Music Mi-Stros: Q&A with Waheed Carrim & Nkululeko Mayiyane

Q: What is Mi-Stro Records?

A: We are a vibrant Record Label founded in Sophiatown, developing young and upcoming talent by means of recording music, music videos, marketing, branding, events, publishing and creating a long-term career in the music industry. Mi-Stro, derived from the English word, “maestro” is the standard we live by – to always set ourselves apart from everyone else in any sphere. We always strive to be the best at everything we do, to master the art of music and more.

Q: Why did you come up with the record label?

A: Primarily because we love music. Beyond that fact, the aim with Mi-Stro Records was to empower talented youth, challenge injustice to artists in the industry, and enable them more opportunity to be seen and heard. We wanted to do this by providing them with quality services and support, ultimately leading them to reach their full potential and compete at the highest level in the music business.

Q: Who are the main stakeholders of the business and how have you separated your roles?

A: Nkululeko and Waheed. Our roles have been very much the same along the building process as it has enabled us to balance between each other. There’s not much we cannot do as we’ve both worked from ground level for a very long time. We now work with a dedicated team of people with very specific roles, that are able to carry out tasks and operations on a day to day basis.

Q: What are some of the challenges that you’ve encountered as an independent record company?

A: The biggest challenge was always financial. When you start, raising capital is not the easiest, especially when your brand is very small and inexperienced. Over time we learned that investing in our own brand would be very key to encouraging other investors to doing the same.

Managing artists meant managing people, and that had its challenges as well, which we are now very thankful for because we’ve overcome them and we’re able to use that experience for the betterment of our Record Label.

Q: What are some of the goals or milestones that you have achieved since the establishment of the record company?

A: We’ve built a recognizable brand with a strong presence in the industry for the youth, and we’re showing that they can compete at a high level.

We’ve established a structured label with young talented artists, DJs, producers, photographers, directors, cinematographers, A&R and PR.

We’ve also had artists nominated in South African awards, and more will surely follow.

Q: What is the current typical structure of a record deal?

A: Most industry record deals consist of what is known to be a 360 deal, where the artists are usually offered an advance with the expectation of them delivering specifics from that. We work differently from that.

Q: What sort of relationships can an artist or indie label establish with a major record company?

A: There are various beneficial options artists/indie labels can take up with majors. It is always dependent on the strengths of an artist/indie label. For instance, building a relationship takes time. It takes even longer to build multiple relationships in multiple areas that are geographically outside of your reach. Major labels have a global network which artists and labels can benefit from in the areas of distribution and/or marketing. There are more services such as licensing and publishing that both parties can collaborate with.

Q: How do you aim to change the current state of the record deals or music industry?

A: We are very transparent in the way we work, and we structure our agreements in a way that is beneficial for both parties. Objectives from both parties are a very key part of our agreements as we believe in progression and growth for both the business, and the art.

Q: What would be your typical advice to an up and coming artist that interested in taking their music career to the next level? Or what should artists look out for before signing any type of a record deal?

A: The most important thing as an artist is establishing yourself as a brand first before putting yourself out there. You may be very talented musically; however, you also need to set yourself apart by branding yourself. Like with any presentation, you must look the part before people decide to hear you out.

When it comes to record deals, always have an advisor with a legal background to assist with the breakdown of the agreement so you’re fully aware of expectations.

Q: Where do you see the music industry (global and local) in the next 3-5 years? And what would be your role in this change?

A: Music is an essential part of our lives and it will continue to be so in future. This means there will always be a demand for it, and the industry will continue to meet those demands. With the evolution of technology (such as digital streaming platforms, and Internet of Things), the accessibility of music is much easier on demand, and less reliant on commercial platforms such as television and radio. Internet is taking over the new generation of music listeners and we are already a part of the movement, housing artists with a fanbase that is very “internet driven”. We aim to continue embracing this change and still grow a strong presence in the commercial space as well. Globally we see a lot more international collaborations in both the musical and business areas. This means a lot of growth and appreciation all over the world for the African culture and sound.