Music in Africa has evolved over the years. Often, many people wonder why musicians in America and Europe live flamboyant lifestyles by showing off expensive acquisitions – Mansions, private jets, fast cars, and expensive vacations while most African musicians live low key lives. Of course, it isn’t because they don’t want to show off; they do not have what it takes to show off.
The reason is quite simple, African musicians do not earn enough money from their music careers. Eugy, a popular Ghanaian-British singer, rapper and songwriter disclosed in a recent interview with AJ Sarpong, show host on Hall Of fame showed on Citi Tv said: “I feel that Ghanaian and African Artistes are not making enough money from their craft on the continent as compared to other Artists from the UK and other parts of the world”. He went on to say that with these nice songs, most African Artistes would have made a lot of cash if they were in the United Kingdom.
From his statement, we decided to investigate to find out why African Artists were not making huge cash from their songs.
1. Fewer streaming platforms on the continent.
Popular streaming platforms that exist in other parts of the world are not present in Africa thereby limiting African songs to only a few elite ones who happen to be core fans of those Artistes. Online streaming is cheaper and more convenient than traditional platforms because it gives music lovers an option to listen to the songs of their choice conveniently at any time.
Africans have not fully embraced online platforms like Apple Music, Deezer, Soundcloud, Spotify and others which users can pay very little to access a wide range of songs. Most of these artists make a little sale from selling their albums over those platforms in Africa because their major fan base cannot afford the services of those platforms. Boom play or Boom music which is focusing more on putting African contents on its platform has long not made enough from doing that with very little people streaming music from the app.
2. Access to stable and affordable internet.
Africa faces major infrastructural challenges such as low connectivity and the high cost of data. Cheaper internet is still a burden in most African communities, Free Wi-Fi and open hotspot which can provide internet to areas that do not have access to the internet on the continent do not exist in most of these areas.
The prices of internet data have a huge toll on the earnings of an average household as it can cost about $10 or more just to purchase a 10gigabyte of internet data. It also adds to the cost a user would have to pay as subscription fees to enjoy music from the streaming platforms. Indeed, YouTube reported during a company blog post that “the number of hours of video content in Africa being uploaded has doubled year over year for the past two years” which “the audience has grown with it with watch time on mobile phones growing 120% year over year”, even for a free service like YouTube can’t be accessed by many because of the low connectivity of internet in Africa. According to 2011 estimates, about 13.5% of the African population has Internet access.
While Africa accounts for 15.0% of the world’s population, only 6.2% of the World’s Internet subscribers are Africans. Africans who have access to broadband connections are estimated to be in the percentage of 1% or lower. A recent research Wikipedia showed that a large section of Internet traffic in Africa goes through expensive satellite links.
3. Payment modes
Sound Cloud, Tidal, Pandora and Apple music which are just a few of the best streaming sites currently receive payments via credit/debit cards, PayPal, MoneyGram, etc, all of which are not very easy to come by in Africa. Despite the high mobile penetration, only 6% of the population uses mobile phones to make financial transactions.
The African payments systems are dominated mainly by mobile payments which are not well integrated to make payments to these streaming platforms, unlike Europe where a user can easily use a credit card for payments. M Pesa in Kenya and the MTN mobile which is one of the largest mobile payment platforms on the continent recently decided to go global. Music lovers would sometimes have to be going the bank a lot just to renew their monthly subscription or would have to buy it an expensive price from users who have credit cards, something which weakens their appetite for listening to pure African songs in Africa.
4. Marketing and distribution
Sony BMG, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group which are the biggest marketing and distribution firms on the planet have not made a huge impact on the African continent and music in general.
Aside from that most of these artists depend solely on social media hypes to drive revenue to their songs and albums. Instead of developing a very good marketing plan or finding an agency to market and distribute their songs. Sometimes most of these musicians don’t earn anything from royalties or licensing fees on a song limiting their access to revenue. In other parts of world music, artists find it easier to monetize their crafts very well.
In all, we think African music has come a very long way and deserves the needed revenue it should be making than it is making. Music has deep roots in African.