The advent of new technologies and gadgets has seen a sudden twist to the old ways of doing business in the arts industry. These platforms have made the business of distribution and marketing arts both easy – or difficult – depending on who you are.

Online distribution has made it possible for artists to distribute their works in a personal capacity. The interaction between them and their fans can have a tremendous impact.

Tafara Adonia Magarira, a young poet from Zimbabwe is using WhatsApp messenger to disseminate his poems and says the platform is efficient.

WhatsApp has become a platform to safekeep poems until the poet gets enough resources to publish through a professional publisher

Magarira who is also a student at Midlands State University (MSU) in Zimbabwe says that he finds solace in WhatsApp as it helps a great deal in promoting his works.

‘Since WhatsApp is the most accessed or available media source for most people in the country, which is cheap to use and very efficient, I’m using it to distribute my poems.’

‘With one group message/or poem you can reach more than 50 people; so to me WhatsApp is my publisher and I also send voice recordings too,’ he said.

21-year-old Magarira adds that he and his poet colleagues are using WhatsApp as a haven to safekeep their poems until they get enough money to publish their works through a publishing house. In the process, they are also creating a name for themselves.

‘Apart from getting an audience, I’m also a member of Padare WhatsApp group where poetry is our only means of communication. In this group we are seven members and all of us are poets.’ he said.

Artists should deal with service providers in striking deals that bring financial benefit to them when using WhatsApp.

Magarira’s story is not an isolated case but just one example of thousands of poets, musicians, moviemakers, beat boxers and writers across the African region who are using the WhatsApp platform.

Artists like Basketmouth from Nigeria, Kansiime Anne from Uganda, Uncle Richie from Zimbabwe, Goodenough from South Africa, to mention but a few, are some of the examples of artists who have become popular through using the WhatsApp platform.

Music videos like Kuregerera in Advance by Takesure Ncube, Unconquerable by Dr Tawanda and Akayida by Guru (Boys Abr3) join a host of videos that also have gotten the attention of many through WhatsApp across the region.

It is only a matter of an artist uploading his works on WhatsApp, sending it to his contacts and the groups that he belongs to and, via the pass-along effect, the piece of art will reach thousands if not millions depending on the quality of the product.

Considering the impact artists across the region are making through the WhatsApp application, can one say that the problems artists are facing with regards to distribution and marketing of their art have been solved?

Certainly not!

Distribution of artistic works has been and still is a challenge and experts say it is the missing link in ensuring the growth of the arts sector in the region.

Either artists embrace technology or they risk perishing.

Simbarashe Namusi, a Harare-based social commentator and music critique, says artists must also consider dealing with network service providers like MTN, Mascom, Telece and Econet to ensure some financial benefit.

‘Artists should deal with service providers in striking deals that bring financial benefit to them with regards to the usage of WhatsApp.

‘Doing that will help not only in publicising their works but also in curbing piracy which is a menacing scourge.

‘Artists in the region should learn that this is the 20th century in that they should fully embrace technology and use it to their benefit,’ he said.

Echoing Namusi’s sentiments, Magarira says either artists embrace technology or they risk perishing.

‘As an artist, if you want to get to the people, then use what people can afford, otherwise you become a silent drummer.’