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Christian artistes must come to terms with vastly altered reception patterns on the entertainment circuit, if evangelically-themed work is to remain a household phenomenon. Social applications and digital tools which have been blamed by artists across genres for their waning fortunes can be redirected to their aantage. Gospel musicians need to take charge of the

digital revolution and utilise it to maximise the visibility of the fraternity.

Fronting an evangelistic mandate, it will be foolhardy to remain passive while alternative world views are exploiting new media to their aantage.

The immediate challenge which confronts most artists, however, is reconciling greater visibility with the financial sustainability of their work.

For example, how does one avail their music on the Internet free of charge, when they need to recoup work flow flow costs and make profit?

Furthermore, the contravention of copyright is rife among audiences who do not assign commercial value to gospel music.

Most gospel music fans do see a problem in using applications such as Whatsapp to distribute copyrighted material on the assumption that gospel must be free.

On the contrary, ethical and biblical considerations both rule out taking power over another person’s property (intellectual in this case) and subjecting gospel workers to unremunerated labour expect if they avail it out of their own volition.

Apostle Paul says not to muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain, meaning that gospel workers must not be condemned to poverty but must be supported financially by their audiences by purchasing material from official sources. On the other hand, instead of totally losing out, gospel artists must be techno-savvy and mediate the balance the mixed blessings of digitisation for themselves.

Gospel artists must invade cyberspace en masse to reverse the under-representation which they complain against in the traditional space.

US-based Christian contemporary musician Comfort Manyame observed that applications such as Reverbnation and Soundcloud has democratised reception and made possible for unsigned artists to showcase their music.

“That’s the first part of the equation. The problem however still remains on how they can get paid for their work. Most of the internet music stores will require one to have a bank account,” Manyame told Gospel Plugin.

“Currently it looks like Zimbabwean banks are not eligible. That’s where the problem is. Unless the local Zimbabwean artist has a representative in the USA, the UK and other countries, it’s almost impossible for them to set up an account that allows for financial transactions,” he said.

“So the short answer is yes they are opportunities for local artists in the web as far as music streaming and downloading. But there is still a challenge when it comes to getting paid for their efforts unless they have someone with a western bank account helping them to do it.

“I think the available options are being utilised but only by a few artists. Internet access is a challenge and few artists are aware that there is a lot they can do for themselves now without involving a record company,” Manyame said.

Speaking to Gospel Plugin on the reception of her latest single, Paye Paye, another U.S based gospel thoroughbred Shingisai Suluma said that she has decided to stream her compositions online to remain in touch with her fans.

“We decided to realise our current project in singles because we realise that the changes in the music distribution technology is not favourable for the distribution of entire albums,” Mai Suluma said.

“What came as a pleasant surprise is that people actually pay attention to each song as we release it, which was not the case with full albums.

“On a full CD, people generally select their favourite song and forget about the rest, no matter how good they may be. After a while they look forward to the following work.

“What this means as well is that we will keep constant communication with the lovers of our music, as we bring a new song after a few months rather than a few years like we used to do.

“Not every song is designed to be a hit. So when people take time to listen to the non-hits that will follow, it will be great for us to know how the songs that normally would get ignored on an album will be heard.

“I have been blessed to read all the testimonies of how people relate to the song Paye Paye. I pray that many may be encouraged and realise that the essence of a testimony of deliverance is the proof that God has a purpose that is still yet to be accomplished,” she said.

Wilhelm Olivier, who manages several local gospel artists, emphasised the need to be connected and visible so as to build a sustained fanbase.

“One of the biggest problems artists in Zimbabwe face is that they have day jobs. We have to learn how to use tools that can do connecting and support while we are not there,” Olivier said.

“For example, your music must be available 247 from electronic stores. We need to use the likes of CDBaby, Google Music, Spotify, Reverbnation, Soundcloud amongst others, not to ignore YouTube.

“Now to support all of this there must be the social media, e-mail, blog back-up that is feeding the information to the fans about these places to find your music. These tools will all help you to stay connected but will lose its charm if you do not put your personal touches in there on a regular basis. The personal touch is key to unlocking support from fans,” Olivier said.

Mushava blogs at profaithpress.blogspot.com

Source : The Herald