In this week’s column I Leslie Mupeti (LM) sat down with entertainment and marketing maverick, Rain Jasmin Midzi (RM). Rain is a content digital marketer, a music video director, an artiste manager and PR, actress/ media personality, film producer, scenic designer and social media marketer. Her work experience is broad. She has worked with National Aids Council, My Age Zim Trust. She has also worked with Charles Austin Theatre, Zim hip-hop Awards, Changamire Awards and both Blaqs and Andy Cutta, Nash TV and ZBC etc. Currently, she is the producer for Nelned TV responsible for “Gonarezhou the movie”, “The story of Nehanda” and “Becoming Madam Boss” and is associated with a number of artists here in Zimbabwe and Jamaica. Enjoy the conversation!
LM) I understand that you studied Agriculture. How on earth did you end up in media and entertainment?
RM: I grew up in Chiredzi and I was brought up in a family of music. My father used to do music a long time ago going by the name of Blackfire. He used to record with the likes of Roki and Maskiri. I was in pre-school at that time and I was hanging around all these people. I did go on to do agriculture at school because I really loved the field of Sciences and I grew up on a farm so that was really the inspiration behind me doing agriculture.
I then started doing drama when I was in Form Four. I didn’t really want to be in front of the camera acting but I really wanted to be a musician like my dad. I ended up doing high school acting to the point where I started getting awards in Masvingo district. After my A-Levels I got a job at the Charles Austin theatre in Masvingo and that’s where I fell in love with production behind the scenes like directing, camera operations and production. A couple of my friends from the theatre started a film production company and then we started doing filming. I then moved to Harare working for Moses Matanda and then that’s where I met Blaqs the video director. It was easy for me to talk to people in the industry because of the connections growing up in a musical family.
With Blaqs we first directed Ammara’s “Watchu want from me” video then she asked me to be in the video and that’s when people started noticing me. I started working with Blaqs consistently behind the scenes as well as Andy Cutta. I studied photography on the side and I became a photographer and once I became a photographer I started doing celebrity photography. I used to visit musicians’ studio sessions and have conversations with the musicians. It was really easy for me to connect with them because of my background. From there I started looking more into the music business and marketing side of things, like how to make money from music. I taught myself marketing and that’s when I started managing artists.
LM: How has been your journey in the industry so far?
RM: My journey has been great because I have a passion for the arts and I’m in an industry that I really love. I have been able to make a difference in the industry. However, as a female person in the industry I have struggled to get people to take me seriously because most men in the industry tend to view females in a certain way. But right now I have reached that point where when people talk about me they view me as an intelligent person in the music business.
There’s a lot of hard work involved in the process and there’s a certain pressure that’s involved when you no longer work with a certain artist that you worked with for a long time. I feel like it’s time for me to become a brand in my own right, I have been building brands my entire life. It’s time for me to take my work to the mainstream because as of now I’m popular in the music circles not among regular Zimbabweans. Most people are familiar with my work but they don’t really know the face behind it so that’s what I’m trying to change.
LM: You have worked with so many big artists and brands such as Poptain, Enzo Ishall, Ammara Brown etc. How is the experience working with such big talents?
RM: It’s really fun. I always try to make sure to cultivate a relationship with these artists. This makes discussing business easier for me because they are more keen to listen to what I have to say. With Enzo, it was amazing because he is a really humble person.
We have worked together for years now and till now he still comes for advice regardless of how big he is. With Poptain I was his manager and we had a very great relationship. Unfortunately it ended but we still work together. Ammara is like a sister to me. Having one of my biggest projects on Channel O was because I featured on her video, so I’m super grateful for that.
LM: What constitutes your work as an artist consultant?
RM: The fact that I’m so familiar with the field so much that I’m always studying. Everyday I’m constantly studying what others are doing in America, South Africa or Nigeria and trying to introduce it this side. What my work constitutes is brand building and brand visibility. Whether you’re already a big artiste like Winky D or a newcomer and nobody knows you, I assess your brand and strategise on how you can work or blow up in the internet world. I always believe that it is very important to tell Zimbabwean stories from where you’re coming from so that the international world can appreciate you more. As an artiste consultant I’m consulting you on your brand and how to move or achieve certain goals. My work is not only confined to artistes I also work with other personal brands and companies.
