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Why Sanii Makhalima’s Got It All Wrong

Sanii_MakhalimaToday, an interesting article posted on Zimbo Jam two days ago caught my eye.  It carried news on how one of Zimbabwe’s most popular musicians, Sanii Makhalima, has found a solution to close the door on the music piracy problem. The solution:

He has set up a new company that is marketing a software product that makes it impossible to read an audio CD on a computer.

What in the world is that? Seriously, in this day and age, why would anyone want to propose a music format that cannot be played on computers and portable media players? Is the big picture even in sight? What a disaster in the making!

First let me say this: Piracy is an enormous problem for all of us! The effects of any misdirected revenue in the country, especially for an industry as big as music, trickle down to everyone. So we, collectively, not just the artists, have a piracy problem.

But this is not a new problem. Bootlegging has been around since the 70s. To think it will just take-leave because of this new software is simply wishful. Whatever the device, a bootlegger can still have his way, there’s no stopping him. Computers just made it a little easier.

What has compounded the problem today is not greedy pirates, no. It is failure to adjust to a changing industry. Records gave way to cassettes, no problem there. Cassettes to CDs, still no problem. CDs are now giving way to digital compressed files like MP3, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, Windows Media Audio etc… and we have a huge problem. An average guy can insert an audio CD into a computer and click “rip”. People love it, they can easily create playlists, selectively pick out their favourite songs  on an album and do away with  carrying a CD library folder around.

To be fair, audio CDs were a nightmare to maintain; a simple accidental scratch on its surface would render songs unplayable. They required extra care. A typical painful process of just playing songs was: manually shuffle through pages of CDs in a CD holder, select CD and pull it out, eject CD in player, place CD, push drive back inside, wait for player to read CD, push next button several times to select song, play song etc. This was even more painful when you only wanted to listen to 2 songs on a 12 track CD. We’re all glad those days are over. Makhalima doesn’t agree; he is proposing we go back to those days.

Faced with a reduction in CD sales, recording companies and artists don’t know what to do hence ill-thought solutions like Makhalima’s here. He does admit this will alienate people that just want to play their legal copies of CDs on computers & portable media players but hits back with “In every war there are casualties, and unfortunately that’s the case here as well.” What he probably doesn’t realize is that many ordinary CD audio players like those in car radios use the same hardware and firmware components also used in computer CD-ROM drives. His “collateral damage” group is really most of the music lovers.

Makhalima reportedly presented this idea to “dozens of musicians, producers, representatives of the National Arts Council, the board and staff of the Zimbabwe Music Rights Association and the Minister of Information & Publicity, Hon Webster Shamu.” What a wasted opportunity!

Makhalima’s solution is not new either. Since as early as 2002 numerous attempts have been made by recording companies to sell copy protected CDs. In particular Sony’s attempt was met with great public outcry,  computer security issues and lawsuits, eventually backing out and apologizing to users for “possible inconveniences” it had caused.

That aside, with technology advancement, CD recorders have already been manufactured by Phillips for example, to rip music off these “protected CDs”. If Makhalima’s scheme has not been cracked yet, it sure will in a short time and all the investment will just be money thrown down the drain.

The cheese has moved, we need to accept it and starting looking for new methods. Instead of trying pull fans back a decade, artists and indeed recording companies should be answering the question: “How can we sell our music in the most convenient format and media of the day?” The answer to that is not a cure-all for the piracy problem but it will get a lot of people buying music again.


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19 thoughts on “Why Sanii Makhalima’s Got It All Wrong

  1. What surprised me about Sani’s article on Zimbojam is that he managed to get Heavy hitters including a whole government minister to his charade. The music industry has radically changed and like it or not ‘ripping’, file sharing etc is here to stay. Musicians have to adjust their business model to the new reality. They have to emphasize live shows/ events and use their CD’s largely as promotional material. If you not comfortable with that as a musician stop making music!!

  2. Sani got it wrong – i agree!
    Puling the whole government is not surprise to me because that very same government was pulled by a witchdoctor who claimed there was a spring producing pure diesel from a certain mountain – and the diesel cam from dead ancestors.

