Thursday, February 22, 2007

Please note that the Headline says 'Commercial failures' NOT Artistic failures.Plenty of our guys and gals have TALENT nobody can doubt. The Mceeing skills of Kantai or Abbas/kubaff are up there with Common and NAS.Nameless,Owiyo,Eric wainaina all have Talent.
Compare that with Jay-Z who continuously copies 1980s tunes and raps over them.e.g. He re-did the 80s classic 'I just died in your arms tonight ' in 2006.It was originally done sometime in the mid-eighties(cant remember when) by Cutting Crew. P-diddy covered tunes from Notorious by Duran duran.However Jay-Z is on the Forbes most Wealthy Celebrities list and no kenyan musician is on it(last time i checked).

My issue is that no kenyan musician seems to have broken into the international platinum/gold selling category like Makeba,angeline Kidjo.Plus, none of our musicians seems to be making huge profits from music.Most of their money seems to be coming from endorsements and side-gigs like being Radio-presenters.

Here's why i think they dont make the money:
1.Poor marketing and Distribution
I heard this line about the music biz that it's '99% show and 1% talent'.Just ask Britney spears.If u can sing thats great, now for the 99 %.
A typical Kenyan musician(lets call him muzik) does a song on fruity loops then sends the CD to Kiss/Capital/Easy and it gets airplay.The song's hook is catchy and its on top 10 at 10.After 2 months of continuous airplay. Muzik decides to release his album.Too bad no-one is going to buy it.We've heard his song everday on radio for two months for FREE.Why pay for it?
The enterprising listeners with TV/FM cards on their comps have recorded it off radio and are selling Bootleg Mp3s of the 'Hit'CD.

Our man Muzik's CD is priced at sh.800 (Bootlegs are selling for sh.200).Its only available at Nakumatt, that shop at the JUNCTION and some shop on Mama Ngina street.If u live outside Nairiobi- tough luck.
Predictably Muzik's CD only sells 1000 copies and he blames the pirates for killing the Local music industry.
Let me tackle the above issues:

Marketing-Muzik should never have given his tracks airplay without the CD hitting the shelves.As people hear u on radio, they can go out and buy the CD. Thats whay Jay- Z , ne-yo and the other Western musicians do.
Local musicians should set up a country-wide distribution network so that once an Album 'drops' u can buy it anywhere in Kenya.Lack of availability of a musician's Cds is a business opportunity for the 'pirates'.This distribution network is the KEY to the success of Bongo Flava in Tanzania

Pricing- Most TZ/bongo musicians sell their Cds/Casettes for about or less than sh.400.Kenyan musicians dont do Casettes they only produce CDs and retail at more than sh.700 orSh.1000 for that kind of money u can buy an R-Kelly or Beyonce on add sh.200 and ship it to Kenya.There're still Kenyans who listen to Radio Cassettes(in the 21st Century) so as a local musician you must have casettes.

The other factor is;
-Lack of commercial awareness
Local musicians do commercial endorsements but dont live the product.e.g. Most formula 1 drivers endorse the manufactures' car off-track.So u will never catch them driving anything else.e.g. Mc-laren drivers endorse Mercedes cars.A good example of this is when we had a re-launch of a new marketing drive for a soda with a contour shaped bottle.Little was heard of the soda but a lot was heard of the drinking exploits & otherwise of the musicians called to endorse it.They(musicians) shouldnt be surprised if the next re-launch of the soda sidelines them or takes a global star.

Till they shape up their marketing and distribution local music outfits may not achieve commercial success and one-hit wonders will be the norm.
P.S. am not playa-hating nameless.He's just the most recognizable Boomba musician.Since, this is the genre am referring to-had to use his pic on a critical article


Princess said...

You make a good point!!

Odegle said...

i agree the main issue here is distribution. case closed. when tony became a hit in kenya, i tried juu chini to get his CD or cassete but i could not. the only thing u could come close to was a pirated copy. two years later, i found several original copies of the music almost in every shop but by then i had 'moved' on and the music was already stale.

but pesatu, are u really sure about the talent part? most musicians have one song which is really great and then thats about it. the rest are just mimics of the first one with different words but mostly same story, same beats.

Leo Faya said...

I share same sentiments..

kelitu said...

What most of our artistes lack good management. One thing anyone who tries to enter the entertaiment business is that you do not become a success over night. You need a good manager by your side, hustling good deals for you. You also need a good lawyer to read over your contracts.

pesa tu said...

@Odegle:Distribution is the real issue
Notice, some presidential names are missing when i mention talent.

@leo:Thanks will pass by ur blog

@Kelitu: Music biz is about fame&fortune.Most of our artistes are after fame NOT fortune.Its true we need a mgt. structure for the industry

Anonymous said...


I'm ashamed to admit that all of my Kenyan CD's are pirated copies except Eric wainaina's and Susana Owiyo's.

Is this an indication of the two artists approach to Music as a business?


Our "eye for cheap things" as kenyans - Pirated copies.

pesa tu said...

@Outfoxed:the two r better than most of their peers in how they manage their biz.Remember they r full time musicians.They dont moonlight in the 'family biz' or become radio presenters

50% of Kenyans live below the poverty line So bargains r welcome

Anonymous said...

Give the musician time to develop their talents, they are really trying, what is your comment about the producers?. They need encouragement and constructive criticism to boost them not discourage them.

pesa tu said...

@Anon: the comments r directed towards established musicians

About producers- some are good others r bad

Anonymous said...

I wish fewer of our people were engaged in these mindless pursuits. Good Kenyan kids are being taken away from the steady hard slogging that will build them secure futures by the din of rap and such nonsense. Some balance is necessary.


pesa tu said...

@emmo:Just like everything in LIFE music requires hard work lots of luck and sometimes talent.
We just need a sytem to teach the unlucky non-talented kids that their luck is in the BOOKS

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