The question of inquiring the current modus operandi of record labels in Zimbabwe is one that immediately leads you to a facepalm gesture. Perhaps, you could remain in that facepalm gesture and slowly open one eye to see if you can find any innovative and leading-edge record companies in Zimbabwe.
Anyways, long story short; as for record companies in Zimbabwe, you can pretty much equate them to briefcase companies or phantom companies because even though some may be legally registered business entities they do nothing that Zim artists can't do for themselves.
In fact, most contemporary and prominent Zim artists have been going strong without the need for standard record label deals as you would expect in other parts of the world.
The new age of interactive streaming music services such as YouTube, Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music e.t.c has thus benefited Zim artists in terms of the following:
Improved Internet Marketing Strategies & Brand Visibility
Improved International Music Distribution
Opportunities for Increased Revenue Income Stream (e.g YouTube Partnership Program & royalties from Spotify e.t.c)
Now to address the main challenges of record companies in Zimbabwe face we will briefly list them as follows:
The business of music in Zimbabwe has been impacted by easy-going law enforcement towards intellectual property.
Lack of investor's confidence to fund record companies due to turbulent political and economic upheavals.
Starting a record label in South Africa or anywhere else in the world is all about having an in-depth understanding of the music industry and business law in that particular environment.
There are certain things that you have to put into consideration or should we say a checklist of how you want to structure your record label in South Africa.
For example, you can choose to start a Holding Company which operates different subsidiaries. This means you can have "Subsidiary Company A" main focus being SA House Music whilst "Subsidiary Company B" being SA Hip Hop music. You get the idea, don't you?
But if you want the main focus for your record label to be on one particular genre of music you can pretty much decide whether you are interested in SA House Music or SA Hip Hop music since these two are the most popular genres of music in South Africa.
Or better yet you can venture into other genres of music that are marketable in the South African music industry.
=> Structuring Your Record Label in South Africa <=
When we talk of the business structure for your record label in South Africa we are basically referring to how you want your legal business entity to be chartered or to be formed in full correspondence to South African company law.
For instance, you can either decide to form your record company as a corporation or as a private company. But there shouldn't be any chance that you would want to start a record label in South Africa as a sole proprietor or sole trader because that comes with unlimited liability which is bad news if ever you encounter a lawsuit coming towards your way.
Please be informed, that the decision to structure your record label as a corporation in South Africa requires extensive legal paperwork and a capable board representation to enforce good corporate governance with the end result that the record company might eventually be listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) if all the necessary legal requirements are met.
Alternatively, setting up a private limited company will be more realistic if you don't want to go through the JSE listing process and if you also want to avoid being liable to public scrutiny including the costly legal and filing fees that are synonymous with corporations.
N.B. In South Africa, you can register your private limited company at the Companies and Intellectual Property Registration Office (Cipro). Private companies in South Africa are recognized with the suffix "(Pty) Ltd" while public corporations are easily recognizable with designation "Ltd".
For example, "Company X Records (Pty) Ltd" would mean it's a private company registered in South Africa. On the other hand "Company Y Records Ltd" suggests that the company is a registered public company in South Africa.
=> How to Choose a Name for Your Record Label <=
Given that you have decided that you want your record label to be either a public company or a private limited company. The next step is to choose a name for your record label using the following basic lines of thought:
The company name you intend to use for your record label should NOT be registered to any entity. Look out for other trademarked names as well.
It's highly advisable to choose a company name where the website domain name is also available. This is beneficial not only for SEO purposes but for other interested individuals to quickly recognize your online presence and get in touch for deals or endorsements.
It's also recommended that you choose a record label name that is easy to pronounce for marketing purposes. For example, don't settle for stupid or silly names. Branding is very important for future investment deals. Be serious, wena!
People don't understand it's a numbers game, including the fact that if the artists on a record label aren't at the top of the music food chain they will be dropped!
Even artists across other poor nations have also got dropped from small start-up music record companies when they feel the pinch of their local economy and were caught up in financial woes. The same is true for the Zim music industry.
You have to factor in costs of recording studio time, sound engineering costs, promotion of the album or single and any other sundry music business costs. So it's quite easy in the music industry to spend so much money.