Solving The Music Distribution Problem in Kenya

Kenyan music industry is touted to be growing but there are certain aspects that have not been worked on and so the industry continues to hurt. There needs to be investments made so that the production houses are not burdened, a situation that is leading to poor content creation. Most of what we have in form of labels are not true labels but just production studios who do not have capacity to handle marketing and distribution. The situation resulting is one of an industry which is disorganized and even though music sales are down globally, there are still a good chance for the stakeholders to consider all options available.

Folks in rural areas and small towns in Kenya are still consumers
music in physical form. Since streaming revenues are insufficient for a full time musician, all revenue streams must be tapped into. There are very few music distribution companies in Kenya. Still, the ones operating have services that do not reflect the demand. Traditionally, a distributor can either manufacture and sell the records or just agree to market and sell the already manufactured records. Then the big question becomes who will be able to finance manufacturing. The truth is that very few labels are able to produce over 10,000 CD copies at once and that means that for a big project, an artist requires a deal with a distributor who will finance the manufacturing and marketing and then give the artist royalties after sales. For an album to go gold, for example, it is very difficult to do it without the help provided by such big distributors who boasts of the financial muscles and the capacity to actually sell over half a million CDs. There must be companies that come in to invest in this space so that the industry can actually grow. Then the next question is, is it possible to get people to buy over 500,000 copies of an album or EP?
A tough one there but my answer is a ‘yes’. I walk in every corner of this Republic and see people selling either pirated music or ill-packaged original music. The problem begins there. For someone to sell pirated music and make a living out of it reveals that there is demand and so these unscupulous traders dive in to make money from someone’s intellectual property. One of the major things fueling this trend is the lack of a big player who can invest resources in curbing the illegal sales of their copyrighted material. So that tells us that, with limited piracy, quality packaging and then finally marketing of a record, one can actually have his/her album reach gold, or even platinum. But that is not just as easy because a lot of investment must be employed to achieve this. The global decline in sales is attributed to digital music but in Kenya only a handful people buy music on iTunes or Amazon. The rest either get free ad-supported downloads, buy pirated music or buy the original copies when the artist tours their place with only a handful buying downloads form sites like Wabeeh or Kentunes. This would somehow scare the potential investors but with the right media support the industry can be self supporting. Also, online distribution to iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Digital etc is very possible through online agencies like CD Run.Nigeria tried it and though there are still inherent problems, there is an actual leap and that is why we haves the likes of P Square and Wizkid doing it big. Our own Sauti Sol is doing it big and I believe that with a good distribution deal it is possible for the upcomig album, Live and Die in Africa to reach gold status. But all said, these large corporations are not so honest so its up to the artist and their management to stay on top of their game.

By Phillip Nyalenda

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