RISKY LIFE: Is Holy Ten under pressure to constantly release new music

2020 was the year Holy Ten came full circle as a Zim Hip-Hop juggernaut with notable single releases. He made history, bagged multiple awards and broke records by becoming the fastest artist to accumulate three No. 1 debuts in the Apple Music Top 100: Zimbabwe chart's history. He released hit after hit and  sprinkled a docuseries pilot to top it off.  Like anyone else in the Zimbabwean music industry he soon learnt that revenue does not always match the fame and followers. 

With the Covid-19 related lockdown in full effect, the live shows revenue stream dried up and Holy Ten diversified to selling some merchandise. However, the market was not ready for it, the fans critiqued him for the prices so he was forced to keep on releasing and recoup from streaming. He flooded the market with his music whilst simultaneously navigating his way to the top of the game. 

With an album on the way titled Risky Life; maybe Holy Ten finally surpassed the market equilibrium. Generally, in Economics an over-supply of goods or services causes prices to go down, which results in higher demand—while an under-supply or shortage causes prices to go up resulting in less demand. The problem of supply and demand now bleeds into the traditional narratives of music quality, and we are burdened with an entirely new question: Is Holy Ten under pressure to constantly release new music?

On the opposite end of the spectrum of Holy Ten’s music series is an artist like Jnr Brown. Anyone who’s ever known a Jnr Brown fan knows that discussing his long anticipated debut album, Morning Glory, is like discussing Voldemort in the Harry Potter books. Fans of Jnr Brown have been punished and tortured with the idea of new music from him for the past 10 years, and with each new song he releases, which tend to be separated by what feels like 4,600 months, his base’s patience wears thinner. Whereas Holy Ten’s strategy of oversupplying his fan base with music was an attempt to re-enthuse his listeners, Jnr Brown has mastered the art of the drought; the demand for his music comes from his sheer lack of supply.

The art of constantly releasing music is specific strategy that is more common than most fans might realise. For instance in Zim Dancehall, artists like Enzol Ishall and Winky D at the height of their careers. Whilst State side, Rapper Curren$y has hundreds upon hundreds of songs to his name, Spitta is known for his steady stream of high-quality, consistently great material. He gives fans oodles of free music as an  incentive for them to catch a show.

So, the question still remains, Is Holy Ten under pressure to constantly release new music? The signs point in all directions but mainly in the way music is released and consumed these days. An estimated 40,000 tracks are uploaded to Spotify every single day which shortens the attention span for the listeners who are constantly trying to keep up with new releases.

Constantly releasing music can be risky, though. Unintentionally, many artists end up drowning in their own overstock. Even the most successful artists find that their best material like Holy Ten's "Ndaremerwa" and "Kumba Kune Vanhu" which catapulted him to fame is often overlooked by other, more commercially appealing material like "Appetite." In essence, by flooding the market, the artist removes any control they might have had as to what damage that flood can do, including to themselves. “The drought,” on the other hand, feels like a much different monster. The appeal of an artist like Jnr Brown has always been in that perceived control over their own supply in a way that leaves most fans perpetually thirsty for more.

Is it better to release too much music in this day and age? Under the right circumstances, creating vast and extensive catalogs of music at rapid rates can keep rappers’ fan bases satisfied in a way that allows them more opportunities to appreciate the artist's work, and their work ethic as well. However, as simple economics will tell you, increased supply runs a major risk of losing its demand, and artists of both the past and present run the risk of creating white noise within their own catalogs.
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