great track that everyone wants to listen to, how about songs which are not going to be hits let alone an unknown artist who is not yet in the limelight do you think they can use that strategy successfully.Because of the current temporary environment in which sales are less rewarding because of piracy some are of the ideology that the more your staff circulates the more popular you become and the more shows you have and the more money, it has really been working well for some they are making money out of it, winky d and his band is paid an average of 6000 to perfom at a show.The distribution system has been washed away by piracy so you gotta find a strategy that works for you until the environment stabilizes.

  5. Desire says:

    No you are wrong there is no intelligence about this! You are also wrong when you say zimdancehall is crap. Zimdancehall artist are actually disruptors, they know were to get there money (shows). They don’t care about content monetization because their content doesn’t take much to produce unlike hip hop. Would you prefer going to Jnr Brown’s show to Winky D.

    1. Mutandwa says:

      @Desire I am sorry but my opinion stands, its true and its a fact. ZimHip Hop fathered this genre you are now calling Zimdancehall. My use of the term intelligence refers to the message in the song by Jnr Brown as well as the strategy to makert the song. It takes someone with a certain amount of business intelligence to come up with a way to make money out of his work. Can you name one Zimdancehall artist who has made 100$USD by song sales? As far as I know there is none, maybe I am wrong.
      I have nothing against Zimdancehall artist, infact I have some artist who I respect and one of them is Winky D. FYI I will be attending one of his upcoming international shows and more over will be paying more money than what he would charge in Zim.
      If ever we’re going to get to a point where our music is an industry in which artist can make money, these Zimdancehall artist should start thinking about ways on how to make money out of their music. What still buffles me is how one artist can have 13 singles in one month?
      Truth is ZimHip Hop has been around for sometime way before these youngstars who have failed their Ordinary Levels and suddenly decide to go to the nearest studio and record poor quality music.
      I recently asked one popular female dancehall artist how much it cost to produce a new video she had just released and guess what she doesnt even know, I mean like really? In this day and age an artsist must be versatile. Music is not just about beats and bars now. Its about making money out of that one song. Shows are not enough, artist still need to sell those songs.
      Kudos to Jnr Brown for showing other artist how its done.
      Why I say Zimdancehall is crap, there is no message in those songs. Listen to Tongogara tell me you don’t here the poetry and deep meanings in that song. Talking about real issues, there’s moreto life that those ghetto chants and slogans in Zimdancehall.
      #ZimHipHopIsAlive #Tongogara #Realness #MakingMoneyMakeSense

      1. t mtandwa says:

        hie mr mutandwa.your oppinion so gud.add me in your hiphop grp pliz

  6. Tavengwa Sipapate says:

    Well in my view, he used contacts more than anything, if you keep a healthy contact list of key partners & contributors, you’ll have a pool of interested candidates to buy your product, the song is interesting, but the fact that he got $5000 return on is clear that he delivered what people in his contact list wanted, I’d say he took time to study his audience & delivered according to their likes & interests, in Zim yes, we do have a wide variety of genres & a varied audience, every individual that make up that audience is a single person, & no 2 people like the exact same things, but they can have similar likes or traits, streamline the target & deliver according to their needs.

  7. abar says:

    whilst its a good move my question is why do we tend to praise illegal things, as you said in your article whatsapp does not allow what jnr brown did, can’t we be innovative to solve this distribution problem in a legal way that might even have replicability in other countries. for me this innovation is like the illegal enterprising by illegal vendors in the CBD who have invaded all the pavements in town, whilst they bring products to buyers quickly and often cheaply its something that remains illegal and no replicability in major capitals of the world

    1. E says:

      Theres nothing illegal about what jnr brown did. Your poynt is off topic the level that it takes for it to be considered commercial is huge so he still is in the safe zone.
      #hustle witj all muscles

    2. Tavengwa Sipapate says:

      If he owns the song he is selling on WhatsApp, he has the legal right to do whatever he wants, it’s his song, however, if it was someone else doing it without his knowledge, then it would be called illegal

    3. Lam says:

      There is nothing illegal about what he did, whatapp has a function of sending and forwarding staff to the next user and apparently it is not a violation of any terms or conditions.

  8. mukanya says:

    Well he is not exactly the first Zim artist to sell music via whatsapp and getting paid thru a mobile money platform. Last year I bought twenty tracks from a very popular zim rnb artist using the above method.

  9. Tavengwa Sipapate says:

    I like your view Mukanya, putting personal user experience in the discussion, like I said in my earlier comment, he just used a bigger contact list.

  10. Bigest says:

    Congrats Jnr. Brown

  11. Anonymous says:

    shelly malo is the best of all the rapperts in zim g tohell all u mafuckers

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