Lessons from releasing the biggest single in Zimbabwe

What we learned from Mambo: STRATEGIC DELIVERY OF PAID Music RELEASES

Releasing paid music Zimbabwe


Begotten Sun once posted these words, or at least something to the effect ,”For every $200 I have put into Zim Hip Hop, I have lost $400.” That is something that resonated with me. These are words from a man who has seen, and masterminded some of the great successes in the genre. Over the last few weeks, we have worked with some artists on their releases. Some free, some paid. As a team, we are investing into this with a knowledge that we will not see returns on some of our investment. The key thing we have started to do more and more is investing in building platforms as well as people. As artists develop a collective knowledge of the music industry, they will undoubtedly be more ideas brought to the table. 

The creation of better methods and platforms will allow for those who come after us to build on our shoulders. That is how we build profitable genres. Let’s do some population metrics just to convince you that the time for hip hop has arrived.

Lessons from releasing the biggest single in Zimbabwe

Total population:

Zimbabwe Population 2017/18

The total population is estimated to be just shy of 17 million. I’ve attached an image with some key data. Refer to it, as we will analyse it in a bit more detail. I have reasons to hold some of the numbers with a grain of salt. The key anomaly for me is probably net migration. I think that number doesn’t cover migration to South Africa alone, forget the rest of the world. That being said, I would say the standard deviation would be within a reasonable range for us to utilise the data. 

Two key metrics that matter for releasing Hip Hop are median age and urban population. These are the sort that would determine how successful your strategy is, at any given time. A median age of 19 tells us that we have a great number of consumers for the genre. Now that we have started on a positive note, let me dum it down a bit. The average 19 year old is not financially solvent. Heck you are better off targeting 13-16 year olds, as they still have the keys to bank of mom afnd dad. 


Let’s work with what we have


A great illustration of this is seen when it comes to elections. Our urban population is 30% of the total population, which means that, that would for the most part be our targeted market for a few reasons. 

  1. They are more likely to be Hip Hop than rural.
  2. They would also be better suited to use platforms that we deliver through. This is due to variables such as smart device and internet access.


Age range within population:


From that urban population, we could safely say most of those who are between the ages of 14 and perhaps 45 appreciate Hip Hop in some ways. My parents are just on the other side of the bracket. They know Tupac, Biggie, 50 and so on, but to say they would buy Hip Hop is a tall order. I mean, they are less piraty than our generation, so they’ll pay for Tuku’s music. They’ll buy Mapfumo’s stuff and so on. 


Urban population: 


Once we have corned the market to just the urban population, we begin to zero in on the ones who will actually spend their money on your music. This is often referred to as “Qualifying a sale”. It is foolishly naive to expect that everyone will buy your music. It is similarly naive to think that all of those who listen to your music would be happy paying for it. It’s one thing to retweet, share or post about a track. That costs nothing. When you bring the cost factor in, things start to look a bit different. 


How do you qualify a sale? 


So, we mentioned that only 30% of the population is within our target market. Let’s cut about 65% of that as people who listen to other genres, Sungura, Zim Dance Hall and so on. We are not saying there is an exclusivity to genres here. I mean most of these guys would vibe to a new Eminem or 50 Cent track if it is on the radio. We are looking for people who would pay for this pleasure. 


In the end we are at about 0.35×30 = 10.5%


Let’s work with the premise that about 10.5% of the population are within the people who would listen to the sort of music that you make. Now we narrow this down a bit further by figuring out how many of these would spend their money on said music. Before we go throwing more numbers around, I will admit that we couldn’t find the perfect metric to use for measuring this category. Perhaps we ought to run a survey on social media asking people what percentage of the music they own was paid for by them. 

0.105X17 000 000 = 1 785 000 are people who would possibly be interested in buying your music. You will at best be able to reach about 20% of these people through online marketing and print media. That’s a grand total of 357 000. Based on the results that we have from this campaign, a 1% conversion is amazing for the average artist, especially those producing media in English.


Smartphone users:


We encountered a problem that we had not anticipated. As an iPhone user (one who admits that androids are better), I know that when I purchase music from places other than iTunes, I have to transfer then onto my device. This is obviously not the case for androids. We have a purchase on an iPhone which couldn’t be downloaded. While doing our A/B testing prior to release, we arrived at the decision that emailing the music would be the best remedy to this. 


Other Variables: 


There are some seemingly trivial things that end up being very significant factors to success of failure of any release. 

Socio-Economical factors -: 

  • Jobs
  • Working age
  • Average income (dispensable income)
  • Other major events coinciding with release (elections)

Try competing with something as important as elections for space on social media. The track didn’t actually get released on Election Day, we are not morons. We released it days leading up to the election. We would have wanted it earlier, but there were things that needed to be ironed out.


