Namibia’s entertainment industry in the digital era

Progression or regression
While Namibian musicians work hard to bring their art to the stage, many worry about a lack of support for the industry, with artists struggling to make a living.
Jemimah Ndebele
Currently dominated by live performances, often a blend of traditional and contemporary styles, the local entertainment industry has certainly evolved over the years, with a rise in young talent coupled with increased consumer access as a result of the digital age.

From burned CDs being sold at robots to consumers now streaming on various platforms such as Donlu, Spotify and Apple Music, the entertainment industry – particularly music and its consumption- has seen progress and growth in terms of availability.

For some, it has led to what could easily be labelled as ‘overnight success’, and for others, it has taken bread out of their mouths.

Tough industry

Teleleni Abraham Mumbangala, popularly known by his stage name Tate Buti, who has been in the local entertainment industry for over 20 years, explained in an interview with Namibia Media Holdings that the digital era has made the monetisation of music difficult because people don’t buy music anymore in the traditional sense.

“You spend your time and money on studio sessions, music videos and all these things, just for people to freely share your music without making a cent back. It demotivates a person to sing,” he said.

Speaking on ways in which one can make money in the industry, Tate Buti listed live performances as the only means of financial security. “You make a little money from shows here and there, but it's not enough to live off of, and it's demotivating, really,” the Kwasa-Kwasa star explained.

The financial burdens experienced in the industry not only affect those who have been in the industry for a long time but also plague budding musicians, such as Pretty Vibes hit-maker Panduleni Gideon, popularly known as Ms. Gideon.

Hard work

Speaking on her perception of the industry since her rise to fame, Ms. Gibson remarked: “We are slowly but surely getting there,” she said, despite not having large platforms that reward artists for their hard work, such as the discontinued NAMAs.

“There is nothing to look forward to when putting out music. As much as being a sportsman is considered a job, being a musician is also a job. Musicians in Namibia just live off bookings, and you can’t depend on bookings to pay the rent,” she said.

Support the arts

Still in its infancy stages, compared to its South African counterpart, the Namibian entertainment industry holds a promising future, with creatives working on formalising their art and offerings as government institutions and corporate brands are starting to understand the value and impact that the industry has.

“It's evolution has been at a rather slow pace, and this can be attributed to the fact that Namibia lacks policies that are purely meant to address the arts and culture sector. I mean, the government doesn't even have a stand-alone ministry that deals with arts and culture; we are so sidelined, so much so that arts and culture is a division of the ministry of education,” said entertainment expert Michael Kayunde.

Elaborating further on the involvement of corporate entities, Kayunde said their involvement and investment could be better across the board.

“After 34 years of independence, Namibian creatives are still not trusted with life-changing endorsement deals despite having actual influence. Corporates would rather sponsor in kind, which helps in covering certain cost items, but to be honest, it doesn't change lives.”