Hard for independent artists – Nomsa Mazwai
18 September 2015
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Welcome back to Old Mutual Live Radio, my name is Aphiwe Manono and we are still in conversation with Nomsa Mazwai. Such a well spoken woman who is awake and she’s trying to awake everyone else, just to be on the lookout and know what is going on around us, even through her music.
We were speaking about the influences, politically, socially, in her music and now we are going to speak more about her music. In South Africa Nomsa, I feel like this is a personal experience, I feel like South African artists are not getting the recognition from their own that they should.
Nomsa Mazwai: I would definitely agree.
AU: I feel like we pay too much attention to what’s going on in America, like you mentioned, the Nicki Minaj’s and the what-not, and are we really investing in our own artists. You’ve been at this for a while, what are some of your personal experiences?
No support for independent artists
NM: You know, I would like to say that I think business in South Africa is very lazy. I think in South Africa we have a couple of a problems. I think one of the problems is that people are unwilling to adapt. They don’t want to change the systems that they have and the world is changing, the world is different.
I’m an independent artist, I’ve spoke to every distributor, music distributor in this country, no one will distribute my music. Every single place I go to in South Africa, every day, I sell a CD, no matter where I am, when people bump into me, they buy a CD from me, so the demand is there. You can’t fake it, I’ve got over 100 000 views on YouTube. But business in South Africa will not deal with an independent artist. They won’t take the time to look at the work that I’ve done.
I’ve performed at the United Nations, I’ve recorded with Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, all of the artists that they’re playing on radio, I recorded with their producer, the guys that they respect, you know. I’ve created a really great base for myself and I did it because I thought that once I have credibility, I’ll be able to walk into any music distributor and be able to get my music distributed.
I’ll be able to walk into any record label and be signed, but the truth is that, first of all a record label won’t sign me because I’ve done too much of the work myself. So I would never sign for a percent of my own work, it’s just impossible that you’re going to pay me 8% when I’ve done everything.
This music distributor won’t speak to me because for them, they don’t believe that I can sell but it’s because they haven’t done the work, they haven’t done the research. I can sell music, I sell music every day. That’s the first issue.
The second issue is something that I like to look at as a very low self esteem. I think the transition from democracy gave white business owners a very low self esteem where it’s two-fold. It’s their own low self esteem from the way the international community treated them and then it’s a second low self esteem in terms of the white males that are running businesses don’t believe black people can be amazing. They don’t believe it for themselves in their hearts, they don’t believe it.
When I’m busy killing it out there, or doing a great job, there is no one that is going to allow me to scale my business and that’s really what, music for me, my work, is a business. I’ve really struggled with scaling my business because scaling your business means you have to go into partnerships. Going into partnerships means people have to see you as their peer and that’s difficult.
That’s difficult in South Africa because the people that do know me, the people that do respect my work, unfortunately, are not the owners of the capital. They don’t own the big organisations, they’re not running the big companies. They are not in charge of the decisions, those decisions that are needed to be made.
So it has been difficult as an independent artist. I do set myself apart from other independent artists. I have achieved a lot, I’ve done amazing things. I’ve lived in New York, I’ve toured in Europe, I’ve played in Barcelona, I’ve played at the biggest festivals in the world. I’ve played with the United Nationals General Assembly for Banking WHO and I’ve done what Beyonce did and yet in South Africa, it’s almost like I’ve done nothing at all.
AU: It’s not even recognised. Do you feel like it’s not even talked about much, would you want it to be spoken about? I think you should, you should feel like that should happen.
It’s not just about being a great artist
NM: You know what, talking can be beneficial, economically speaking, if there’s a buzz and a hype about you, that definitely can enhance sales. But talking doesn’t make me money, deals makes me money and so that’s been very difficult for me.
What I’ve decided for myself is that, you know, I like the story of Peter Stuyvesant, this guy, there’s a part of New York that’s named after him. He got to New York with nothing and now there’s a whole area that’s named after him. You know, the inroads that he made and the changes he made and so as much as I would love for a music distributor to take me seriously and to distribute my music, if they won’t do it, that’s fine.
I know 20 independent artists that are having the same struggle that I’m having and so I need to find a business solution for them because business is about supply and demand. I know that there’s a demand for the music. I know that people listen, they want to walk into Musica and they want to buy it.
But if Musica won’t have my music, then maybe we just have to have a different kind of CD store where people know when they walk in that they’re going to get all the music that they can’t buy in those stores. It’s just about me thinking as a business person. Of course it’s difficult, it’s hard to swallow, because I’m getting older, I would love to be performing every weekend.
I would love to be on stages, I would love to be doing that, but unfortunately I’m not a signed artist and I don’t have the financial wherewithal to do it myself. I can’t put up my own big shows, but I do put up shows. I put up shows on the 29th of November I’m putting up my own show called Summer Butterflies. I’m going to be doing them throughout the summer, all up until Winter 2016 and so this is my own intervention.
I’m taking myself to my fan base, I’m going to all the communities where I know people will come out, people will buy my CD and I’m putting on the shows. But I wish that I lived in a South Africa where people understood that we are all human beings, we are all citizens of the world. We all have something to offer and that there is something here, you could partner with me and we could do amazing things together. I wish people could see me as that peer, but until then, you keep on the grind, you don’t give up, you keep going and you make it happen, you make it happen!
AU: Wow, Nomsa, thank you so much for spending time at Old Mutual Live Radio, we really appreciate it and we wish you all the best for the future.
NM: Thank you and I love the people that are going to be listening to it, because it’s people that are thinking about growing, whether it’s their own wealth or growing their business or growing with Old Mutual and so I wish that when they listen to this story, you just keep going.
You keep investing, you create your nest egg, you make sure that all the seeds that you plant in life bear fruit. If you want to follow me, if you want to support me, I’m at nomisupasta and my website is nomisupasta.com, you can see my performance at the United Nations, I’m going to be uploading a video of my travels, I’ve got a travel documentary coming up, so just follow me on Twitter, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, I’m out there.
AU: You heard it here folks, thank you Supasta.
NM: This is what it is, this is what it feels like, do what you do, go where it takes you!
AU: Thank you so much Nomsa.