LM: You’re also a video director, a producer and a digital marketer. How do you balance so many roles?
RM: I try to take as little work as possible. I don’t overwhelm myself with a lot of work. I create a schedule around my work. For example I have already created a schedule for all the work I’ll be doing in February so everything is organised. My contracts are typically 3-6 months so I know that for this period I’ll be working on these certain brands. I don’t want to overwhelm myself with a lot of work. I also believe in building other people. If I have a lot of work on my plate I also refer some of the work to my peers in the industry.
LM: You speak a lot about having talent with no skill. What do you mean by this statement? Isn’t my talent enough for my success in the music industry?
RM: A lot of people are so talented be it in acting, speaking in front of people, music, vocals etc. Having skills means you need to nurture and grow the talent. If you can sing it means you need to start taking vocal lessons, start eating certain foods, doing certain exercises to maintain those vocals. A good example is Beyonce, she was trained as a child, she sang in church, she turned that little talent into something and now she has become a very good vocalist.
It’s very important when you have a certain talent to acquire knowledge around your talent so that you know exactly how to monetize and perfect it. You can’t be called the greatest singer in the world based on talent alone. Here in Zimbabwe my problem with people is they go in the booth then they sing and expect to capture people based on that alone. You need to polish yourself and become a brand that people can actually put money in. Talent with no skill is basically having ten dollars and just keeping it in your pocket instead of investing it and getting a hundred or a thousand.
LM: What do you think about the Zimbabwean music industry? Are we progressing or are we going backwards?
RM: The Zim music Industry saddens me a lot. We are very talented people that can go very far but we are not progressing. Why? We refuse to move forward. Yes, there’s Jah Prayzah with dope cars and great videos but we are not good at telling our story. Burna boy calls himself the African giant and he carries the Nigerian culture on his shoulders. We need to sit down and define our Zimbabwean sound and how we can put it internationally. You want to do hip hop? That’s fine, but don’t forget your originality of where you’re from. We’re not telling our stories about, for example, Chidhumo and Masendeke.
We now have people masquerading as gangsters putting on drags but that is not our culture. We are not progressing. We can never progress if we’re not taking our culture seriously.
The reason why Nigeria is one of the biggest music industries in the world is because they carry their sound with pride and that’s why you have them collaborating with big American artistes because they offer something different to the table. Master KG is playing in every club in the UK and the States because he stuck to his culture.
LM: As a digital marketing specialist. What’s the role of digital marketing when it comes to pushing music nowadays?
RM: Back then you would get a CD burn it and if there were ten songs on that CD listeners were limited to that. These days the internet has given us access to a limitless selection of artists and music to listen to. Digital marketing comes in to give an artist a market that focuses solely on that artiste.
Social media is very crucial because the more people see you the more people want to know what you’re about. If you’re just quiet then nobody will listen to your music. Digital marketing is basically branding a person and making sure that what people see on social media and what they hear is captivating enough for them to stick around because everyday there’s a new artiste popping up. If you’re not marketing or strategising your work properly, people will just jump to the next ship. Digital marketing is there to make an artiste stay relevant and visible online. It’s just like how newspapers made people in Masvingo know an artist from Harare. Now we’re trying to make an artist from Zimbabwe known in China or America.
LM: In this internet age, most up coming musicians are distributing their music online and actually blowing up on there. However, on the ground they’re struggling to make a living from their art and most of them are not even known by the majority of people who don’t have the internet and social media. What’s the best strategy for balancing between the internet and real life when it comes to music distribution?
RM: A lot of upcoming artistes are internet kids. They don’t look at a person like a Leonard Zhakata and say this is a person we look up to. They look up to artists like Takura or Holy Ten and these are internet people already. What these artists need to do is they need to take a holistic approach when it comes to marketing their work.
Yes, you’re popular online but just think of a person in Chegutu or Gutu who doesn’t have Apple music. How are you going to do a show there when these people don’t know you? So you need both sides to thrive: The internet and in the streets. That’s how platforms like radio come in, go for radio interviews, put your music on ZBC, distribute your music in schools, kombis etc. The problem is artists feel like they are too big for this type of marketing. Put posters up, do newspapers and utilise all these traditional channels.