Online transactions per year: 

One of the key conclusions we reached on this is that we don’t spend enough online. Less than 10% of total expenditure in the country is through online transactions. This is a far reaching issue, not limited to music. We are just not running as fast as we should in the digital age. More and more business owners and service providers need to provide this service. If I wanted to buy a shirt online, where would I start?

The Macheso Hypothesis:

We couldn’t agree on what year this was, perhaps 2000-2004, somewhere there. This is when Zimbabwe experienced what we could term the CD revolution. Most media until this period was stored on tape/cassettes. Music would be sold on this format. Movies were sold and rented out in this format as well. When the CD revolution arrived, there was a race to produce media that the masses could use on what were becoming more and more common forms of media players. Everyone’s mom was getting a DVD player. CD players were moving from being for a select few to be affordable to the populous. 

In that period artist releasing music rushed to be ahead of this curve by releasing their music on this new format. Every major artist of the time was doing it, well, expect for one. Aleck Macheso for some bizarrely genius reason released some of his music on cassette. These were sold out quite quickly and restocked to the same fate. He understood something that most artist often forget. His customer avatar was not one that would fit perfectly on this curve. He chose to not leave these behind, which would frankly have been leaving money behind. 

Macheso caters for the other 70% of the population that most Zim Hip Hop and Dance Hall artists wouldn’t cater for. Are you catering for your avatar? What is the most consumed form of media among your avatar? This is a business, you are paid for a service that you provide. People don’t need to jump through too many hurdles to get your content. 

How can CD revolution be emulated?

We have been toying with the idea of an in store music release. You know, like they do with book releases and signings. An in store release brings together some very important factors in your favour before you start.

  • You are targeting shoppers, so this is a semi-qualified target already. They have money to spend.
  • Footfall will mean that even customers who are not interested in or know about your music yet, will run into you.
  • Interactivity allows for the potential customers to listen to, watch the video and so on before they commit to a purchase. They also get to meet the artist, where possible.
  • Zimbos love themselves some crowds. People will come just to see what this is all about. This facilitates for you to play to it presence. Image is important
  • To meet the CD revolution we would cater to people in all forms of media. Bluetooth, USB uploads, Memory Card uploads, CDs and so. Cater for the new without neglecting the old.

Hurdles would come in the form of negotiating feasible terms with store owners. Best case scenario, you get a revenue share deal. What you would want in exchange is prime floor space, and shelving. Some office furnishing and power source would be key.



Asaph Mambo Release -:

Asaph’s Mambo presented an unprecedented opportunity for our team to really test the market to gauge response. If you are oblivious of what it is that we are referring to, #Mambo is the biggest Hip Hop track in Zimbabwe and one of the biggest in Southern Africa, some may argue. It’s doing well on the charts and everyone who loves the genre is talking about the track and about the artist. The missing link is that, the track has been out for a while now, but has neither been available for purchase or on some form of freemium. This is where we stepped in. Asaph has been a mutual friend in various circles for years now. So we approached him, and might I add, we didn’t use the mutual friend in this instance.

We sought to understand what the hold up was and if at all we could be of service. As you can imagine, he was cautious from the get go. Everyone is after you when you are buzzing. Our terms were favourable, as they always are when we approach an artist. What’s in it for us? Well, we do market research, improve our knowledge of the market. This will come in handy going forward when we work on a further release with Asaph or another artist. We won’t go into detail about the contract itself, expect that we made sure that the artist was risk averse. 

Price point is always something we look to the artist for. Our role in this case is on a consultancy basis. We would reign you in if you jumped to far up into the clouds.

We created two landing pages, one for local purchases, and one for international purchases. This was done with PayPal handling the international purchases and PayNow handling the local purchases. The downside is that it complicates link sharing. The upside is A/B testing becomes much easier. You can quickly identify what’s working and what needs to be improved.

Asaph – Mambo

Phase 1: Music Placement

We started by making sure that the music would be available for both local and international fans to purchase. The local fans would have the option of making said purchase via eCoCash and TeleCash, which are very convenient. The international fans would have Paypal, which is just as convenient.

To facilitate this we used, PayNow as a payment gateway, and our business’s PayPal account as the gateway for this one.

Fee Structure:


Depending one which account we used for this, PayPal offers us two fee structures. We have an eCommerce account that is charged at $0.2+ 2.9% per transaction. This is based on us maintaining a revenue of upwards of £1500/calendar motnh, which we normally achieve in a few days. Our other account works at a rate of $0.34 + 3.1% per transaction. The difference is noticeable on small transactions but more so over a long period. On this occasion we used the latter.


