Piracy is an old song, best dumped

  1. A very poignant post. Due to the pay to read status of the Nation I didnt read the article.
    When it comes to music I used to have a pirate international music policy and I still do. I try to buy local music when I can but out here you can hardly get hold of it at all.So what to do?
    Much as the big corporations moan about piracy in the third world, they asked for it by pricing their good far beyond people’s buying power. If they could build factories in India to capture that market why not do the same in East and Central Africa?
    As for Kenyan artistes, I think it is possible for the kapuka and genge artistes to learn a thing or two from the River Road dons.

  2. hey Al,

    I listened to this article, very helpful that mp3. and you have a nice voice. i just have to say hearing that music in the back ground did things to me. I haven’t been home in so long…

    On piracy, i think you are right. But you know, most of the artists at home lack the knowledge (business) to think like that. Maybe someone can train them on business thinking?

    My word, I want to come home…

  3. “Content is King” – we must never forget that. The truth about just how much is spent on the actual content of our local music as compared to the market price is so shocking that nobody has so far made these figures public. How is it that Tanzanian musicians are able to make real money from music sales while our Kenyan artists must “prostitute” their art to make a buck? It is all about proper proper marketing. The typical Kenyan musician shall release a string of singles over a period of several months then disappear for a few months to produce a couple of songs before compiling the old overplayed songs and the couple of new ones into what he or she shall have the nerve to call a BRAND NEW album! This album, which is to be listened to mostly by a demographic that is either in high school or college is then launched at Carnivore where the entrance fee is a couple weeks’ allowance – not forgetting the fact that a large part of the real target audience is not even allowed admission into Carnivore.

    Everyting is wrong here – timing, exposure, perceived target audience, pricing, packaging.

    Am I the only one seeing this?

    Marketers have failed Kenyan music.

  4. Music, Music, Music ….

    Where do I start, first and foremost interesting blog as always! This piece essentially as you may have known, I would be keen on commenting. For starters let me clearly put my background which is limited to certain time frames, basically because I am generation Y which means my views and opinions may be slightly biased to that demographic and age group. The beauty about being generation Y is that you have somewhat an understanding of Generation X and the upcoming Internet Generation or what they call Silent Generation.

    The reason I mention this is quite simple, essentially because we (my generation) have been fortunate to have lived through the era where we watched our parents buy all the music from the local record store (Music Land and the likes) and each one of our parents owned Vinyl or Audio cassettes of original works from African recording artists as well as international artists. I believe there existed a variety of record labels in East Africa too during that time the Motowns, MCA’s and Universals. However I strongly believe that that era was somewhat economically OK!, meaning that most parents seemed to be able to afford some cash on buying music. Most parents seem to have owned phonograph, most parents seemed to enjoy listening to audio cassettes at home. As much as I hate to admit it I think the economy played a major part for the few people who lived in Nairobi, Mombasa and the likes or urban living in that ERA.

    With time came the Stereo with dual players, to allow simultaneous recording of audio cassettes or what they called compact cassettes. The reason I think this time frame is important to note is because that era marked the first change in piracy and ultimately what we call P2P Networks today that major Record labels overlooked and majority of the Government bodies overlooked. I believe the internet and other related technologies in essence played a part in decimating information but not entirely compared to a system that was already failing in a country that cared less about music as part of their economy.

    Sure enough pricing does play a major part; I mean how do you expect to sell a CD for over 500Ksh to an individual who can’t afford bread? Pricing is one of the factors that make the music industry flourish in Tanzania over any other country. Tanzanians embrace audio cassettes they recognize that technology exists with regards to CD’s but they would rather purchase audio cassettes which are sold at a mere 100 Ksh or less (in comparison to TZS). Again in Tanzania where the Government could have played a better role, the people who control the music industry played a role, where you have only 3 to 4 major distributors who are all Indians (Wahindi Waswahili au Waraabu – Faraji, Kibonge and the likes, these are their real names FYI) who manage and ensure their products are not pirated. So in essence it only leaves them to pirate their own product (pretty smart business if you ask me – meaning they can over produce an album and state that they produced less copies or sold less copies) every vendor or retailer buys music from these 3 distributors, all major copy cats are often shut down, burnt up or reported to the police who do the same.

