For budding musicians, the process of getting a record deal, then creating and marketing an album is arduous and costly. Artists and producers are constantly looking at innovative and cost-effective ways to make their music heard.
So far, international social networking websites such as My Space and Youtube have already proven their worth in launching lucrative music careers. The Internet in South Africa, however, is accessible to fewer people than it is in Europe and the US.
It was only a matter of time before local musicians put their heads together and used an inexpensive and wide-reaching medium of their own to make their musical mark.
They turned to Mxit, a cellular instant messaging service.
Having received a demo CD from talented Hip-hop/R&B group III, famed South African producer Gabi le Roux approached MXit with a request to use their platform to launch the group’s full length album. With MXit agreeing to come on board, all was set for history to be made thorough III’s album becoming the first in the world to be released in this manner.
“We set about an intense period of writing tracks, laying them down in the studio and hoping for the support of a major record deal,” says Le Roux.
“Given the huge amount of talent emerging on the South African music scene, it seemed an almost impossible task for us to make an immediate impression amongst key decision-makers. This led us to approaching MXit who we felt best represented our audience and who could put us in touch with our audience directly. The rest is history.”
There are more than five million South African subscribers to MXit – about 45 percent of them teenagers – and between 7 000 and 10 000 new users sign up each day. The application is downloaded to the user’s cellphone free of charge. The user is then able to send and receive short text messages from other registered users for a fraction of the fee charged by cellular networks for SMSs.
The album was placed onto the network in August 2007, where the first single was available for download from a cost of 90 cents for ring tones, images of the band for R2 and the entire album for R5. So far more than 200 000 downloads have been recorded, in the process earning the group platinum sales status.
“The old-school way of trying to work with traditional music companies is slow, frustrating, and doesn’t give talent a chance to find an audience,” says Paul Stemmet, general manager of MXit. “We see the Internet and mobile phones as the new way for person-to-person networking, with fast and direct access to your audience – where your music is the guarantee of your success.”