Spending some time analysing Kenyan music industry, you would find out that it’s one that has great potential for revenue while, spending even more time reading in-depth insights from likes of Aipate could leave you depressed, considering the slow pace and consistent unprofessionalism that is characteristic of this creative industry. There are two common phrases in the music industry: one, ‘the music never stops” and two, “whenever music is played, be it on radio, Youtube, in movie soundtacks or streaming services, someone is paid”. Whether or not the composer and/or recording artist is one of those who are paid, depends on sound understanding of music copyrights and decent management.
For starters, copyrights are protected by law and all the emphasis should be on is sensitizing the creatives on how and why to copyright their material plus providing them with tools of how to exploit such rights. Songwriters and composers can earn whenever their music is downloaded, sold as a physical copy, streamed online, played on radio and TV and when, in what we call ‘synchronisation licences’, such a song is used as a soundtrack in videos or movies. Since in most cases, artists record their own songs, this doubles their earnings since they can get the mechanical, perfoming and synchronisation royalties. The issue is that there is exploitation by establishements that we wrongly identify as record lables.
In essense, a record label is any outfit that scouts an artist, finances the production of music content, markets and distributes such content to a point that they make enough profit that can be shared with the artists as per the recording contract. To be clear, a record label doesn’t need to have a recording studio. But, due to lack of knowledge, the artists pay such production houses money- which makes them owners of such material-but the such studios often pose as record companies and benefit from the royalty compensations that should, otherwise, go to the artist. It is sickening to see such kind of things happening and nobody seems to be taking keen interest.
Since live music is the only segement of the industry that is atleast turning in some good profit, many rogue promoters dive in for a kill and without proper structures, they exploit our Kenyan talent and leave the scene like they never have been in. Having said all that, there is a chance to redeem the industry image by professionalising all the sectors and providing knowledge to everyone that is a stakeholder. The entertainement industry, that is film, gaming and music industries combined, can bring the country enormous revenue and thus, it’s imperative that the Government treats it with such seriousness it handles tourism and coffee sectors. Perusing through the recently published music draft policy just reveals that there is more politics than seriousness in handling this lucraty and culture-promoting industry.