Wasafi.com’s terrible failure and the valuable lessons on local music distribution

Wasafi team at a past function // Photo via Facebook

I remember slightly over two years ago when I enthusiastically wrote about Diamond Platnumz starting his own digital music commerce platform: wasafi.com. After achieving sustained success with WCB recording/management label, it was, then, not too surprising that they’d decided to dive into the distribution side of the music business. Behind the zeal, however, I was skeptical of the platform’s success, with my concern being two-fold: whether Wasafi had a sound marketing/sales strategy to drive fans to make purchases and also, why the hell were they investing in a download service when streaming was loudly knocking at the door? Still, being that I’ve always been interested in the web space, I naturally decided to use the available online tools to monitor the website’s traffic growth.

Well, there was an initial surge, thanks to Diamond and his roster’s combined star power. Plus, they were leveraging on their influence to bring on board some of the top artists in Tanzania and Kenya. However, the party didn’t last that long, as there was an almost immediate slowdown. Fast-forward to today, the website is completely defunct. You see, in an industry like ours which is driven by hype and buzz, it sometimes becomes a challenge to convert fans into consumers. An e-commerce platform would therefore need to simplify the process of paid music consumption, be it streaming or downloading. Wasafi.com system was apparently not quite innovative nor was it sufficiently financed and, so, it has sadly joined East Africa’s list of failed (or failing) digital music services. Could it have survived, if not thrived, though?

Running a service of this nature, or any business, for that matter, requires a thorough understanding of the market. With an industry as dynamic as this, it gets even trickier. Adaptation to technology and global trends becomes an unavoidable constant. Industry-leading companies like Spotify and Deezer have had to, in fact, draw into their huge investment funds to stay ahead and some are yet to attain profitability. And so the answer is YES; Wasafi.com could have survived, after all, Wasafi Media (TV and FM) is.

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