Thursday, November 09, 2006

How Kenyan Music Can Pay Off

I was reading this article in the Pulse about the fall of studios in Kenya, and a few thoughts came to mind. A major factor contributing to this fall is the fact that many Kenyan musicians do not know how to sell themselves as brands and their music.

I know it can cost anything from 2,000/= to 10,000/= for a beat and even more for studio time, depending on what studio you go to according to the article. So sales are depended on to counteract these costs. But in many cases Kenyan musicians are the cause of their own problems, many do only one song and send it to radio stations where it is played ad nauseum and don't make a single or if they do a cd it comes out so late that people are sick of the song. I think a hint should be taken from Western artistes who makes cds of singles and do loads of remixes of the same song thus giving it more longevity, remixes in Kenya are very hard to come by despite the amount of money that could be made from them.

I do know that piracy is a problem in Kenya and in some ways artistes excerbate it. It does not make sense to have your songs play on radio for almost a year and then release a cd. During that time you have been pirated left right and centre. Some artistes I mean Kenyan singers have been releasing their cds for the last 5 years ( Lenny and Amani are you there?) Kenyan musicians need to know that they don't have to get cds pressed in Singapore or wherever else they get them done. Just buy loads of empty cds and a printer that can print on cds and do cd covers and you're good to go! With this game, if you snooze you lose! You have to be one step ahead of the pirates. Kenyan artistes also seem to think that everyone has a cd player which isn't the case, the late Poxi Pressure made loads of cash by selling tapes of his music. In that way his music reached the masses, think of matatus most of them still have tape players so if one of them had a tape of a certain artiste; imagine the airplay they would get?

Also I do think that more Kenyan artistes need to learn how to be showmen. Not to many of them put up a show worth going to. Some of the afro-fusion artistes put up very good shows, I have seen Abbi and Achieng Abura performing and I was impressed. On the other hand going to watch a kapuka/genge rapper jump up and down and shout to a playback track was a complete waste of time and I have never gone to see another one perform again. Many artists in the West make the bulk of their money touring and I am sure if Kenyan artistes singers did this they would make a whole lot more cash and sell a whole lot more records.

They also say that the best teacher is other people's mistakes. Kenyan artistes need to go on a fact finding trip to Tanzania and learn from them. Tanzania may be another country but there is still alot that can be learned from them. There is still a bright future for Kenyan artistes if all parties involved pull their heads out of the sand.


Rista said...

(blinking in amazement at being first?) Those are good suggestions. I wonder, though, if it's that simple?
I'd believe it though, 'cause sometimes we like to complicate maisha. Good to have you back from Savannah.

mocha said...

This is a really nice post.

I share the same sentiments when it comes to Kenyan artists.

Lakini you forget one thing...corruption in Kenya is letting everyone down. And the big cats are the ones who are to blame.

I will touch on this subject later. Let me get my mojo going.

acolyte said...

@ Rista
Congrats!It's good to be back! I do agree that my suggestions may seem a tad bit too simple but you would be surprised how far simple solutions go at times.
@ Mocha
I know that music really isn't my forte but Kenyan music has been dying a slow death if you ask me.
I do know corruption esp by the MCSK has been letting down artistes but I think the fat cats aren't the only party to blame.
But I'll wait to hear what you have to say.

Movie Buff said...

Maybe they need to sing songs of maana.
Ok I have stopped hating but I feel you on the tape versus cd saga......

Acolyte said...

@ Movie Buff
I do agree too many of the songs sound like a nursery ryhyme schemes. But Kenyan artistes need to get their feet back on the ground like River Road artistes.

Msanii_XL said...

Aco wholeheartdely agree about the tapes and cd, they should do some on tapes and some on cd.

Shows are huge thing..rehearse your shit, make sure you and the dj are on point, incoporate some other stuff into your shows too...

Proud Nyeuthi said...

I attended a Mosaimo show in LA a while back. WOW! That man came alone, he set up his stuff an proceeded to give a show like I had never seen. When we left at 5.00am he was still singing! Redsan ran off the stage in a huff after 40 minutes and didnt come back. Don't get me started on Gidi Maji. I attend shows like i'm on the clock. I go becoase I want to help grow an industry that can boost us as a nation in many ways. However, a lot of these young musicians have no discipline or respect for their fans.Driving for 2 hours, paying the cover and then waiting for 3 hours for an MC to "get ready" does not encourage me to buy thier album.

