At about 8 p.m this evening as I was perusing facebook, I came across this link from pressplay.com, a local entertainment website. The caption of the article I am about to greatly disagree with has the caption that reads:
COKE STUDIO: KENYAN ARTISTS MAKE PEANUTS AS THEIR FOREIGN COUNTERPARTS MAKE A KILLING.
I have gone through the story and whether the figures they have presented as a final truth is debatable. I cannot attest to the truth or falsehood of the figures. However, this is my take as an Entertainment and Intellectual Property Law practitioner.
I totally disagree that the approach taken on Kenyan and East African artists to be part of the project as unappreciative. When you analyze the likes of Fally Ipupa, Salif Keita and other renown African artists, it is rather obvious that they are global brands. Despite being Africans, their music has given them a very strategic positioning in the global entertainment and music scene. Their global strategy in how they write their music and schedule their concerts around and all over the world is what has kept them on top of the game. Their music speaks to a global market even when performed in their local languages.
The other important factor is their consistency in the game. They are consistently making music and staying relevant to the world and their fans. They have also been doing what they are know best to do for so long. It is a business and a career to them. Their experiences and exposure is what has groomed them to be among Africa’s ‘Hottest Commodities’.
There are also other factors that keep them on top of the game like knowledgeable and skilled Artist managers. Some are managed by individuals while others by record labels with artist management wings. A concept yet to catch on here in Kenya with the magnitude it has in the global entertainment scene.
Now, let us analyse the situation here at home. Our music industry is still growing. It is yet to leave its marks in the global industry but it is slowly getting there. My statement relies on the number of international and regional nominations and awards Kenyans and East Africans in general attract. When you compare to our Western and Southern African counterparts, we are yet to make an impact as they have globally. When we look at Kenya, we are yet to find our sound. If you ask any Kenyan about our sound they are likely to be confused between, ‘genge’ and ‘kapuka’, and other interesting words/names I have heard people in the hood use that I cannot remember. We are yet to synchronize our diverse Kenyan sounds to give us an identity.
As the industry grows, our artists are slowly gaining exposure to the global scene and market. And just as it is typical when starting a new job, you must start from somewhere. You cannot start a new job and expect to be on the same salary scale as your boss. Can you? The same it is with our industry at the moment. If the figures as portrayed by the blog are true, I must say then that our artists have good negotiating skills and it is a good start. With such exposure and credits there are now in a better position to negotiate and make better pay in similar future.
Our artists have a reference point as they penetrate the global market. It is also important that we have a high caliber of artist managers and the artists also need to be involved in the business side of music to some extent, especially at a time like now as the industry grows. My humble observation is that some get caught us in the ‘celebritiness’ of it and end up not caring how they manage their brand and music as a whole. It is important for an artist to get a manager who understands and relates with their brand. Only then, can they be able to effectively manage them well and be in a better position to negotiate contracts.
So ladies and gentlemen, please do not get it twisted. Understand our position in the market as is and the journey we are yet to undertake. As our industry and artists grow, then and only then shall they be better position to make a ‘killing’ as put in the post.
I say well done to our artists from Kenya and East Africa that got it to the Coke Studio platform.