The Music Industry’s Stepchildren

Bertholdt Mbinda

Some artists continue to be small fish in Namibia’s music industry, despite giving it their all, while others make it big.

This week unWrap.Online chats to a few talented artists about the highs and lows of trying to make it in a cut-throat industry.

‘Friends with Benefits’ hitmaker Bertholdt Mbinda says over the years, he has neglected himself countless times to the benefit of others, writing and composing hit songs for musicians and receiving no recognition.

He blames the industry for not being able to further his studies, saying he is uneducated because he chose music.

“Instead of studying further after Grade 12, today I am unskilled because I chose to spend time moulding and nurturing the careers of others.

“Knowing my worth some two and a half decades later was and is a painful reality, but no regrets. We move,” he says.

Bertholdt says despite the challenges, he has gone back to the drawing board to reinvent and prioritise himself.

While battling depression and trying to earn an income, piracy remains a big stumbling block within the music business, he says.

“People think writing, recording and the mixing and mastering process of a song is cheap, yet they want songs to be given to them for free. The lack of supporting and buying Namibian music, the lack of requesting Namibian music on every radio station and proudly embracing it – we can only do better if we’re united,” he says.

Rapper Reeziana Naris says the music industry has become difficult to penetrate.

“It’s like looking for a job in Namibia while your cousin or sibling or relative who is already there would not hook you up – you get nothing,” she says.

Naris says she has decided not to focus on music on a full-time basis so that she can pay her bills and take care of her children.

During her early 20s, Naris suffered from depression, which led her to seeking counselling.

“I was depressed due to the fact that I was investing so much time and resources in music, but it wasn’t yielding any profit or even fans for that matter.

“Since going through counselling, I grew a mindset of making music because of my love of it, and if I choose to invest money in it, it’s not to get anything out of it,” she says.

Naris says there were times she would produce a good song, but event organisers would rather offer peanuts for a full-track performance.

“People would offer you less than what it actually cost to make the music, or even show up for that matter, and this music business is very expensive.

“And you also have to look like a star when you show up to events. I will never again perform for exposure only,” she says.

Naris says there are, however, other ways to grow in the industry and make money, but she has no time to wait for a reward “which may take years or may even never come”.

“So, we do music part-time and try and grow in other ways to avoid depending on that one thing,” she says.

DJ Snoop has been a disc jockey for more than a decade.

In order to survive, he says he had to switch from being a producer to a DJ.

“During university, financial issues and stress from home forced me to refocus and become a club DJ to escape financial and emotional depression.

“I became one of the popular DJs for about five good years and invested in different areas. But my relationships have always been on the rocks, since deejaying is not considered as a job. One cannot really rely on it alone in Namibia.”

Actress and performing artist Bianca says being a musician in Namibia means giving up your pride to perform for a bare minimum.

One musician, however, who prefers to remain anonymous, says sucking up to people for gigs remains normal in the industry.

“It’s either they want to sleep with you to give you the gig or pay you with alcohol at the end of the day, and that’s why I don’t put in effort in music any more, but rather focus on entrepreneurship.”

– unWrap.Online

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