East Africa: The New Hot Wave Of Digital Music Distribution

When the streaming era started to reign worldwide, Africa didn’t get left behind. As cassettes and CDs were seen everywhere, Now it is rare to spot any of those. Street music sellers who were called DJs now are music promoters because nobody buys CDs anymore. This re-structured the music distribution in Africa, from when smartphones took over from radios and TVs as the main source of music consumption.

There are vast differences in both music styles and market economies across the continent’s 54 countries. There are some features that are common across most. These include a combination of weak recorded music distribution networks, relatively unregulated digital markets, a legacy of unlicensed music distribution (including “piracy”), tensions between cultural rights and copyrights and widespread disruptive effects of digital innovations.

The rapid and pervasive uptake of smartphones and mobile Internet has driven African music sectors along a different path of digitalisation than in the west. This has meant that power has been placed in the hands of different sorts of firms. In Kenya, for example, digital music distribution relies on two kinds of firms: “mobile service providers” (telecom networks) and “digital content firms”.

Just as in Kenya, Other countries also are moving to this side of operating. As an example, We are having a huge rise of streaming numbers from Rwanda and Uganda respectively. Rwandese artist “Meddy” is a true example for that. His song “My Vow” got to over a million Youtube views in just 24 hours. This was something that has never been done before. This song was released through MMG Global, as it indicates on his YouTube channel.

With this rise in digital distribution, it has resulted into a deep growth of East African Artists such as Diamond, Sauti Sol, Ali Kiba and many more. It also has resulted in world labels having an eye on the opportunity for growth in this area. This has brought international labels opening its division in Kenya. Through the numbers, Kenya and Tanzania stay ahead in this region. Uganda has broken a few artists globally such as Eddy Kenzo and Bebe Cool. What makes it different is because Kenya and Tanzania are quite advanced with audio-visual production and have a lot of population in East Africa. This makes it easier for them to have big fanbases. With DSPs, Apple Music Spotify, Audiomack and Boomplay comes on the edge. You can easily find the top 25 songs on Apple Music.

“They saw commercial visibility, They understand streams, they understand views, they understand things going viral” – Tuma Basa, Director of Urban Music in YouTube mentioned about the globalisation of African Music. Although we can not compare the amount of growth that other territories like Nigeria, Ghana and South Africa have been having over the past years, it would not be a mistake to also not list East Africa as the new hot place for artists due to digital distribution.

As a role of Paradise Africa in driving digital music distribution, One year after setting up shop in South Africa, Paradise Africa now has representation on the ground in East Africa. Eloi Mugabe is the Paradise Africa content manager based in Kigali, Rwanda. This makes it easier for handling music distribution of artists in East Africa and making sure that their music is well monetized and available on all possible shops.

Digital Distribution has been an evolution from the Soundcloud Era, which EA Wave used to its advantage. There is something to be said about giving power back to individuals rather than institutions. We are at a moment where all bedroom musicians can make an impact on the music scene and unbridled creativity is as accessible as ever. In East Africa, this has allowed the proliferation of micro-scenes forming and the numbers are exactly what has created interest from outside bodies. “Distributors such as Paradise are bringing label organisation to independent artists which will only empower us to make a living. The future is beautiful.”EA Wave quotes.

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