Zimi Seh Music - Hit by COVID, entertainment company refocuses time and money into artistes
In a music industry beset with the challenges posed by the global coronavirus pandemic, the entertainment agency responsible for popular events Zimi Seh Brunch and Zimi Seh Riva has moved into music.
“The moment the first case of the novel coronavirus was discovered in Jamaica, we discussed the possibilities of cancelling all our events for the rest of the year. For me, it was not about the money, but that one case could potentially ruin a brand that we spent six years to build,” Nicholas ‘Zimi Nick’ Mahfood, director of Zimi Entertainment, told The Gleaner.
He expressed that the group was coming off a high, with Zimi Seh Brunch and Zimi Seh Riva turning out the largest patronages in December 2019 and January 2020, respectively. He said the team was deep into the promotion of the March 2020 staging of Zimi Seh Brunch in Miami when the first case was recorded in Jamaica.
“We have not rushed to host any parties because one bad situation, let’s say, one individual can leave your event and end up getting sick, which puts the brand into a negative spotlight – nothing was worth having that stigma attached to the brand,” he said. “I’d say by summer when a small window of opportunity was there to collaborate with an event series, which was Hotbox, we realised we would have to cancel the Boxing Day staging of Zimi Seh Riva and any other event.”
Mahfood said despite the perception that the entertainment industry is detached from the global crisis, “for many, the focus was survival”.
“Party promoters were looked down on especially with the export of several popular events into the US. There was a lot of talk that there was no care for the health of people or that there appeared to be no sign of worry, but at the same time some of these events supported families of bar and waitstaff, gate attendants, security personnel to the soup man,” Mahfood said, adding that the entertainment industry supported a broad scope of businesses, “which probably will not see any sense of normality until summer of next year”.
He added, “It’s been a rough year for events, and definitely unfortunate in terms of the loss of livelihoods and lives at the global level. I, personally, wasn’t working in a traditional job last year, but when the cash flow goes from what it was to zero, something had to be done, especially with other looming business investments.”
One of Zimi Entertainment’s main investments for 2020 has been music. As the windows of opportunity closed on events, Zimi Entertainment unlocked the doors to another section of the industry with the release of the hit single Yeng by Intence. The dancehall track, which was mix and mastered by in-house audio engineer and beatmaker Franc White, garnered 800,000 views on YouTube and has done equally well on digital streaming platforms.
“The team dedicated a lot of time and energy into music production, but in terms of a breakthrough, where Zimi was stamped in the industry as prime contributors to that part of Jamaica’s diverse culture, coincidentally, it did not happen until the pandemic,” he said.
On April 24 when the dancehall track hit YouTube, Mahfood explains that “everything changed for Zimi Entertainment”, in terms of music production and promotion. The company had already launched as a creative label with its primary focus being events planning and management, with music being under the umbrella, namely production and artiste management. They even signed rising hip hop entertainer Bakersteez. The label has worked with some of dancehall’s hitmakers, including Tommy Lee Sparta, Quada, Teejay, Jafrass, Chronic Law, IWaata and Jahmiel, and within this year has produced approximately 20 songs and 15 music videos.
“Music is not cheap, and it is definitely not a short-term investment because you are putting money into a catalogue which will be a pension for more than one person. In terms of money coming in, it has been a trial, but it is the first year we are seeing a turnover that makes sense for us to continue on the trajectory,” said Mahfood.
He says in a normal world, Zimi Entertainment would have preferred to have the music align with successful events, but they are focused on production. He says that the entertainers are also more focused on being in [the] studio with limitations on their travelling and touring.
“The artistes are not waking up in the afternoon because they performed until 5:00 that morning. A lot more work can be accomplished in the daytime because of the curfew as well. While we continue to put the work into the music, it will be a quiet Christmas, but the world needs that too, in regard to reflecting and refocusing energy on things that are important, things we would have taken for granted. The idea is that hopefully by next year, summer 2021, we will be able to take the music and the artistes we are working with on the road with our events,” he said.