Spike in copy sells of a historical novel leads a publisher to run the printing press
Ethiopia's pop sensation, Tewodros Kassahun, has released his long anticipated album dubbed "Ethiopia", thereby taking not only of a huge fan base to ecstasy but also triggering the renewed sale of the legendary Amharic novel, "Fiker-Eske-Meqabir", literally translated "Love to the Grave".
The publisher of the book, Mega Printing Enterprise, supplied 10,000 copies of the book first published in 1964 to the market, following the release of the album which industry sources said hit a record high half a million copies. Mega Printing distributed the books through its 32 outlets after the title of one Teddy's songs, "Mar-eske-tuaf", had leaked before the release of the album two weeks ago, leading retail price of the book to jump by 10 Br, from its original 91 Br.
Authored by the acclaimed author, Haddis Alemayehu, the novel remains highly popular among successive generations of Ethiopians. It is also a subject of studies by literary students for decades. One of such students is Molla Feleke who has taken an interest in the book for his post-graduate studies thesis at the Addis Ababa University, in 2008.
Molla writes: The novel "presents a panoramic picture of traditional Ethiopian society with a prophetic vision of change and a defiant voice that speaks out against feudal despotism, exploitation and ignorance."
A day before the official release, Kolya delivered 476,000 CDs, with the remaining were delivered by the next morning.
Popularly known as Teddy Afro, the performer played a powerful lyrics highlighting one of the main characters in the novel, Bezabih, in a seven-minute song. The music promoted many Ethiopians to rush to buy the book, flocking to book vendors across the city.
Yonas Tefera, a bookseller, located in an area near the National Theater, sold two-third of the 300 copies in three days he received from the publishers on Tuesday, May 9, 2017.
"I'm now left only with few copies," Yonas told Fortune last Friday.
It is one of the times when demand for books surges, according to managers of the publishing company which has a contract with the family of the author to reprint the book, paying royalty fees to them.
Mar-eske-tuaf is one of the 14 songs included in Teddy Afro's latest album that was released on May 3, 2017, delaying for 10 days from the initial schedule due to last minute changes made on the album's cover. Composed by Abel Paulos, Abegaze Kebrework, and Amanuel Yilma, this successful album was recorded in five studios, involving over 40 different people including the backup singers.
The initial plan to release the album was to use a jewel case, but Teddy demanded to make the case from a paper box and include a booklet with 24-page comprising the lyrics of the songs, people close to the singer disclosed to Fortune. The brochures and the cases were published at Yekatit Paper Converting Enterprise, behind the exhibition centre.
The producers of the album have also made history by deploying a guerrilla marketing strategy, a tactic used by companies to surprise a market with unconventional marketing tools mainly based on personal interaction. Copies of the album, worth 16.5 million Br, were sold out from the hands of the exclusive distributor on the same day of the release.
Tracks after tracks had left 4:00 am on Tuesday the premises of the company that printed the CDs locally for the first time, from its plant in Dukem, 33Km east of Addis Abeba. On the eve of the album's release, about 100 vehicles were lined up in and outside the compound of Ethiopia's first DVD manufacturing plant, Kolya Manufacturing S.C., to collect the CDs, which took 20 days to complete and additional four days to pack them, Yared Ademe, general manager of the company, told Fortune.
A day before the official release, Kolya delivered 476,000 CDs, with the remaining were delivered by the next morning. No less than 40pc of the copies were transported to the towns of Gonder and Bahir Dar, areas where two of Teddy's songs refer to.
Close to 100 retailers paid Joyous Events 33 Br for each CD.
Young men and women had flooded traffic lights across the capital the same day, offering each CD for 50 Br, and copies which incorporated the booklet with the lyrics 80 Br. Fans lined up at makeshift vending spots in Arat Kilo, Mexico Square, Megenagna, La Gare, Piazza, Merkato and many centres of the city.
A 27-year old businessman, Dawit Berhane is one of the retailers who was registered in advance to receive 5,000 copies. It took him only five days to sell out all copies.
"By the next day of the distribution, major retailers were approaching us to buy it off from me and other retailers," Dawit told Fortune.
Joyous Events & Promotion, the exclusive distributor of the album, bought the master copy and a five-year right for five million Birr, making the singer the lone highly paid singer in the nation, according to various sources. But money is not the singer's concern, rather the product, and fan's satisfaction, Getachew Manguday, his manager, told Fortune.
The singer has declined to be interviewed for this piece, although several requests were placed through his manager.
The offline debut was considered by many as a smashing success, for a country was upbeat with the beat of a controversial performer who loves to praise the "glorious past" of a nation. Teddy Afro is in fact seen by many of the contemporary generation as a voice of unity.
Mega Printing distributed the books through its 32 outlets after the title of one Teddy's songs,
"We received calls from as far placed areas such as Jijiga and Metema," Yared told Fortune.
He is not nonetheless content with the way the marketing in the offline world was carried out but in Addis Abeba.
"Selling 500,000 copies in a country where over 100 million people live cannot be an accomplishment," said Yared.
But the marketing of the album is not limited to offline sales; rather it is sold online on iTunes and CD-Baby, very popular online platforms for music marketing. The online sale was not different from the scalding offline one.
The single "Ethiopia" was uploaded on YouTube twice before the full release of the album, receiving over four million views. Many vendors are also selling the CDs for the Ethiopian Diaspora communities. The performer has been adverting on his Facebook page the names, and phone numbers of retailers who reside in the US, Europe and the Middle East to sell his Album for his fans in their respective areas.
Teddy Afro's album has also made a reputation topping the Billboard "world album" chart, becoming perhaps the second singer to achieve such global heights after Aster Aweke's Kabu. Although by no means is the highest selling album around the world, it is, however, the top selling album in the "world music" genre, which is defined as traditional non-western music. Billboard uses a combination of actual sales, radio airplay, and streaming data to rank music.
Besides Billboard, the album was at the top of the iTunes "Top 100 World Music Albums".
All the promo music for the tracks of this album are uploaded to the singer's official YouTube channel which has 14 million subscribers, earning him B+ rate by Social Blade, a statistics website that tracks statistics and measures growth across multiple social media platforms. VidIQ, a popular YouTube statistic analysing software, estimates Teddy Afro's official YouTube channel averages 9,900 dollars a month, without commercials. The payments for per view would be deposited into an account under the singer's name.
"We'll not expect additional payments from the CDs sales as well as the digital sale of the album," Getachew told Fortune.
A father of two, Teddy Afro has come a long way since his debut in the Ethiopian music scene with his release of an album titled "Abugida", in 2001. His second album, "Yasteseryal", and released in 2005, took his career onto a path that has been filled with controversies.
In 2008, he was arrested in relations to a car accident of which a court found him guilty of a hit-and-run incident of a homeless man, and sentenced to six-year prison term. Always denying involvement in the incident, his conviction was later reduced to four years and released in August 2009.
His album after his release, dubbed "Tikur Sew", was released in 2012, the year he got married to a film producer. But the album's sales by the producer Adika Communications & Events Plc, ended up in another round of disputes over the number of copies published and distributed by the latter. Teddy Afro had claimed more copies had been published than was agreed. He was paid four million Birr for 280,000 copies of the album, of which no less than 100,000 copies remain unsold to this day, according to former staffs of Adika.
Nevertheless, Teddy Afro's new album was sold high both in the offline and online world, creating a seasonal business boom for the legendary book Fiker-eske-meqaber following the spike in demand after the release of Mar-eske-tuaf.