PayNow allows a fee split between you and the customer. This is great, as it allows the customer to support the artist that little bit extra. For instance, you would end up paying a total of $1.25 after fees for a $0.99 track. The flip side would have been artist getting the $0.99 – 0.5 in fees. 


Phase 2: Marketing

As much as budget may come from elsewhere, the artist should always shoulder the burden of marketing. This is your baby, give it all you have. The starting point of any release is making sure that you get support from your people. Reach out to your family and friends and get their support. I don’t know how big your circle is, but 2-5 sales from there is not a massive ask, is it? I mean, your mum, your girl/boy, two friends… producer’s girlfriend and so on. Any campaign needs that little boost to get you started. We got that in this case. We are doing alright numbers from the get go, mirroring to sellers from iTunes for the first day or two. The numbers fluctuate a little, this is to be expected. 


Social Media  

Fortunately in this case, most of our targeted demography uses social media, so we reach them that way. First we start by posting about the release. This is something that is done on a daily basis. Just some witty, cringey tweet followed by the link really. 

The one thing we got in abundance were like and retweets. Unfortunately, that never ever translates into sales. 98% of the people who interact with your tweet will not support the movement financially. Talk is indeed a cheap commodity. Well, tweets are, in this instance.


HashTag Targeting

Pro Tip for increasing reach:

HashTag monitoring and targeted marketing -:


Seeing as #Mambo was released long before it would be available to download, we decided to tap into the people who already expressed interest in the song. It’s a fairly easy thing to do. Simply type in the HashTag that you expect them to be using. The tweets appear. Go through all of these and interact with them. In this case, we simply ask for them to share, purchase or answered a #Mambo related question that they had while including a link to the purchase. Reach usually blows up in this case. Think of this as taking something to someone who already said they want it. Granted most people won’t buy anyway, they’ll just talk about it. 

Targeted Twitter Marketing

As a marketer, you cannot guarantee sales, however, you should guarantee that the product is put in front of those who want it. I say those who want it, but it is really, those we expect to want it. 


Running an Ad Campaign

Brainstorm your avatar

  • Age range
  • Location
  • What they like
  • What they talk about
  • Do you have these people on a Page that you run/manage?

What action do I expect of the person who engages with this post? Do I want them to share? To buy? To sign up to something?

Based on the previous responses, what would convert me into someone who takes aforementioned action if I were in their shoes?


For most campaigns our ad budget is about $13 per cycle. Which is usually spent over a period of 7 days. This gives us enough data to know whether we ought to carry on or pull the plug on any campaign. When a campaign bears the right results, you start to increase the budget and scale the results. If it doesn’t get you the results that you were after, take what you can and pull the plug. There are times when patience will pay off. Facebook’s pixel may take time to optimise itself for you to start getting the result you want. Waiting costs money.


Reach is a measure of just how many people we get our content in front of. It allows you to set goals and measure the success of any campaign. If it is the ad route, you want to set your desired ROI for each ad before you begin. This is something that will always be amended based on results. If you are getting what you set out to get, you push it further. Ask yourself questions on how you could improve the process, scale it? Improve user experience. These are some of the small things that will count in the long run. 


People know that this is available to purchase. Are they buying it? This is a simple one to measure. First we look at the ad engagement. How much conversion are we getting from that. If an ad is not producing the results you had in mind, amend or kill it. If you are using Facebook Pixel at times you ought to wait, as the pixel amends itself using AI to improve performance. Facebook wants to make money at the end of the day. To make sure they make money, they want you to be happy with the ad’s performance. 

Result Oriented Conversion Optimisation

What course of action do your results ask you to take? Read between the lines. Understanding the metrics is important for making the right decisions. There is no room for shooting in the dark or throwing mud at the wall and hoping something sticks. If you are getting the right numbers on Facebook, but not getting expected results on sales, look at your landing page. Where does your ad take the people once they click on it. Analyse the landing page. At times just make some tweaks and see what difference it makes. Make the checkout as simple as possible. Our one concern was that we are yet to get our verified merchant status from PayNow, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence on the part of the end user. There was no quick or easy fix for this. It’s a time game. 

paynow.co.zw not verified


Defined Aim: Data Mining

Our aim when going into ads was to gather as much data as possible so we could understand whom we are marketing to. Invariably, this meant that we had some money to spend on ads with a small regard for financial rewards. Just for background sake, we run several eCommerce campaigns every month for our Digital Marketing branch. Depending on the product we are marketing and the targeted demography, we tailor things differently. This was slightly different, as we had yet to run one for this demography. That being said, similar principles apply.

We spent more on ads than revenue generated.

Result Snapshot

You may recall our damning verdict on iTunes releases in this market? Here is some real life data comparison. Asaph vs the world.

