Entertainment and Lifestyle

A musical revolution

Music streaming apps are reshaping the way consumers access and listen to content. They are opening a needed alternative gateway and market for content creators with ease to reach the masses. Locally, Boomplay Music, Songa, Mdundo and SoundCloud are just a drop in the ocean of the evolving music distribution, writes Cynthia Mukanzi and Manuel Ntoyai

Long gone are the days when artiste were burdened with the hustle of selling and distribution of music. A few years back, it was a common practise to come across artistes selling DVD/CDs packaged as albums or extended play (EPs) after performances. They would hustle the crowd to buying their wares. Times have changed.The digital world has taken the entertainment industry by storm, which has led to phasing out of some of the above paractises — and no doubt, for the better.

Just last week, more than a year into its latest version, music content distribution application, Boomplay, tipped 10 million installations off Google Play store and a 29 million user base globally. This is definitely a litmus indicator of what is a thriving trend in the mobile streaming of music. Boomplay is one of the platforms restructuring digital music sharing ecosystems by racking up numbers that spell better times ahead for local musicians and all other stakeholders in the industry. The platform has given millions of Africans unfettered access to millions of songs, videos and entertainment trending news. It has also provided a rallying point in the digital music ecosystem by driving more customers to mobile music consumption, a sentiment that was echoed by many industry players.

When call-back tunes were introduced years ago, artistes found themselves in uncharted territories and the game of numbers became real. The higher the number of music downloads, the more you made. Since then, more companies have pitched tent in the country with access to music being made easier by applications.

To greater heights

These sentiments matched Mseto East Africa lead man, Willy M Tuva’s. Tuva is playing his trump card and like nectar, it is the sweet call that’s lining up torrents of traffic to his channel.

“I can tell you for sure that as a presenter, it helps in promoting my vision of scouting and nurturing talent,” he told Spice.

And Spicers can attest to this statement. Take Mdundo — the download app  had a head start when it came to the music  download business. It had two categories for its users: Free downloads and the premium services. The former’s formula was to leverage on the advertising, while the latter had a long term plan, which saw them charge users. Averaging almost one million users every month, Mdundo offers Sh4 per download (the figure is not rigid, depending the billing period).

The tide has turned

Also sharing the digital distribution space is Songa by Safaricom. The telecommunication firm’s interest in the music industry goes back to its initiatives such as Safaricom International Jazz Festival, Ghetto Classics and Skiza Tunes. Skiza Tunes was designed to earn musicians money if their songs were subscribed to as ring-back tones by the mobile network operator’s users.

Songa is an upgrade in the company’s attempt to play part in shaping music consumption and ultimately introducing an alternative market for content creators. Songa is a host to more than 2.5 million songs picked from local and international acts with various sounds.The app has a three-tier subscription model, which charges daily subscription at Sh25 weekly subscription at Sh150 and monthly subscription at Sh499. All these are debited on the users airtime.

Kenya’s new cash cow

Apart from providing streaming and download services, these ventures also come with a bag of goodies. In efforts to attract more clients (artistes), Songa for instance has become a platform where artistes can launch their musical projects, with Diamond Platnumz and Dela being the among the first to enjoy the support.

But as one wise man once said, even the best laid plans go awry. While the investors of the streaming business plan to expand, artistes have been complaining about lack of accountability in terms of knowing how many downloads they have received on their portfolio. Take Mdundo, the app had a good run, but it didn’t come without friction. Rapper DJ Smallz Lethal and his crew once expressed their disenfranchisement, accusing Mdundo of not being straight when it came to logsheets.

However, the streaming services have in recent years introduced Content Management System (CMS) which enables artistes to monitor sales. While the likes of Spotify and Tidal are not yet available locally, it is good to know that local and continental developers have that spot covered making a bridge for more to rise to the beat of distribution and support the growth of the industry.

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