Networking essential for art marketing in Southern Africa

May 2009 -

In Harare a workshop about art marketing took place from April 30 until May 1, 2009, aimed at ten countries in Southern Africa. Purpose was to strengthen the regional markets for creative products, to develop suitable marketing models and to create a network for art marketeers..

Marketing of arts and culture products - from literature to sculpture – has never been easy in Southern Africa. From the 50s through to the 80s, before the advent of cyberspace, stone sculptors relied on tourists who visited them in their remote areas. Or they had to wait for the only two galleries - in case of Zimbabwe - to mount an exhibition. Writers had only book stores to thank for marketing books until the early 80s, when the Zimbabwe International Book Fair was founded.

Musicians relied on radio to promote their music. Middlemen had to do much of the work. It was obvious then that a book published in one country could be read in another. For music it was less easy to cross borders. Today artists like Zimbabwean musician Oliver Mtukudzi have broken topographic barriers in marketing their music. Mtukudzi who works with Tuku Music is better known in neighbouring South Africa than in Zimbabwe. This is because he has set up an effective marketing strategy that involves releasing his album in South Africa first where he can reach out to the whole world.

Since South Africa is like a cultural melting pot, Mtukudzi through Sheer Records reaches out to the whole world. With Sheer Records' worldwide network, Mtukudzi's music ends up being distributed by record companies in Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Canada and Sweden. These partners in turn have other partners scattered all over the world and they market Mtukudzi's music.

Mtukudzi has a website where news, tour dates and samples of his latest music can be downloaded. In addition the musician, the only one from Zimbabwe who has been nominated for music awards in South Africa, has a page on My Space and Facebook where he communicates directly with his fans. In his own country Mtukudzi uses the the Zimbabwe Music Corporation that has marketing facilities.

Sadly, only artists who have the means are able to market their products effectively while those who do not have the means wait for an occasional buyer to come by.

The Arts Marketing Workshop was organized as part of the Harare International Festival of the Arts by the Arterial Network and the African Arts Institute. Financial support was provided for by the National Arts Council of South Africa.