DJ Black Coffee says tie-up with Gallo Music will benefit fellow artists
A ground-breaking investment deal this week in which music icon DJ Black Coffee took a 20% stake in Gallo Music Investments is set to change the music landscape, putting power - and money - back in the hands of artists.
The internationally acclaimed DJ from Umlazi, real name Nkosinathi Maphumulo, said the R15m partnership has the potential to end the traditional adversarial relationship between artist and record label, ensuring that the musicians retain the rights to their work.
Maphumulo, 44, said the time has come to channel revenue back to the artists and support the sustainability of the music industry.
"For the longest time, there is only one party that has been in the business of music, and that is the record labels," he said.
"It is not their job to teach us how to handle our money or get involved in our lives, but as an artist, I thought we needed a structure that would help us do things better. That's the industry I want to build with Lebashe."
The Lebashe Investment Group acquired Gallo in March for R75m, adding the country's oldest and largest record label to its Arena Holdings media stable, which includes the Sunday Times.
Maphumulo began his music career in the mid-1990s, and caught global house music's attention when he took part in the Red Bull Music Academy in Cape Town in 2003.
In 2015 he was named Breakthrough DJ of the Year at the DJ Awards in Ibiza, and the following year he won the Best International Act - Africa category, at the BET Awards in Los Angeles.
Maphumulo said that historically, standard music contracts have never been in favour of artists.
We want to offer more than just a contract, and that is how the business will changeBlack Coffee
"We want to offer more than just a contract, and that is how the business will change," he said.
"We need to be putting money back into the artists with offerings like medical aid, life cover and salary protectors. We can and will create this support system to make sure that artists have money to look after their futures and those of their families."
Maphumulo said he is determined that artists will retain ownership of their intellectual property, citing the notorious case of Zulu singer Solomon Linda, who composed and recorded a song called Mbube in 1939.
"Discovered" years later by US folk singer Pete Seeger, it was reinvented as the global hit The Lion Sleeps Tonight, featuring in the Disney movie The Lion King.
Linda was never recognised in his lifetime and died in poverty in the 1960s.
"As a label we need to find a way to operate where we don't take rights away from artists," Maphumulo said. "Let's rather work together and have the relationship benefit everyone."
He said many artists who broke into the big time were overwhelmed by the sudden change in fortunes and squandered their earnings, often fading quickly from view.
"Music takes you to a place where you have money, and even though it's not a lot, it's a lot to you," he said.
"We find people irresponsible with the way they spend, yet they have the right to do that because it's theirs. But we want to offer services that allow artists to have a place they can come for advice and guidance.
"I need them [Gallo] to think money, and I will think artists; we'll meet in the middle."
As a teenager, Maphumulo suffered permanent injury to his left arm in a car accident and now uses only one hand to DJ.
He revealed his handicap via Instagram three years ago, saying he'd been bullied about it in his youth and as a result had hidden it from view.
But his life is all about music.
"People are emotionally invested in music, they listen to the songs and follow the artist's career and make memories with the music, so it affects a lot of people. It's important that we keep it playing."
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