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How East African Musicians Are Generating Revenue Today

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As the world continues to embrace technology, and with the current state of quarantine in so many countries, musicians are in a constant search for new and better streams of income. In East Africa, artists and companies are looking to tap into a tech-savvy, smartphone-connected population of around 537 million people through several pathways.

Ahead of the MIDEM digital panel conversation on Reinventing Monetisation Sources in East Africa, which we will be moderating, we spoke with the panelists: Tanzanian star Vanessa Mdee, TRACE TV’s Head of Music Business East & Anglophone Africa and Swahili nation Founder Cleopatra Mukula, and Mdundo‘s Chief Operating Officer Wanjiku Koinange, and also hear from insider voices like Nairobi-based Camille Stormto get their takes on income options for artists in East Africa.

The best way for East African artists to make money right now—given the current situation

“Currently the best way is to monetize off of digital content and brand endorsements,” says star singer-songwriter Vanessa Mdee. “Beyond concerts, artists in East Africa make most of their revenue on social media and off of their music streaming platforms. However being a brand ambassador is the most lucrative means of making revenue aside from the above mentioned.”

Locking in partnerships with brands is a point that comes up a lot throughout our discussions with the group. Vanessa herself has had numerous deals with the likes of Samsung Tanzania, Doffi washing powder and others, as do all major artists in the region.

Mdundo’s Chief Operating Officer Wanjiku Koinange.
Photo courtesy of Mdundo.

“It’s a positive thing that artists are monetizing through their partnerships with brands,” says Cleopatra Mukula of TRACE. “Thank god for endorsements, that check goes a long way during this current situation, and most of the artists that I’ve spoken to say that. Some companies have started to do digital concerts sponsored by brands. Some of the brands in Uganda have been even sponsoring artists to do indoor concerts, all well controlled, but I can’t say names.”

But what can up-and-coming artists who can’t secure lucrative deals with brands do? “The obvious way is endorsements and brand ambassadors, but even then it’s the top 10 artists per country [getting them], specially those known in recent times,” weighs in Wanjiku Koinange of Mdundo.

“It would be great to see more artists working with brands that want some impact on social media to do monetized live streams and the like,” adds Camille Storm, founder of the Nairobi-based creative agency Camille & Co. and current OkayAfrica contributor. “Beyond that I would say a big source of income is digital ringtone downloads.”

“What I love about artists from the East is that we like to think about smart ways of monetizing our business,” mentions Mukula, “If we look at Vanessa Mdee, she’s not just an artist but an entrepreneur. She has merch and a record label—that keeps a smart ecosystem. You’re not just making revenue from live shows but also supporting other artists and monetizing through the collective. Merch has been a big one. Quite a few artists have merch in the East. A Pass, Diamond Platnumz has his media/record label, Ali Kiba has partnered with brands.”

Streaming & online service options for East African artists

“The future is in data and East Africa has that,” says Cleopatra Mukula. “The East African algorithm and ecosystem actually drives lots of business for artists in the East and lots of Africa. Africa has 1.2 billion people. A minimum of 75% are on smartphones. Look at the data. The majority are 35-years-old and under. This is a demographic that consumes music. For East Africa, you have a population 537 million. In Nairobi, 80% of people have a smartphone.”

“East Africa like most of Africa is filled with Android users and the most popular music platform for the consumer has been Boomplay,” adds Vanessa Mdee. “Apple Music only recently became available for the music consumer in East Africa even though iOS/Apple products have been in use for years.”

“The generally cheaper data prices in East Africa (especially Tanzania) could see music on these platforms do super well as it has on Youtube for example,” mentions Camille Storm.

Cleopatra Mukula, TRACE TV’s Head of Music Business East & Anglophone Africa
Photo courtesy of Cleopatra Mukula.

The mobile-web based music service Mdundo has been operating in East Africa and beyond for close to eight years. It offers songs for free downloads and streaming directly from their website and Android app. “We’re predominantly a digital music service available as a web download and streaming app. We have 5 million users on a monthly basis and work with 50 thousand artists signed directly to our platforms,” explains Wanjiku Koinange, “but we also have partnerships with Believe, Tunecore and others.”

