“I am no longer working with this recording house because they screwed me over”
“Piracy is our biggest problem”
“I thought I was doing so well, but I have no money to show for it.”
All of us have heard these statements at least once from a music artist complaining about distribution (of both the music and the returns) and discoverability.
We’ve all had a hearty laugh when a friend or relative who lives in the diaspora comes back home still bumping to Kenyan Music that was released 10 years ago, because that's all they had access to all these years.
So in this era where tech makes everything a possibility, has tech made things better in the music industry?
The download button
Let’s face it, the Internet makes it way to easy to pirate stuff. When you put up your video on You Tube, you need to face the fact that someone is going to rip it into their computer without your consent. Some people have even gone as far as creating apps that let you convert You Tube videos into a format of your liking (.mp3, .mp4, whatever) and save it onto your machine.
So, if you are able to access virtually any music for free, why buy?
My thoughts on this would be that if I can readily access the music at an affordable price, and I like it, I would rather buy it than pirate. Especially if it’s a Kenyan/African artist, I would be happy to promote their music by paying for it.
So what would make me buy a song or an album online?
- It should be easy to search for the music. I shouldn’t be a music guru to be able to locate content on your site. When I go on the site, and all I know is a few lyrics from the chorus, I should be able to type those in and find my song. Yay!
- It should be easy to pay for. If I need a credit card to pay local content, forget me! If you try to access my bank account and try to make me vulnerable to fraud – it’s never that serious, I could take a walk to my nearest vendor. Tomorrow. Mobile money works well because it is way convenient and doesn't make me vulnerable at all.
- Seriously, give a decent chunk of the money to the person with the talent who actually sang the song. Some have companies with large distribution networks and are actually able to pay what appears to be large amount of money to the artist. But when you consider that they keep 85% and give 15% to the artist. That is just downright immoral.
- I have access to good internet, OK? If I’m buying from your site, the song better be good quality – not ringtone quality. That is an insult to my Bose noise cancelling headphones!
- And you know what else would be great. If you let me listen to the song right on your site before I make the decision to buy. I mean, If I like it enough, I will buy it, right? If I’m forced to go on You Tube and listen first before buying because you won’t let me preview, I will hold a grudge.
- Your site should look good (user interface) and feel good to use (user experience). In this day and age and in the Nairobi market, all you need to do is walk into the iHub and you will find techie-magicians who can do whatever is required. If your site looks drab, has poor graphics and is hard to use, why would I put myself through the torture?
Selling your music online has a number of benefits
- You can keep most of your money as distribution costs are low. Some good audio markets like Waabeh.com have a revenue share policy of 70:30 in favor of the artist.
- Unlike launching a DVD or an audio CD where people have to find a store that stocks it, an online launch is a global launch. So if you live in the diaspora, you do not need to come home to discover what’s fresh.
- You can use social media to market your music at little to no costs. Examples are Lady Karun’s and Wangeci’s album launches on Waabeh.com which caused a considerable buzz amongst KOT (Kenyans on Twitter); in turn driving up numbers of streams and downloads.
This article was also published by Up Magazine in print and online at upnairobi.com