Payola should be a big no in the Kenyan music industry but it still happens. Whether in direct cash offers or treating media people to lunch and other niceties, this disastrous practice is alive and well. In 2015, Phillip Nyalenda argued on Aipate that payola is a legal advertisement. A year later, he changed his stance and rightly called the people who engage in payola a cartel. Without clear laws on payola, this corrupt system has thrived, making some media personalities rich in the process.
In 2005, Kenyan musicians took to the streets to protest the bias against Kenyan music in media playlists. This prompted the government to issue a directive ordering media to air 60% local content. However, things became worse. The 2010s saw a rise in popularity of West African music in Kenya. A lot of DJs, radio and TV producers benefited from this. In such an environment, the major losers are content producers. The stagnation in the number of new acts coming into the scene during this period can be blamed on this. Not everyone can afford ‘pay-for-play’ and this keeps only a handful of artists on rotation.
Payola is the ultimate gatekeeper culture which shouldn’t exist in 2019. The Nu-Nairobi Philosophy of defying existing traditions has seen the emergence of numerous acts with various styles of music. As we are closing the decade, we are witnessing the rise of Gengetone or Odi-pop, the return of raw Kenyan music back on our radios. When acts such as Ethic were starting out, the majority of Kenyan media personalities publicly swore that they wouldn’t air the music. They came up with ridiculous reasons as to why Odi-pop is a passing wave. The viral nature of this music has, however, forced their hand into accommodating this new culture.
DJ Fita is a DJ, record producer and remixer. He is the founder of EDM Kenya and Sound Safari. You can find more articles from him on soundsafari.co.ke