Acolyte said...

@ Msanii
It is good a music guru like you realises that I made a few good points. The simple thing is that if you sell a product worth buying, it will be bought.
@ proud nyeuthi
I have heard good things about Mosaimo's performances. I am sorry but if you keep me waiting for 3 hours and give a pathetic 1 hour or shorter performance I will make it my calling in life to disseminate the information on how pathetic you are as a musician. Peeps need to style up!

Mimmz said...

Agreeing with every observation made here, might I note that a good contract sample made between the singer/artist and the producer/director needs to be made available to these artists and made understandable. It was with great amazement I noted that one hyped Kenyan artist was in the states with no cds to sell simply because his producers were having beef with the promoter who brought him here. Now if that does not tell me his producers cannot do math and add a few dollars together to see many dollars come together....

Oh yes! And litigate. Exploitation and piracy laws need to be And then teh artists/singers need to be very aggressive about getting monetary compensation when crossed.

dangerously_shy said...

Lol @ Movie Buff..

ksh20k is cheap!! last I heard it was 70k! As for learning curve, me thinks Nigeria has done well and I put it down to marketing, as in theres no where they will not promote their music.

Digression - Did you know that Bill Gates is so rich that if he dropped $1000 he wouldnt bother to pick it up because in the four secs it takes him to pick it up he'd have earned it back and then some.

Movie Buff said...

OK I am back with more insight into this.

Kenyan musicians need to stop having egos like for Kanye. Kanye made his money by chucking CDs. What have you done? Other than singing about sex or some other "beentheredonethat" nonsense.... Seriously.... *smh* I will kesha for Kenyan music.

Don_quixote said...

Its been long since i listened to kenyan music, lets just say they sell themselves short alot of the time, now i just listen to the likes of malaika.

Itchie Geezy said...

I must admit that i quite then used to like Kenyan music not until when we the kapuka version of it come onboard.

I think all in all if any of the musicians is to make it big they need to do some re-strategy and come up with more refurbished ideas that will not only make us feel the warmth being Kenyans but also should try and make the music listenable,i mean pals dont listen to such of their crap nowadays(thats why i introduced crap cast!).

May be they should try and incoporate some more culture background in their songs other than opting just to westernise themselves and corrupt the taste.

Look at guys like Jomenes Boys and the band.Am not a jang'o but i quite appreciate the fact that they try to incoporate some values in their song,(am informed they are making adequate dough).All in all i think we aint growing musically as our brothers in the south are.

Did i say that their Economy is the best in East A in terms of growth?

lets Face reality.

Aco whats your take in project fame?

Itchie Geezy said...

i mean on(sp) on the latter

alexcia said...

Word on remixes.
Kenyans also need to borrow a leaf from Jamaicans. Some of those "poor" DJs need not do their own tracks..they can use the same rythm and just do voice over and save some money. Some of the best songs out of jamaica have been from rythm tracks. Think drop leaf, one drop, season

makanga said...

Rap shows are a connundrum that artistes with bands will never have to face because, basically, with a band there is a lot more to look at.

But like Msanii said a little creativity goes a long way.

I agree, staying ahead of the pirates is key, or if you can't beat them join them. The reality is pirates are the music distribution system. The formal distribution companies (Tamasha , Music World, etc.) pulled out a while back. Might as well co-opt them than fight them.

Acolyte said...

@ movie buff
I so feel you on the ego issue. I heard Nonini squaking that he is now an intl musician and needs to be paid more. Performing for other Kenyans abroad doesnt make you an international artiste at all!
@ mimmz
I agree with you, more musicians need to learn about the legal side of music.
@ Dshy
I dont know where they get off charging so much if music isnt making money at all.
@ itchie g
I do know 2 of the Kenyans taking part but since I am not in Kenya I havent been able to watch it.But as far as some of these shows go, I doubt there was a transparent casting process involved.
I do agree that our music needs to get more cultural to make an impact across ages and class.
@ alexcia
Dem riddims make my day!
@ makanga
Distribution is indeed key in the music business. Without it you are sunk.