10 June 2015

Kenya: Social Networks Key to Success in Modern Music Industry

Social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn are increasingly turning into platforms to market music in Kenya and providing vital sales and marketing window to artistes, producers and impresarios.

The real benefits are to those able to a create big networks and some do and have membership running into the thousands.

"It's about living tomorrow today and the networks have given us vehicles to market our careers to people in our networks around the world," says St James, a Sweden-based Kenyan artiste.

He has used his network to stay in touch with fans and friends in Kenya and keeps them up-to-date on his ventures and releases.

Groups such as Wapi are well ahead in this regard and use the network to promote events and others are following this trend.

Although the concept of social network is commonly associated with the internet, Kenya can rightfully claim to have pioneered it long before the net came into being.

This will certainly surprise aficionados of the internet who have held the notion that such networks were a product of the post millennium era as they indeed belonged to the ingenuity of 1970s, which is largely noted as an era of great discoveries of the creative kind.

Pioneers used radio music request programmes, especially the highly rated youth music programme Yours for the Asking, to socialise through messages, dedicate songs and also recruit members.

Initially the engagement was purely through the radio programmes but soon they grew to organise domestic tourism and business for the members and the sky was the limit.

By the mid 80s, the club concepts had spread like bushfire with hundreds of members who dominated the request programmes on the state owned KBC-- then sole radio station.

The first to really pick was the Funtime club started by Nelson Kajuma, a Tanzanian who moved to Kenya and shook the Kenyan youth with this unique concept of social networking. He had a broad menu of entertainment events -- from disco competitions to camp safaris -- where he used the ghetto blaster to provide an open air dance party.

He also started a magazine for his members to socialise and do business. On his heels was the late John Preston Mwathi with his Peoples Choice Salaam club that followed the same path and had more aggressive use of radio music programmes.

He died young but not before he had build a solid network across the country. The clubs enjoyed solid support by radio deejays notably George Opiyo, Abdul Haq, Ben Mureithi, Kazungu Katana and Veronica Zake in the KBC English service.

Others followed the trend and used their fun base to patronise their events and socialise as a generation.

It had a clear objective to spread entertainment as a business and a recreation through a variety of events hosted at locations that varied from the formal to the informal facilities.

The clubs belonged to an era when disco music and dance competition were the rave and their proliferation made an indelible mark in the growth of the entertainment scene in the 70s.

But they died a sudden death in the early 80s following an order apparently issued by the Office of the President that banned the clubs over fears that they were potential vehicles for the political dissident groups that were emerging at the time.

The fear was that the groups could be have been used by political dissidents groups such as Mwakenya to brainwash youths disgruntled by the Moi regime.

So thus died the first ever youth social network which by all indication might well have been a first of its kind in the world.

Nearly two decades later, the internet has adapted a similar concept creating local social networks which though better equipped but have centered largely on trivia without a strong grounding to promote friendships and networking among the users.

Besides the Wapi group, Kenya film stakeholders have used their page to share information and concerns in their field. There is also a Kenyan social network of collectors of vinyl records that group's people inclined to this format.

The use of the platform is growing and artistes are learning to use it to market songs hosted on the YouTube and other commercial forums.

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