“We create an option for users to be able to stream, an option for low income users on the digital space, people who have very basic phones or smartphones. We’re trying to get all the music available on the catalog for free. Piracy is the number one thing we have to fight.” Any user searching for “download Sauti Sol” on Google, for example, will see Mdundo’s site in the top results. The company cites that it now has 7.2 million users in Tanzania, 7.1 million users in Kenya, and 5.4 million in Nigeria, 3.4 million in South Africa and more across the continent.

Streaming giants like Apple Music and American companies like Audiomack are also looking to the region. “Apple Music recently just expanded to Tanzania and are super interested in setting up closer relationships with more East African acts and labels,” mentions Camille Storm. “Audiomack also shows a lot of support for East Africa with their playlists and promotions. It would be great for East African artists to hop on these opportunities to learn and grow to get on par with the rest of the world in terms of roll-out strategies for their music on these streaming platforms for maximum impact as well.”

Build from within or look towards streaming giants?

“We have for a while tried to support and work with national/local streaming companies like Mkito, Mdundo, Mzikii, however the Chinese Boomplay and American Audiomack have been the most popular amongst the masses because of their ease on consumers as well as their availability to Android users,” explains Vanessa Mdee. “The consistency for consumer and artist with the local streaming platforms has been unstable over the years hence why the dependency on the more developed streaming companies.”

Vanessa Mdee.
Photo courtesy of the artist.

Wanjiku Koinange of Mdundo has this to say: “We are learning from Apple and Spotify but we also understand that the systems that allow them to exist, like royalty collections, are not necessarily what we have here. In Kenya, for example, we don’t use credit cards/debit cards as often, we have the mobile money. So for these companies, if they’re trying to get into this market, the cost would be big. I don’t know if it would make sense. They could cater to the top income earning population that do have credit cards or do the required subscription payments.”

“I do think the solution will come from within and what I imagine will happen will be to tailor a product similar to services like ours (Mdundo, Boomplay),” Wanjiku adds. “The solutions will come faster from within. The model of Mdundo has changed a bit throughout the years and it’s focused on the app and changed our product market.”

“I think the whole of Africa in general needs to build from within first,” agrees Camille Storm. “There’s a lot that we need to do that can’t be fixed overnight by major companies or international record labels coming in. We can’t look to them for all the answers but I think international companies coming in to invest in the East African music industry would be beneficial and it’s something that is bound to happen anyway. But for them to effectively work with us or invest in us we also have to have made more progress in terms of creating a system that really works on the ground with regards to functioning labels and creative agencies, charting systems, and royalty collection and payments.”

“An option could be that big players come in to the market and find smart people to adapt DSP services locally,” says Cleopatra Mukula. “The smart players will understand that for you to really work with East Africa you have to understand the culture, the people and find ways of dealing with a demographic that’s sustainable on its own.”

– Kam Tambini/Okay Africa

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Kasapreko Launches Puma Drinks With Metro Mass Transit – [SEE PHOTOS]

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GREATER ACCRA, 9th July 2020/www.gbafrica.net/ – Launched in Accra and in partnership with Metro Mass Transit (MMT), Africa’s leading Beverage giant, Kasapreko Company Limited has outdoor Puma Drinks, an addition to its growing range of products.

Speaking at the launch, Commercial Director of Kasapreko Company Limited, Mr. Gerald Bonsu, said that the decision to introduce Puma Drinks and as well collaborate with MMT was informed by the current COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected everyday way of life and doing business.

Kasapreko, in line with its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) principles, has therefore secured several buses from the transport company Starting with three Regions in Ghana (Greater Accra Ashanti and Western) to convey commuters for free.
During these rides, passengers will have access to free hand sanitizers, PPEs, as well as bottles of its new Puma soft drink.

On his part, Mr. Richard Osei Bamfo, Deputy Managing Director in charge of Operations & Technical at Metro Mass Transit, commenting on the partnership described this initiative as an opportunity to refresh and protect their passengers under the Covid19 pandemic season.
He added “I really admire Kasapreko coming into the market with a new product at this time is really just contributing to options of what consumers want.”

Speaking at the groundbreaking partnership the Sales and Marketing Manager at Kasapreko for Carbonated Soft Drinks and water, Mr. Chris Addo-Sarkodie, explained that for decades, the company has consistently led the way in the beverage space particularly with an innovative range of products. Puma Drinks is a new line of products with a fantastic range and significant value-for-money pack (350ml) which will deliver competitive profit margins to stakeholders and consumption satisfaction to the Ghanaian consumer. For every Market, every occasion and Every Person this is the whole new vibe he added.