    1) Place copy-protected CD into CD Walkman.
    2) Connect Walkman output from CD to soundcard on PC.
    3) Start audio capture software
    4) Hit “Play” on Walkman.
    5) Pause Walkman and stop recording between tracks
    6) Place resulting .wav files onto new CD. Make as many copies as you want.

  3. As techies you guys surely have a very low level of intelligence!if u attended these meetings n launches u wud have picked up on that this simply makes it a little harder for an average user to copy!now if my government n the businesses understand this!you shouldn be complainin they should!thanks for the publicity cz if u must know even malawi is interested in such!whilst u sit n blabber bout this n that more opportunities ar opening up for my business!we ar smiling all the way to the bank!

  4. Wat i want to say to you Mr Makhalima is at the moment perhaps only advanced users will be able to copy your CDs but very soon we will be having FREE cracks available on the internet to deal with your CDs!!! Just browse the internet and see how many cracks yu will find. Maybe as we speak the crack is already there its just not yet common!!!

  5. sanii […edited…] do u think if internationally known artists such as em and jay who are signed to such huge recording labels as interscope and universal have failed at preventing piracy, you can???? stop dreaming man!! […edited…]

  6. we have to forgive our brother in the wolrd of ict anything is possible while one is making a prevention on this end one is making something to break in so serious our brother needs to speak to us for advise

  7. i think Sanni’s idea is pathetic,he shud hv stuck to music.this was a total no-brainer……..and to think the Gvt actually followed this idea..

  8. dude at least you have finally admitted,this isn’t really about fighting piracy because before you started you already knew the idea was not feasible,this is all about the money “whilst u sit n blabber bout this n that more opportunities ar opening up for my business!we ar smiling all the way to the bank!” this is really disappointing considering the time you have spent as a musician.Anyway on that note,Stunner said something about Piracy in Zim that stuck to my head.He said from a certain angle Piracy is good for most musicians because while we send music to each ather via bluetooth,ripped Cd’s,etc,we are spreading his music to various audiences that might not have given the time or money to buy his discs.this means that when he does a live show,more people attend the event thus reaping the rewards,probably even more than if the fans had bought the album.Now that is adapting to a changing environment shown by Stunner,trully ingenius,you should learn some stuff from this boy,Sani,seriously…!

  9. Even a 486 computer can do that! Sorry Sanni you are wasting you time and money. Even Bill Gates can’t stop piracy.

  10. How about this,

    1] Put CD in radio
    2] Connect A/V to PC capture device
    3] Click Record
    4] Burn CD

    Does the software guide against this?

  11. The only way to reduce the rate of piracy is reducing the price of CD to at least US$2-3 so that we might at least consider the plight of our musicians and buy your disks.
    and also they is the need of law enforcement agents to play their part so that it will not be easy to get someone selling a pirated copy of any material not all these ____ ideas.

    [Comment edited by Techzim editor

  12. International record companies are aware of piracy and the best way to still be profitable as an artist is to do good marketable music, that is popular and people will buy your cd, moreso people will attend your show nomatter how they heard or got your music, Akon was in zw how much did he get? and how many original cds has he sold in zimbabwe? modernize your strat and be smart sanii this is 2011

  13. Sanii needs to write better albums and creatively plan live performances, i dont like his previous work but other people do ,get companies like Econet/Telecel/Netone to help sell his and others’ music via mobile downloads as far as the digital sales go.In other words just make it convenient for those who want to buy his music, not complicate the iish. If he can approach an honorable minister he should have no problem approaching Doug right?.
    Music ain’t gonna make the money it used to by pushing physical units mainly because of the unstoppable force of piracy+toomuchdance, but if he really cares about music and not money like i suspect he does in this case he could do something to benefit the Zim music industry with that resourcefulness of his.

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  15. USA and the European world got it right. You don’t sell CDs with rights any more. You just simply need a software like iTunes in Zim then sell your music there, but one thing you need to know is that software will always be there and back doors will always exist, but at least you make something than using alot of money making CDs with copy encryption.

    A music buying software with the capability to accept all Zim cards eg Zim switch capability online.

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