In 2020, the highest-paid musician in the world was Kanye West who raked in $170 million. Sir Elton John comes in second with $81 million in earnings while Ariana Grande rounds up the top 3 with $72 million. Interestingly, Kanye West’s last album release was in 2019. Sir Elton John last studio album was in 2016.
In the world of music, trends and popularity sometimes account very little to eventual financial success of albums or singles. Tours, streaming platforms and royalties account for way more revenue to artists.
With Spotify’s recent entry into the Kenyan market alongside 84 other markets in an expansion, we take a look at what these streaming platforms offer musicians and artists.
In this research and storytelling collaboration with SemaBOX, Dan Aceda takes us through a musical journey from the 1960s as he explains why Spotify’s entry into the market is the biggest thing that has happened to the music industry perhaps in his lifetime. Dan Aceda is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter with over 15 years experience in the Kenyan music space.
Dan is also an entrepreneur having most recently founded the StudioTISA and SemaBOX, a boutique podcasting studio and incubator providing a plug and play facility at very competitive rates to budding podcasters. Furthermore, they offer training to the creatives on branding, distribution and commercialization of their podcasts.
We ask and answer various topics like why most record labels exited the Kenyan market in the 80s. Will The Mushrooms ever win their IP fight against Disney for the copyright to the phrase “Hakuna Matata”.
Dan, the musical historian that he is, blows us away with facts about the industry we didn’t even know. Like the fact that in the 80s, Kenya produced four gold records or the curious case of Joseph Kamaru, who wrote over 1300 songs. For context, Prince is considered one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time having a catalogue of between 500 and 1000 songs. He decries the fact that Kamaru was deprived of an opportunity to share his musical talents with the world rendering all his works invinsible.
You can watch the full video interview below
Spotify vs Tidal vs Apple Music
Dan is quick to point out that Spotify’s rates are not the best in the market and that is one of the biggest drawbacks we have with the platform. He continues to say that he would love to see Spotify take deliberate efforts to ensure more of the revenue generated from this market stays within the local market to help spur growth of the industry. If Spotify maintains their current streaming revenue sharing ratios for the Kenyan industry, which is way lower that Amazon Music, Tidal, Apple Music and even Google Play Music, it will be the biggest disadvantage to artists locally.
The Curious Case of MCSK
But before all the music streaming apps got here, weren’t local artists getting paid for their music getting played, we ask. And to answer this, Dan helps us understand the role of collecting management organisations like PRSK (Performance Rights Society of Kenya), KAMP (Kenya Association of Music Producers) and the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and why they have terribly failed the local music industry.
It is not so long ago that MCSK was caught in crosshairs with various artists who went to social media to publicly call out the organisation over mere payouts to the artists. At the time popular rap acts Khaligraph Jones and King Kaka shared screenshots of their Ksh 2,500 payout which is peanuts for a full year’s airplay of the songs.
For context, MCSK is a Collecting Management Organization for Authors, Composers and publishers of musical work whose mandate is to collect royalties in public performance and broadcasting, on behalf of its members and to distribute the same to its members. MCSK currently has over 14,000 members.
In the new age of digital music sales and streams, one is left to wonder what problem the MCSK is itself solving and if they are still relevant in this day and age.
Record Label vs Independent Artist
According to research done by The New York Times in 2018, an artist on an independent label might get less exposure but actually get a bigger cut of the revenue from Spotify sometimes two times more than what a major-label artist might get; even though the latter has the best chance of getting a much larger audience.
So does this mean that Kenyan artist are better off using independent labels for their Spotify music distribution? Probably not. However this does show that in some instances, artists might actually earn more with less exposure and fame. Dan Aceda points out that he expects more local artists to get connections to either independent or major labels in Europe, US or Canada or even in some instances, these record labels might form a local outfit altogether.
Are NFTs the Future?
So what does the future look like for artists and making money from their music not just locally but globally as well? 2021 and now 2021 has seen an explosion of platforms moving to help creators monetize their content or works. We have watched brands like Verzuz, founded by music producers Timbaland and Swiss Beatz, start and pull outstanding crowds (The Ashanti vs Keyshia Cole Verzuz stream had 6 million Instagram viewers) to a recent acquisition by music platform Triller.
Most recently, SoundCloud has recently received lots of praise with their innovative fan-powered streaming that allows artists to get paid by fans who directly stream their songs. But is this really the future of music? Locally we have had numerous attempts by various platforms like Safaricom Songa to offer a catalogue of Kenyan music that users can then access at a fee. One of the other ways local artists get paid is thought the Skiza ring back tone.
However, with the recent developments where renowned digital artist Beeple just sold their art called 5000 days everyday at an online auction for $69 million, making him the 3rd highest selling artist alive raise, questions about if NFTs are an answer to helping creators monetise their content be it art, or music catalogues.
But what really are Non Fungible Tokens and what value, if any, would they offer a local artist or musician? NFTs are a special class of digital assets that cannot be exchanged with one another for equal value or broken down into smaller units. Each NFT is unique and authentic and is usually treated as a collectors item which can not be duplicated.
Kings of Leon recently released a new album as an NFT and have already grossed over $2 million from the sales. So far Ozuna, Tory Lanes, Shawn Mendes, Steve Aoki and many more artists join the NFT craze. Locally, we still haven’t seen any artist or musician offer their work as an NFT just yet.