It comes in 8 unique flavors including apple, orange, tropical, energy, malt, cranberry, and pineapple and is available at major distribution points and retails outlets at 20 Cedis per pack and 1.5per per bottle. For bulk distribution, call 0262-351251.

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Canon Takes On Sony’s A7 Series With The Full-frame EOS R6 Camera

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Canon has unveiled the 20.1-megapixel EOS R6, the little brother to the gobsmacking 8K EOS R5 camera it unveiled at the same event today. At $2,499, the R6 is everything we hoped the EOS R would be (and more) and a much better rival to the Sony A7 III, Nikon Z6 and Panasonic S1. Canon is finally playing to its strengths (the RF mount and Dual Pixel autofocus) and like the $3,899 EOS R5, it has few weaknesses on paper.

To make things clearer, Canon is now lining up the names of its full-frame mirrorless cameras with its DSLRs, with the R5 flagship corresponding to the 5D-series DSLR flagships, and the R6 model matching its more budget-oriented 6D-series DSLRs.

The R6 appears to have a similar sensor to its Canon’s flagship 1DX Mark III DSLR, so image quality should be on par. It should offer equally good low-light capabilities, with an ISO range from 100-102,400, expandable to ISO 204,800.

It has a nice large grip and fully articulating 1.62 million dot rear display that should make it an outstanding vlogger camera. It has mode-selection dial where the LCD display sits on the R5 and, thankfully, a joystick is used in place of EOS R’s not-well-liked touchbar. It looks very similar to the R5, but weighs quite a bit less at 680 grams compared to 735 grams.

Thankfully, the R6 has in-body stabilization (IBIS) that works for both photos and video. Canon has promised up to 8 stops of stabilization, provided you’re using a compatible RF lens with it — easily beating Sony’s A7 III, the Nikon Z7 and Panasonic S1. It has a decent 3.69 million dot OLED EVF, dual UHS II card slots and the same LP-E6NH battery found on the EOS R. Canon has yet to say how many shots per charge you’ll get, but if it’s not enough, it’s offering the BG-R10 camera grip as an option.

The R6 matches the R5’s shooting prowess with burst speeds of up to 12 fps with the mechanical shutter and 20 fps using the electronic shutter. That’s supplemented by Canon’s excellent Dual Pixel autofocus (AF) system with 100 percent coverage and 1,053 AF areas, that works in all photo and video resolutions. It has face and eye detection, along with “head detection” autofocus brought over from the 1DX Mark III — helping the camera keep a subject in focus even if they turn away. Like the R5, the R6 has Canon’s all new animal detection mode.

Canon EOS R6 full-frame mirrorless camera

Video is an area where the EOS R6 goes beyond what Sony can do. Like the 1DX Mark III, it can shoot 4K at 60 fps and 1080p at 120 fps. It can handle 10-bit video using Canon’s C-Log mode both internally and externally, though unlike the R5 or 1DX III, it has no RAW capability. Still, C-Log and 10-bit video will allow videographers to shoot HDR video and have plenty of options when color-correcting the footage in post.

Better yet, 4K video only cropped a little, using 93 percent of the width of the sensor, unlike the EOS R with a huge 1.7X crop. At the same time, video is demosaic-ed and then downsampled from a 5,130 x 2,886 size, which should result in very crisp video. On top of C-Log, Canon has introduced “HDR PQ” capture, letting you view footage that can be viewed directly on HDR TVs, with little color grading needed.

Canon EOS R6 full-frame mirrorless camera

All that should make the EOS R5 much better for video than Sony’s A7 III (albeit it at a higher price), and on par with the similarly priced Panasonic S1. However, Canon’s Dual Pixel system should outperform the contrast detect AF found on Panasonic’s cameras.

On top of the cameras, Canon unveiled a raft of new lenses for the R5 and R6. The two weirdest and most interesting models are the RF 600 f/11 and RF 800 f/11 models, priced at $699 and $899, respectively. While that f/11 number seems crazy slow, the lenses are incredibly light at 930 grams and 1,260 grams, respectively, and the prices are very cheap for lenses that long, too. Canon also revealed the $599 RF 85mm f/2 IS STM prime model, a $2,699 RF 100-500mm f/4-7.1L zoom and RF 1.4X and 2X extenders.

