Inside the music business
A few weeks ago, netizens went crazy after Kenyan Afro-pop band Sauti Sol threatened to sue Azimio La Umoja-One Kenya Alliance, after one of the band’s popular songs Extravaganza was used in an ad-video announcing the appointment of Narc Kenya’s Martha Karua as the alliance’s presidential running mate. The band termed it as a flagrant disregard of their basic and fundamental rights to property. They further stated that they remained apolitical.
Of course this move was not welcomed well by their fan base as some chose to pick sides and they lost a big number of subscribers from their various digital platforms who were seemingly siding with the political outfit. The issue was thereafter sorted out amicably by the two entities.
On the other hand though, the episode brought to light the ignorance or lack of knowledge (or both) among many Kenyan in regard to their rights when it comes to ownership and use of their content by third parties. A lot of artistes admittedly believed it was for their benefit for content to be used on bigger platforms as they got followers, while others admitted to have fallen prey.
Following this and many other similar incidences, legendary musician and the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) Coast Region director John Katana and Showbiz Info Ltd, recently held a workshop in Kilifi to educate up-and-coming musicians on music rights and how to monetise their talents. Katana —who’s also a founding member of the iconic Them Mushrooms music ensemble— said the move was a giveback moment to the region where he also hails from, and for all coastal artistes.
“I noticed there was a huge gap, in that a lot of artistes don’t know the basics of their artistry, and therefore remain disillusioned and things end up not working well for them. Many artistes don’t know what to do after recording a song; they generally lack the basic information on how to operate,” he told Spice.
Katana and other facilitators introduced the artistes to copyright related rights, Collective Management Organisations (CMOs), artiste branding, basic agreements, publishing and split sheets. The event’s coordinator Nixon Bahari added that the event was aimed at bridging the gap between the artistes and the universal music world, which is far developed and complex. Myths and out-dated believes, he said, had played a part in the underdevelopment of music and other related arts at the Coast.
“Artistes from this region are a hardworking lot, but still fall outside the circumference. This and such workshops are important in removing the ‘village mind-set’, so we can bring our artistes closer to the universal world for them to earn better. There is still a lot of ignorance and myths about development, which still pull behind a lot of our artistes. A fear of universal education —they call it illuminati and devil worshipping— but it is time for forward movement if we are to grow in music as a business,” said Nixon.
Running on empty
Participating in the workshop was renowned Coast-based hip-hop artiste Ohms Law Montana, who said the training was beneficial to him as an artiste and, especially on the issue of monetising his music.
“There are things that I came to learn about so late in my music career that if I had known earlier I am sure it would have benefitted me financially. For instance, how to monetise my YouTube channel, how to use YouTube Studio to track my viewership and such things. I only came to know about this last year. Even a lot of established artistes don’t have this knowledge, so most of us are releasing hits, but still remain broke. It’s not all about the hobby, but business. Others are so selfish that those who have the knowledge will not want to share it with others. So, the workshops are important to us artistes,” shared Montana.
Legendary producer J Crack boasts of having worked with over 5,000 artistes worldwide during his illustrious career. He also owns and runs two music studios (Crack Sound Records) in Kilifi and Mariakani (Mombasa). He also manages Susumila, one of the top artistes from the Coast. Over 10 years of being in the music business has made Crack become a teacher to the aspiring and up-and-coming artistes, especially on how to handle their music as a business.
“As a producer, I am always trying to get a lot of people to register with the CMOs, even online. It is important for the artistes to sign so that I can also get my percentage as a producer. But there is still an attitude. There are those who don’t think independently and believe in a lot of propaganda. But I am hopeful that there is a day that they will change and embrace technology as well, so that we could all make money and better our lives. Music pays, and it is not like the other government jobs that have retirement benefits. So, you have to make the most of it, so that when it’s all gone you already made something for yourself to lean on,” he advises in conclusion.