    The beauty about the Tanzanian distributors is that they pay well, in comparison, a good album will go through A&R (Same Muhindi in essence) who listens to the music and comments on whether it will be a hit or not, and then he breaks of the artist a large sum amount. For instance Mr. Nice – one of Tanzanians top selling artists collects cash amounts of up to 20 Million (about 1.3 Mil Ksh, about 13,000 USD – All are estimates I didn’t take a calculator here…) So what the Tanzanian music industry has created is a system that sorta works for them, what Mr. Nice understands is that the more albums he puts out the more money he has to collect, of course the more shows he does which is his own money but ideally if he wants to buy that new car, he often spends time in the studio.

    In Uganda the same thing happens where the distributors are 2 main Ugandan kahoons… they operate the distribution business like the mafia basically they are the same people who actually pirate your music, so often in Uganda what the artists do is they negotiate with these two business men to agree on a price, a one flat fee rate for the entire album. These two have been responsible for helping people like Chameleon buy Hummers and houses bigger than you can imagine, simply because they play the role of the government which is in protecting their own interests.

    Now that said and done you must be asking yourselves what’s wrong with Kenya??? Well a couple of things really, for starters the generation gap and culture gap in Kenya brings a whole new psyche in understanding music consumption in Kenya. Quite frankly I think the problem with Kenya is that Kenyans are not proud of their Shadiness. Basically we run away from the disease called culture or ruralism. So much that we are the only country that adapt to technology faster than any of the other countries in the region. With that in mind, also comes the urban age culture, we quickly embrace western style of music without generally knowing what it means to make a good hit record, artists in Kenya have short lived careers because they make music that resembles Western Music and culture, as opposed to their own culture. This I think creates a gap in the listener ship and separates the older generation from the younger generation, leaving the spending capacity at an all time low. You figure that college student, high school student who has to balance between his pocket money and buying Noninis CD, not forgetting the fact that his parents hate that Nonini fellow who keeps singing about what he will do to their daughters. Ideally this seems like a poor analogy but if you look at the long term effect then you will understand where I was going with that.

    I believe technology plays a role but not entirely because you figure we haven’t even gotten to the age where the internet drives our daily consumption as such. What then, will we cry foul to other P2P networks? I think the Kenya Government needs to play a role in assisting the music industry, I think the artists also need to start working towards being artists and release albums at all costs, however they can only do that if the supply and distribution makes sense, so it goes without saying that Kenya needs a mafia style distributor to come and take over. However keep in mind that he will not succeed so long as Kenyans believe that CD’s are the only way to go (and not cassettes), unless he sells CD’s for 200 Ksh then we might be talking…. Lastly also the Kenyan artists need to understand what makes artists like Chameleon popular, Juma Nature…. It is their grasp on their roots, their grasp on where they are from and who they are talking to. Chameleon makes feel good, easy to dance to music which crosses the 3 borders on all age groups. I mean you will always have the Noninis and Namelesses but in Kenya the number of Nonini’s, Jimwat artist’s vs Achieng Abura’s or Mercy Myra’s is way unbalanced. I believe Kenyan artists don’t make music that crosses the borders and hence can’t have the shelve life needed to ensure mass sales. Am not sure if this makes sense but this is just how I see it….

  5. It almost sounds like anarchy but i guess its the use of the word mafia “kenya needs a mafia like distributor to come and take over”

    But the thing is, generally kenyan artsists are a bit psycho about having distributors like that because they believe that they will be exploited.

    Plus, kenya is real showbiz… lots of show, little substance…

  6. It wont change, would you rather sit on your song at home for years or have a guy who feeds you little money but makes a lot more from it…

    Kagz have you ever looked at the internet lately. have you looked at youtube, metacafe, videogoogle, kenyamoto2.com … the internet has gone TV wild.. and there is no way to stop that shit…. excuse my french. Basically we thought that the audio madness was over or was in check, take another look, All Vitimbi episodes are online, all Kenyan Music videos are online, I mean what are we crying about as Kenyan artists.. what foul play… and we only sell 2000 copies.. What …??

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