Universal Sounds improves local sales

By By Shasimana Uugulu
May 2010
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THERE is no short-cut to being a successful artist and building up a reputable fan base, although there is an exception when one is a born a genius, says Clive Robert Plaatjie, the owner of Universal Sounds, Namibia’s leading musical shop.

Clive, a familiar face to most musicians but barely known by music lovers, is the man to talk to when it comes to selling CDs and connecting with international artists in South Africa and the USA.

He became involved with the local music industry in 2004 when he took over the ownership of Universal Sounds from its previous owner and his friend Arno Deberti who went on to venture into other businesses in northern Namibia. Universal Sounds has been on the scene since 1993.

“I am grateful to Deberti for giving me this opportunity to venture into the music industry and contribute to the success of our local artists by selling their CDs and exposing them to the market”.

Universal Sounds has of late become the ideal management to connecting with South African and American artists, besides selling CDs.

“For me, artists own this shop, not me, I am just a manager. First of all this shop belongs to the Divine power and I always ask God to give me courage and strength to manage it for the artists. It belongs to the artists, I only manage it for them.”

The success of Universal Sounds stem from the fact that it maintains a good relationship with most artists and Clive always makes sure that he offers his advice to artists when necessary. This win – win relationship have grown over the last six years and has increased the sales of local CDs.
When Clive took ownership of Universal Sounds, the CD selling ratio was 80 per cent foreign compared to 20 per cent local.

During that time there were very few local artists such as Ras Sheehama,Mascato Youth choir, Namib Marimbas and Jackson Kaujeua.

“However with the arrival of artists such as Tate Buti, The Dogg and Gazza the ratio started improving dramatically and the CD selling ratio now stands at 65 per cent local and 35 percent foreign CDs”.

These artists, Tate Buti, The Dogg and Gazza started off very slowly, performing at schools level and canvassing for support from corporate industry and getting managers and finally launching CDs.

“In the process, these artists have kept building up a fan base and at the moment can draw massive crowds to their shows and there are no short cuts to the successes achieved by these guys unless you are really a genius”.

Clive noted that there are upcoming artists that want to be treated in the same category as established artists like Tate Buti, Dogg, Gazza, Sunny Boy, Gal Level, PDK, Qondja, Ondarata ,Onyoka, just to mention a few but have not done their homework well.

“Established artists have built up a fan base over the years and some are on the verge of conquering Africa. To survive in this industry, upcoming artists need to do better than these guys or otherwise they just have to go through the stages that these guys went through”.

“If you want a fan base as an upcoming artist you must start from the grassroots level. You must start by receiving airplay on radio stations and if your songs are hits, then you can start organizing shows but if your shows cannot attract a sizable crowd, I advice you not to launch a CD as it will be hard to sell in shops. An easier way to see and know your target market is for instance, if say your target market is jukeboxes, send someone with a raw copy to different jukeboxes in a small location, play for a small crowd and monitor their reaction. Then go back to the studio and correct the points of criticism before it is ready for a test performance. If an artist’s live performances with established artists are polished, radio DJs will approach you.

Airplay on radio might determine if your songs will be in demand or not. Then you can start organizing shows, but if your shows cannot attract a sizeable crowd, I advise that you not launch that CD because it will be hard to sell,” advises Clive Plaatjie.
He said fans are important as they buy CDs and if you do not have them your CDs will stay in shops for months, and that is obviously not good for business.

According to him, upcoming artists are now into a bad habit of inviting established artists to perform at their shows or CD launches. This gives an upcoming artist a wrong impression that he is popular due to the large crowds present, meanwhile these crowds are mainly attracted by the presence of a certain established artist and makes it hard for the artist to know the number of fans he has.

“However at the end of the day the artist will be surprised that his CD is not selling in shops”.

Top selling artists in the country are Kuku Kandanga, The Dogg, Gazza, Tate Buti, Onyoka, Ongoronomundu, Stanley and Phura not in any particular order, as Clive says it is difficult to identify the real best seller “as the margin between those artists are very small’.

Clive refuted arguments that musical shops are making money out of artists’ products.

“I have great respect for artists, whether established or upcoming. I value the time that they spent in front of their computers, studios and recording equipment. However it should be understood that the music retail is a business and it should be a win-win situation.”

He said the shops have also many other costs that they have to take care of such as the rental fees which are high, especially when renting in the central business district (CBD) where Universal Sounds is located.According to him a 40 per cent markup on CD sales is a fair deal.
He emphasized the importance of artists making their CDs available to music shops in order to curb piracy.

“Sometimes piracy thrives due to the unavailability of CDs in music stores. For example, I know of two popular artists from Oviritje and Damara-Punch genres whose songs are hits but due to the fact that their CDs are not available in music stores, their fans are likely to engage in piracy.”

Clive stressed that complaints about music stores making money out of artists are unfounded and artists that refuse to sell their CDs through music stores are denying themselves exposure.

He stressed that music stores cannot buy CDs from artists in cash as there is no guarantee that they will be sold at the end of the day. Universal Sounds also sells more local CDs s during high tourists season especially during May, August and September, as the shop is based in right in the hub of tourism’s Windhoek hotspot and they always come in looking for something to take with from Namibia.

“However, our best months are the Mshasho month, GMP month, Tate Buti Month, Gal Level month, Sunny Boy, Onyoka month etc. When I say Mshasho month, I mean the month during these popular artists would launch their CDs which is characterized by their fans coming in numbers to buy a CD copy of their favourite artist.”

Clive is grateful to the Namibian people especially the fans as they tend to be loyal to their artists and always come to buy the original copies.

He said the government must look into establishing recording centres in rural areas as there is an unexploited talent in rural areas and urged for a combined input from the public and private sector to financially assist artists that have proven themselves but face huge financial uphills.

Meanwhile, he is happy with Namibian songs in general, but is a bit concerned about the quality especially in the final mixing which he says is not yet up to standard and there is more that needs to be done to improve quality.

“Our final mixing is not yet up to standard, however I have gotten feedback from tourists who bought CDs from our shop that the music is quite good and we only need to improve on the final mixing and mastering”.

Clive has been involved in the promotion of Namibian music outside the country, particularly in South Africa where he has managed to act as a point man between South Africa’s DJ Bojo Mujo and Namibian artists Tequila and Lady May.

“I took Tequila and Lady May and other Namibian CDs to see Bojo Mujo in South Africa and he got interested in working with them”.

That resulted in a great collaboration between Tequila and Mujo, when she featured him in the song “Marry Me,” which has been rocking Namibia and South Africa since December last year.

Lady May for her part featured Mojo in the song Dana, with the video set to be shot soon in Namibia.

Universal Sounds could not have maintained such a fruitful relationship with artists for this long had it not been for the input of his personnel in Tate Josephat, Lionel and Clifford among others, Clive concludes.PF