It is no longer trade as usual for musicians
A decade and a half ago in Kenya, all one needed to make the cut as an outstanding artiste with desirable income was a fair level of talent and mild music distribution skills.
However, at around halfway through the decade, there was a paradigm shift in the music industry thanks to the Internet and smartphone.
As more and more of mainstream audience began to access the music online, they altered the entire fabric of the music industry to what it is today.
There is an irrefutable consensus among artistes that the music industry has grown over the years.
This emergence of digital disruption forced many artistes to embrace the changes and have since managed to gain themselves a healthy income to supplement their other income streams.
Singer Wahu Kagwi, has surpassed the pressure of the music industry and managed to stay musically relevant for more than a decade now, while her peers slowly disappeared from the limelight.
She has successfully ventured into hair and beauty industry and communication consultancy and says a lot has changed due to the digital disruption in the industry, with people monetising their content on digital platforms such as the video-sharing site YouTube.
“The digital disruption was the last nail in music’s traditional way of making money — selling of CDs and DVDs, which has become outdated.
Putting up your work on the digital platforms is now a priority because that is where the money is.
Personally, besides music, my other ventures in hair, beauty and communication consultancy has been an eye opener,” Wahu tells Spice.
Gospel artiste Daddy Owen insists there are many avenues for artistes to generate income. According to him, artistes today have bigger platforms compared to those who did music by the turn of millennium.
He says all one needs to do is to put in a lot of work in the business, other than relying on distributing their music through radio and TV stations because it never translates to income.
He says: “As an artiste, you need to be proactive; it is all about planning yourself. From my personal observations, the music life span of a musician in Kenya is normally three years after releasing a hit song.
I have seen more than 50 artistes fall into this pit of relying on selling DVDs to make money. Yet there are so many channels that one can generate income from and marketing tools that can help facilitate creation of income. Social media platforms are now highways for one to market self,” he says.
Daddy Owen, who during his career as a musician has worked on projects with different corporate and public entities such as Airtel, Safaricom and the National Health Insurance Fund, urges artistes to realise and embrace digital platforms to supplement their earnings adding to other ways such as commercial endorsements.
According to Google statistics, a whopping 1.3 billion people around the world use YouTube to watch 4.95 billion videos every day. Artistes make money on this platform by uploading content, which is paid based on the number of adverts viewed and clicks.
Artiste Timmy TDat notes that a platform such as YouTube is a good avenue to make money, but there is a need for one to have a huge audience of followers who relate with their content.
Only then can one make money from Google Ads, which appear before the music plays on the artiste’s channel.
“YouTube has money; you can actually make good money from it depending on the number of people who visit your channel.
As an artiste though, you need to identify your audience and create relevant content for them.
You have to then keep it interactive so as to maintain them and you will make a decent amount of money through Google Ads, which has became popular with marketers and advertising companies,” says Timmy.
Online music stores such as Spotify, iTunes, Mdundo and Songa are among other digital platforms that help musicians generate money.
Call back tunes such as Safaricom’s Skiza Tunes and Airtel’s Hello Tunes are popular services that Kenyan musicians use to make money.
Smartphone penetration in Kenya is huge and that translates to a highly democratised Internet access for the populace. The Internet comes with algorithms that makes the demand side of the equation is influential to what tops the search results.
“Social media is one of the platforms for Kenyan artistes to market their content.
Back then we would use radio and TV shows as a marketing tool and would find some of the presenters had biased tendencies in that if you were not friends with them, your song would hardly get airplay.
Social media has changed that and now fans can access music from these social platforms and no longer have to rely on TV or radio to access your music. It is a complete paradigm shift,” says Daddy Owen.
So, the dynamics that used to rule the industry in the years gone by are no longer applicable in this day and age.
Therefore, it’s upon artistes to readjust their approaches if at all they are willing to realise their full worth.