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July 26, 2023.

The Munashe Effect:
How an artist gained support from Triple J, Vice, Fash Early and more without releasing a song.

Munashe hasn’t released any music yet, but the buzz is palpable. He has been able to generate somewhat of a grassroots cult following through a series of private shows to a select audience in unusual locations. The shows feel as if he would be doing it regardless if you were there or not. This energy is contagious, it’s infectious. We’re all social animals, so we all want to feel involved. To be a part of the pack. It’s a deep survival mechanism that exists in all of us, so it’s no wonder people are clamouring to be a part of it.

Of course he wants people to enjoy the music, for it to be communal, but it’s intention isn’t to be seen by everyone or for commercial return. The purpose of playing music, is to play music. So, as result you get an unfiltered view of his creative output. It’s not for the music industry, it’s for him and the people that will find value in his work.

As a result it’s highly valuable because it’s not really for sale. It’s unlike anything else in music and when you have so much of the same, this approach is a breath of fresh air. The music industry can be a race to the bottom. People chasing algorithmic trends and trying to hit the ceilings of proven success stories of the past. It becomes mass produced, uniform. Larger companies can get away with this type of output because they have the marketing resources to expose a product to people so much that over time they’re forced to simply digest it. Coke, Amazon, Nike.

Humanness, rawness and authenticity seems to create a more fertile ground for connection than these practices do. Advertising has worked for some in the past, but in the attention economy smaller artists and labels can’t compete with larger players in an overcrowded media landscape.

What artists can do is create moments for catharsis, connection and expression. This is what art was originally intended for and it is what is of high value to people. This is what people are willing to invest meaningfully in and share.

Ironically, the result of Munashe’s expression has ended up providing him with the exact thing he wasn’t set out to achieve by doing these sessions. Industry recognition. There’s no doubt every man and their dog with A&R in their title has been in touch. Artists, labels, publishers and manager’s fight so desperately for the recognition of outlets such as Triple J and VICE. In such a crowded market place, it’s understandable. Any exposure to find a meaningful connection with a new fan is so valuable. In Munashe’s story, it was the focus on the process that made him stand out to these outlets on his own.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point there are three factors that influence a pandemic, trend or any type of virality. In Munashe’s instance, all three factors are being executed to perfection.

1. The Law Of The Few: The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts. Ones that will share a message and have the ability to influence others.
At these gigs other artists, industry folk and music lovers have been part of the attendees. People who are trusted for taste and who will tell people that trust them about how impactful the event was.

2. The Power Of Context: The Power of Context refers to the environment or historical moment in which the trend is introduced. If the context is not right, it is not likely that the tipping point will take place.

The shows themselves are improvised and DIY in nature. Because the crowd is a select few, contextually they are all in an emotional space that demands their attention. The fact that the set is one of a kind and improvised only heightens the fact that this performance is fleeting and attention is essential.

3. Stickiness: What makes this thing remarkable, that is to be remarked about. It’s about the message but most importantly how it’s delivered.

No one does gigs like these. Therefore, it is to be remarked about. Improvisation, tick. Songs like they’ve never been heard before, tick. Unusual locations, tick. Unorthodox band positioning, tick. Crowd involvement, tick. RSVP only, tick.

It’s the purple cow theory — if you go past a field of normal cows you say nothing, if you see something out of the ordinary like, a purple cow, you will remark about it. But the stickiest thing about it? The music, the energy in the room, the skill set of the performers is all world class.

This project is reminding us all of the importance of artistry in a world of metrics, social numbers and streams. These are all things we chase to prove that we’re doing something of worth, so that we get opportunities, so that we can fund what we do, so we can keep doing it. But the bravery of Munashe to embrace the practice of being an artist and disengage from these outcomes have created a paradoxical intention that ironically drives these metrics.

It is important to note that Munashe can and will likely be successful with this approach as this is core to his artistic identity. It’s in alignment with the ethos of his artistic journey and the same approach is not right for all artists. The reason why this is working is because the approach is a true reflection of the individual creating the art. It’s what has attracted an audience. Whilst compelling, his exact journey isn’t the only path to success by any means, but what does feel universal is that it is unique to him.

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