Xolani Nxumalo enjoys a special relationship with his customers. He seems to understand what their needs are. “My oldest customer is close to 80 years old and my youngest is 25. Some customers are open minded while others are not as engaging”, he tells Jazz It Out. He does not only sell imported CD’s but some South African recordings as well. “I can source and sell you a recording by the late Phillip Tabane and Malombo. I go out of my way to meet the needs of my customers. I also export a lot of South African music”, saying with a lot of confidence.
He worked in the music retail industry for years and met a lot of suppliers, distributors and very interesting customers who are always willing to but a lot of material. CD Warehouse was his first exposure to the music retail industry at Gateway. By the time the store changed its name to Musica Megastore, he was already the head of the jazz section. After spending close to 10 years at Musica Megastore, he joined Look & Listen at The Pavilion where he also headed the jazz section in the store.
Customers that he had been serving and interacting with for more than a decade persuaded him to continue selling music privately which is what does for a living.He is a part of an international network of merchants. As much as jazz is the main genre that he sells, he sells other music genres to cater for the needs of his customers. “On a good month I can do sales to the value of R70 000 and on a bad month only R25 000”, he says as he shows Jazz It Out the stock he has available.
Nxumalo believes the music industry is one of the most complicated industries. “More compilated than Information Technology (IT)”, he adds. He sells CD’s, vinyl records, books, and DVD’s. “The music I sell demands that one knows the product he is selling. Reading books enhances one’s knowledge. I have challenging customers who demand stuff that is rare to find”, looking very excited about what he offers to his diverse customers. He acknowledges that the business model of the retail stores he worked for no longer caters for the jazz enthusiasts he used to serve.
As a seasoned music merchant, he is not shy to admit ‘the music industry has gone full circle’. “Days of having huge music stores at upmarket shopping are now over. Too many overheads to pay for. The best thing is to sell privately in a modest building or small shop”, he told Jazz It Out. He is talking form experience because his apartment along the Durban harbor is where he sells his material. Some visit him while he delivers to others. The current state of economy is not making the purchasing trends any better.
Music is a luxury. It’s not a basic commodity like food. It’s often the least of many peoples’ priorities. Some people can afford to spend R300 on music while others can afford R5 000 or more. The rand dollar exchange rate also affects Nxumalo in a significant way. “From a strong currency to a weak currency has it’s challenges. Music industry is not immune to those. The stuff I sell is rare to find. Profit margins are low”, he adds. But is very quick to add that competition is the least of his concerns. “You need to refer some of the customers to the so – called competition”, Nxumalo says.
Despite the latest technological advancements in the music industry, Nxumalo strongly believes “nothing will beat the sound of the vinyl” despite being perceived as less popular than the CD. “There is something very special about the vinyl record which many collectors do not understand because they have never experienced it firsthand”, he added. Nxumalo does not spend a cent on advertising. He attributes the growth of his sales to ‘word of mouth’.
One of the things that fulfils him since leaving the formal retail sector is that he does not have specific trading hours like shops in malls and complexes. “Landlords at malls can be unreasonable. They give you operating hours. What if a customer wants to buy 20 CD’s and according to operating hours it’s time to close the shop”, he told Jazz It Out. His customers can access him at any time because he understands their needs which must be catered for.
However, selling his goods at music concerts and festivals is not something he particularly enjoys. Nxumalo believes one must be to place the goods, brand them and have adequate and tight security. There are lot of thieves and it is not something he is keen on doing. Despite some misgivings, he believes he has many years to sell his products as long as he has the kind of customers that are very supportive and loyal.
Xolani recently created a Facebook Page called Little Jazz & More which he uses to post the material he sells. His email address is xolanimzothule@gmail. His mobile numbers are +27 84 426 8769 for voice calls and +27 61 189 0143 for WhatsApp messages.