Art industry experiencing market slump

By Rosalia David

THE Namibian art industry – especially music and the literary side of the business – continue to feel the squeeze of the current prolonged economic recession as book and album sales continue to drop.

The art industry is surely growing and many artists are investing vast amounts of dollars and time into their talent with the aim of generating a profit, but this has become a nightmare for local shops that stock CDs and books as they continue to collect dust on the shelves. This decline is most evident when it comes to book sales.

Confidente this week spoke to a few owners of bookshops and music shops, authors and musicians about this worrying trend. The manager of Mono Cd shop, Riina Johannes, said their shop was going through a financial meltdown and were struggling to make enough money to pay salaries due to a drastic decrease in CD sales.

“It’s really tough, people are no longer buying CDs like they used to. Paying salaries and sorting out rent [for the outlet] is becoming a challenge because we depend on the share from the sales that we make. Sales drastically went down compared to previous years.”

Owner of Antonio’s Art, Dragan Djokic, popularly known in the music arena as Antonio, shared the same sentiment saying that the economic recession has affected his business; the reason being that people no longer spend as much on CDs and books.

“I have a lot of local books at my shops and CDs that are just here but no one is really buying. People pass by to ask for the prices and further continue doing their window shopping. It’s sad but unfortunately this is what we are facing. No one cares about art anymore, it is the honest truth,” Antonio added.

Although we have seen a lot of artists making some money through individual sales and jukeboxes, Nasho Baptista from a musical group named House Guru Gang that released their album recently, backed up Antonio’s comment, saying there is indeed a vast difference between 2016 CD sales and 2019.

“Apart from the economy, technology is also affecting us, major sales used to come from jukebox owners, but now people have invented machines that don’t require hard copies anymore. We all know that Namibians hardly buy music online, they prefer getting songs on WhatsApp or Bluetooth for free rather,” he said.

According to Radical Bookshop’s operational manager, Humble Paulus, readers tend to purchase books that they have heard about or if they know the author. She said, “People are ready to buy books but only if it’s known. But if the marketing strategy is not at its best level, it is difficult and affects the flow of sales. I think they buy when it’s relatable and affordable.”

The author of two books, ‘Unleashing and Honouring your Invisible Contract’ and ‘Everything is War’, Otto Kapuka said more needs to be done to convince Namibians to buy local books.

“People are slowly finding interest in reading and supporting local authors. However, it’s obvious that many are now conscious about what they spent their money on. Besides that, a lot of people are not aware of local authors and therefore opt for international books. Authors need to push hard in creating awareness [of their works],” Kapuka noted.

This suggests that Namibia has a long way to go before it gains significant presence in the field of African literature. Perhaps local writing first needs to become popular in Namibia before it can be expected to penetrate the rest of the continent. Their literary efforts would be complemented by ‘concerted effort’ on part of the Ministry of Education to promote local writers.