LM: Most local artistes find it difficult to build a brand image. How do I get started as an artist when it comes to building my persona?
RM: It’s not difficult to build a brand. It’s all about acquiring knowledge about your respective industry. There’s no excuse to building a brand. Look at how others do their work and learn from them. How are they monetizing their work? The Bible says my people perish due to lack of knowledge. It becomes difficult when you’re not doing anything to attain knowledge to become a brand. You need to be open minded and ask the right question. I myself did not go to school to become a photographer. I used to pay a dollar in internet cafes to learn photography online. I did that for two weeks straight until I became good. This means that lack of funds is not really an excuse when it comes to knowledge acquisition. It’s okay to copy what other people are doing but add your own flair to it and customize it according to who you are.
LM: Is it a good idea for me as an upcoming artist to repurpose my hit song as a jingle for advertising?
RM: It’s a good idea. Just make sure that the contract makes sense. But I don’t advise putting a hit song as a jingle for advertising. I feel like it’s very lame. When you wrote that song and it became a hit you had something in mind. Twisting that song to then fit that brand you’re advertising for then makes life harder for everyone. Just do a song that matches the brand you’re doing a jingle for. Getting the contract right is very important because you wouldn’t want to be hungry when your song is being played for two years and you only got paid for two months.
LM: Most upcoming artistes and some big artistes in the country operate like “lone-rangers” or at best they hire their best friend who has a car as their “manager”. What’s the importance of having a team surrounding an artist and which individuals are key for a great team?
RM: When you’re an upcoming artiste it’s difficult to have a full on team because these people need to get paid. This means you’ll be doing most of the work yourself or working with your friends, to get you from point A to point B, but when money starts coming in it’s very important to invest that money in a team. This is important because as an artist you need to focus on being an artiste, writing songs etc. You need to have a manager. You can either get one person who’s an all rounder, who can negotiate contracts, handle finances, bookings etc. or you can have multiple people who are specialised in different departments, it all depends on your finances. Investing brings in more money.
LM: Album roll-outs have been generally poor in the local music industry. What constitutes a good album roll-out strategy?
RM: I feel like there needs to be workshops to educate our artists on what an album is, what an EP is, what a mixtape is etc so that they know on what point one can release these projects. Album roll-outs in Zim are bad because people don’t know the meaning behind an album. That’s why they really never work unless you’re a big artist. A lot of things come into play when it comes to an album release strategy. The type of music you’re doing, who’s going to be distributing your music, who are you collaborating with, your videos, your producers, your graphics, media etc. are all factors you need to include in your strategy. I don’t really understand why Zim artistes shy away from the media because if I’m going to be doing an event I’d rather give free tickets to every media house in Zimbabwe so that they push the narrative of the album. They don’t even invest money for proper photographers to come in. You need to look at your target audience and devise a strategy on how to get that market to pay attention to you. Look at your streaming reports and work according to those statistics. There are many things you need to consider before you put out an album. I always say that the best time to put out an album is when you’re at least five years in the game. That is why big artistes like Kendrick Lamar do albums after five years. An album is a life story. What story are you going to be telling us in a short space of time like one year?
LM: What does Rain like to do when she is not working?
RM: I’m always working. I’m an introvert and it’s weird because I’m always surrounded by social people but most of the time I’m in the house working on my laptop. If I’m not working I’m watching a movie in my room. If it’s the holidays I like visiting game parks, watching animals, mountain climbing, I’m more of an outdoor activity person than a go to the club type of person. I love cooking as well. I’ll be taking more cooking lessons this year.
LM: Any new projects you’re working on that we should look forward to?
RM: I’m working on a lot of projects but I don’t like to prematurely announce things. I’m a very spiritual person. We still have the “Becoming Madam boss” movie coming out which I produced.
LM: Where can we find you on social media
RM: rainjasmin_ on IG, RainjasminMidzy on Facebook , Snapchat , tiktok and RMidzy on Twitter
Leslie Mupeti is a brand strategist and creative innovator. He can be reached for feedback on [email protected] or +263 785 324 230. His Twitter and Facebook is @lesmupeti.