30 March 2018

Tanzania: Lack of Infrastructure a Let Down for Bongo Flava

Dar es Salaam — Music is business and that is a fact! The art is great, the enthusiasm is there and above all the creativity has been breathtaking, but even then all is not well in the performing arts in Tanzania.

It is just not making sense on business end of things and as a result most artistes hardly gain anything from their creative efforts.

In the past many have pointed fingers towards those they accused of underpaying them but as years go by it is becoming a fact that it is more of a structural issue.

For an artiste to succeed in today's music market it takes more than just a good voice and melody to bring in the money.

And as many pundits have put it, it takesmore than just craftsmanship to get things done, for just like any other business it requires systems and investments.

Two weeks ago, Diamond Platinumz hit the headlines when he decided to launch his sophomore album 'A Boy From Tandale' in Nairobi, his critics didn't take it easy.

They accused him of all sorts of things including lack of patriotism but the African beauty singer was very straight in his defense and according to him it all came down to a business decision!

Though his administration tried to sugarcoat the decision in the name of the East African cooperation at the end of day the business side of things outweighed all the other issues.

There was just too much at stake and they could not afford to mess with such a project where millions of cash has been invested in the creative works that saw the birth of a 20-track album. It just had to be that way and so it was!

This was largely due to lack of proper systems that could allow his management to do the launch in Tanzania, a market that is plagued with several issues.

"The partnership that we signed with Safaricom in Kenya and other associated partners made sure that everything went as smoothly as planned," he told a radio station in Dar es Salaam.

Speaking to the beat, his manager Sallam Sherif said the lack of proper infrastructure is costing the industry and the government lots of income in uncollected revenue.

"Unlike in the West where the system allows one to know who is playing what and who owes who, here it is not easy to identify the direct consumers of music," says Sallam.

He says by creating the platforms through which music can be bought easily is the only way through which government can fight piracy.

"We already have certain payment procedures that are in place such the mobile money platforms, these are far ahead of many other European markets and all is left is to invite the investors to come make it happen," says Sallam.

He adds: Airplay alone in other countries isn't going to help our music, for example what we need right now is an auditorium that can accommodate up 10,000 people as opposed to the open air shows.

Most international labels depend on royalties from radio, TV restaurants and Bars, downloads, streaming, licensing and syndication plus the traditional royalties that are fast-fading out for their revenues.

He adds that though in some countries such as Nigeria, the Francophone countries, Angola and Kenya the systems are half way, in some it is just nonexistent.

"In Kenya for example royalties are no longer an issue as the MSK (Music Society of Kenya) collects royalties from public performances there, which makes it easy for other players to come in," she says.

According to Sallam, the current situation has its limitations on how music can reach the market.

"The only reason why iTunes and Spotify debuted in South Africa and not any other country was because the availability of the broadband technology could support their use," she says.

He says the availability of such technology makes the music retailing system accessible and affordable.

"The main reason why people resort to buying pirated music is because the music is not easily accessible so they would rather make do with such copies," he says.

He adds that the progress that has been made by Rwanda in laying down the relevant technology is likely to make it the next hottest destination.

As opposed to Western countries, most artistes in the Rest of Africa depend on mobile companies and traditional royalties in marketing of their music.

As a result the WCB entity has employed the services of Digital music content firm Digispice a company that distributes Universal Music Group in Africa and Diamond Platnumz's production.

The company says it has deployed a content management system to reduce marketing costs for musicians and tame piracy.

The content management system (CMS) monitors a musician's content performance, including number of times streamed or downloaded, revenue earned and number of consumers reached.

The company says the system locks out under declaration of data that may manipulate how much a musician earns and prospects of growth.

The Digispice CEO for Africa, Arun Nagar, says the system will boost the quest for transparency in the music industry where artistes have been losing billions of shillings in earnings through rampant piracy and illegal downloads.

"The core focus of Digispice is to ensure artistes get what is rightfully theirs, paying out royalties and alleviating the days where success and fame does not correspond to income," said Nagar.

Digital distribution has had a significant impact on the music and content industries, including reducing costs of distributing recorded content to reining in piracy on a large scale.

These developments, he said, have challenged established business models and ushered in new ones to shape the lives of performers.

Digispice also plays a role in distributing content on traditional VAS platforms such as Skiza on Safaricom as well as other telco platforms across Africa.

As a new markets open up in Africa with platforms such as DigiSpice, there is need to embrace these new wasy as compared to the traditional ways which is fast fading out.

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