August 5th sales iTunes Zimbabwe

The numbers above are from the 5th of August 2018. No Hip Hop Artist in sight. Only one sale per artist as well. Below are Asaph’s numbers from the same day.

Asaph Mambo Sales 5 August 2018

We count 7 in the same period. We will concede that this is not something that can be sustained on a day to day basis. Some says will go without sales, but when done right, numbers don’t lie.


The culture of piracy hinders sales.

There are many logical reasons why piracy was inevitable, at such epidemical rates. One is obviously the case of availability. One guy would travel elsewhere or get music sent to them from another country. They would have a computer and use this computer to copy music for their friends. They’d soon realise the potential cash cow this was, as Zimbos are quick to. Once that was done, the business model would be replicated. There was a time when the CBD in most cities was filled with small pirating offices. The few guys who had the internet at the time. They’d spend nights pulling in the latest music from torrents, and spend days burning this onto CD, putting it onto customers iPods, MP3 players and so on. 


Adapt or perish

Artists usually evolve their methods to curb these things, and make sure they remain profitable. This is the sort of phenomenon that has propelled Spotify, Netflix and such platforms. Feeding into our need for endless amounts of content. 

In a way, we are working to build something of the sort with Zim Music Store. A single place where you can stream, download and buy music. Enough of the self-promo already.

Zim Dance Hall has responded to this in a seemingly unique way. They want the music, give it to them. What this form of freemium has done for them is facilitate for the building for a large fanbase in as little time as possible. Zim Dance Hall artists have some of the largest followings of any artist in the country. Am I advocating for this? Not at all, I think each to his own is the way to go.

Artists’ collective responsibility within the industry

Purchases of anything as well as its price are based on perceived value. Go ahead, think of any industry. Apple’s products, vehicles, food, need I continue? If the industry artists collectively place value on their art, the fans will follow suit. Artists are influencers of the highest degree. It takes a collective effort to make a change in this regard. The reason Napster died was because of a collective fight from artists and record labels. Combine muscle always wins.

Price Point: 

The going rate for most albums is $3. This is poultry when compared the cost of an international album, which costs about 3 times as much. There are a few factors to be considered before coming to a conclusion here. Economically, Zimbabwe is not in the best shape. The average artist’s budget and expenditure for marketing and the like is no where near what international acts would spend on theirs. This is part of building up that value. 

Market Average

Trading albums at an average of $3 means singles trade at $0.4. This is certainly affordable to most of the demography. This is a key component to marketing. If people cant afford it, convincing them of said value may be futile. 

We chose to go with the international price point of $0.99 per track. This is the biggest song in the damn country! Put some respect on it. 

Would we have gotten more sales if the price point was lower?

Logic says, “Possibly.”

The downside is that, we set a very dangerous precedent for other artists in the future. What is the biggest single in the country worth to a listener? Surely, that answer cannot be $0.4.

What needs to change

Steve Jobs famously said, “Who said anything about needing it?” That births a cultural shift. As things stand, we have a bigger culture of music piracy than that of purchasing what we listen to. For artistry to thrive, this has to begin to change. We concede that, piracy will not end. It is an impossible feat. What needs to change is valuing music. As a fan, I want to pay my favourite artists for their effort. They have rendered a service, and ought to be rewarded fairly for it. 


Artists must do better

Second shift comes from industry artists themselves. We don’t buy each other’s music. That is a very sad thing to note. Where is the love. Asaph releases the country’s biggest song and only 1 artist has purchased it. Then we share our own music followed by hashtags #BuyLocal #SupportLocal. The hypocrisy is what delay our collective emancipation. As an artist, when you buy my music, I will invariably buy yours when you release. We are building this together. There is room for competition, as well as for collaboration. We will all benefit from these changes. 

What’s next

We have poured some money into advertising, and realised these unfortunate things that we, as a nation do not buy as much as we should. This is more so in the genres of Hip Hop/ DanceHall. My hypothesis for this is that we grew up in a more digital age. That age of rife piracy. This devalued music. 

We reached over 40 000 targeted people who for the most part fell within the parameters of our avatar. The conversion rate from view to purchase was under 0.25%. That should scare any artist.

We are working on alternative markets and demography to present the music to. Zim Music Store does not work with artists on a paid project, unless we believe in the product. We believe in this one so much that we will push it a bit further to see what more can be done with it. This will mean within the region and beyond. 

This post/case study will be updated as we do new things. Drop comments and questions.


The biggest win in all this

Saw this while finishing off this case study. The goal as marketers, artists and other stakeholders within the music industry is results such as the one below.

Zimbabweans Buying Zimbabwean Music

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