As for pricing, the EOS R6 will cost $2,499 without a lens, $2,899 with the RF 24-105mm f/4-7.1L IS lens or $3,599 with the RF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM lens. It’s expended to ship at the end of August, 2020.

– www.engadget.com

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Absa Bank To Support Ghanaian Start-ups With New “Absa StartUp Banking” Initiative

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Absa Bank Ghana has unveiled an ambitious proposition known as “Absa StartUp Banking”, a new initiative that will support the grooming and growth of Ghanaian-owned start-ups with solutions that will bring their possibilities to life.

The Absa StartUp Banking initiative, which was launched in Accra July 6, will see the bank provide start-up businesses with clear- cut and tailor-made solutions and support in key areas of Market Access, Mentorship, Visibility, among others.

The Bank in their bid to alleviate some of the financial burden, characteristic of Start-ups, is also offering free banking services such as zero commission on turnover (COT), free cheque books, free transfers and free debit card printing to start-ups.

Speaking at the virtual launch, Mrs. Abena Osei-Poku, the Managing Director of Absa Bank Ghana said;

“As a passionate, bold and forward-looking bank, Absa is committed to help entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses by connecting their dreams to financial services and opportunities. We are excited and motivated to do this because of our social commitment to be a Force for Good in society.”

“We have the opportunity to help and build start-up businesses to become multinational companies. Absa has supported the development of Ghana over the past 100 years and this is another opportunity for the bank to reinforce its commitment to ensure economic development, growth and transformation.” – Mrs. Osei-Poku added

In his remarks, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Hon. Charles Adu Boahen commended Absa for launching such a courageous initiative at the time when there is global uncertainty. “This solution from Absa is not just only an important addition and enabler in our agenda towards building a strong economy for jobs and prosperity, it is also a courageous move, particularly at a time when the entire globe has been thrown into a state of uncertainty”.

“With over 100,000 students graduating from our tertiary institutions annually, it is fundamental that all key stakeholders provide support in creating an enabling environment that supports entrepreneurship, lowers the barriers of entry and leads to job creation,” he added.

“Over the last couple of years, the consistency with which Absa has shown commitment in supporting new businesses and the SME sector has been impressive.”

Starting a business can be daunting and Absa, through its StartUp Banking initiative, is calling on Ghanaians to encourage and support start-ups as well as young people with business ideas, so they can thrive and grow their business.

The Absa StartUp Banking is open to young Ghanaian businesses registered for less than three years and engaged in production of local goods and services. The initiative is designed to equip start-up businesses with relevant business skills, knowledge and opportunities to scale up.

– ameyawdebrha

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Uber Reportedly Purchases Postmates For $2.65 Billion

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Uber has acquired online food delivery service Postmates for $2.65 billion in stock, according to the NY Times and Bloomberg. The deal is expected to help Uber better compete against food delivery giant DoorDash and will be a consolation prize after it failed to acquire GrubHub. The deal, first reported late in June, could be particularly valuable to Uber in Los Angeles and the southwest US where Postmates is strong. Neither company has confirmed the reports, but are expected to do so later today.

Uber Eats and Postmates will be led by Uber Eats chief Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty, Bloomberg’s sources said. However, Postmates CEO Bastian Lehmann will reportedly remain to run Postmates as a separate service.

Postmates pioneered food delivery in 2011, but is a distant fourth in the US market to DoorDash, GrubHub and Uber’s own Eats services. Together, however, Uber Eats and Postmates will be second in the market after DoorDash, which still holds a large lead.

Both Uber and Postmates are cash-negative operations, with Uber alone having lost $2.9 billion in Q1 2020 because of the COVID-19 crisis. Food delivery companies, which rely on non-full-time “gig workers,” are hard to tell apart from a consumer perspective other than pricing. As such, bigger fish are swallowing smaller ones in order to control costs and pricing — to the potential detriment of restaurants, users and, particularly, workers.

“As a part-time courier who works for both [Postmates and Uber Eats] this is bad news,” wrote journalist and gig worker Wilfred Chan on Twitter. “While both are staunch anti-worker companies, fewer and bigger players means even less worker leverage against platform capitalists. With dwindling options, we’ll be exploited even more harshly.”

– www.engadget.com

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