Why Kenyan artistes shouldn’t expect much from Mdundo royalties

Mdundo CEO and co-founder Martin Moeller Nielsen

Mdundo CEO and co-founder Martin Moeller Nielsen during a press briefing on its 10-year performance and growth strategy at Pinetree Plaza on September 20, 2022.
 

Photo credit: Diana Ngila | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • With 20.3 million active users by June 2022 across Africa, Nigeria leads with 22 per cent, Tanzania 13 per cent, Kenya 11 per cent, with Ghana and Uganda each at eight per cent. 
  • Of the active users, 4.9 million are Nigerians, 3.7 million from South Africa, 2.8 million in Kenya and 2.4 million Tanzanians.
  • In terms of music consumption on Mdundo, gospel music leads in Kenya and the entire African market stands at 11 per cent, followed by Naija music at nine per cent, Bongo at eight per cent and Rap at six per cent.

Despite being the majority of subscribers on music streaming platform Mdundo, Kenyan musicians and deejays do not stand a chance to reap big when the Pan-African firm distributes Sh100 million as royalties to its artistes this year.

Mdundo, a Kiswahili word for beat, was started in Kenya on September 24, 2012, and so far 100,000 artistes have subscribed from Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda and South Africa.

However, it’s Kenya that has the most artistes on the platform with 20,000 subscribers.

“One of the reasons we are big in Kenya in terms of assets is that we started here. We had a longer time to grow and cultivate our Kenyan artistes’ database because at the beginning we were only here,” co-founder and CEO Martin Nielsen told Sunday Nation recently when the company’ celebrated 10 years in active existence.

He revealed that despite the country being its oldest market, its biggest market presently is Nigeria, followed by Tanzania, with Kenya coming a distant third.

With 20.3 million active users by June 2022 across Africa, Nigeria leads with 22 per cent, Tanzania with 13 per cent, Kenya with 11 per cent, with Ghana and Uganda each at eight per cent. 

Of the active users, 4.9 million are Nigerians, 3.7 million from South Africa, 2.8 million in Kenya and 2.4 million Tanzanians.

In terms of music consumption on Mdundo, gospel music leads in Kenya and the entire African market stands at 11 per cent, followed by Naija music at nine per cent, Bongo at eight per cent and Rap at six per cent.

“Most people resonate with religion, it’s the biggest driver of music on our service not only in Kenya but across all markets,” Nelsen affirms.

Adverts revenue

The free downloading and streaming platform driving its income purely from advertisements splits its spoils with artistes.

But even though it pays royalties at the same rate among its artistes irrespective of whichever country it generates the most advertisement income from, it’s still a long shot for Kenyan artistes to make a killing from its royalties.

“There are challenges you will face as a Kenyan artiste compared to a non-Kenyan and I see two. As a Kenyan artiste, if you compare yourself with Tanzania, you are competing with all English-speaking people in the world because most Kenyans speak fine English. In Tanzania, they don’t, so you’re only competing with Kiswahili artistes and that means when you are in Tanzania, you are addressing 80 million speakers as well as 50 million Kenyans. That’s a massive disadvantage for Kenyan market,” Nielsen explains.

However, Nielsen is quick to add that Kenya is not doing badly considering the fact that 50 per cent of all music listened to in the country on Mdundo is actually Kenyan.

“But comparing that to Tanzania and Nigeria, it’s closer to 80 per cent. However, Nigeria has a different advantage over the two. Nigeria’s advantage is that they have a huge market because of its huge population. With 200 million people, they can address a much bigger market locally with their local experiences. 

“Unlike Kenya and Tanzania, Nigeria gets more interest from outside artistes who know that if they crack Nigeria, they stand to reap from a huge market. International artists don’t just work with Nigerians because of their talent but because they are thinking of one of the largest African markets as well.” Nielsen goes on.

With these facts, Nielsen concurs that when it comes to royalties, Nigerians will have the largest share but it hasn’t always been like that.

“Of course more money will fill the pockets of Nigerians, Tanzanian artists then Kenyan. Traditionally we had been paying the largest chunk of money to Kenyans but not until the last two years when we started to see growth in Tanzania and Nigeria. But I think Kenyan artists are upping their game. The numbers are not as bad as the feel on the ground is. Kenya is by far the most critical of its music and that drives the interest in Kenyan music as well.” Martin adds.

When distributing royalties which are paid twice a year in January and July, Mdundo calculates the income generated from adverts at the end of a financial year.

“We look at how much the music is being consumed. As an artist if you have one per cent of all the downloads on Mdundo you get one per cent of the Sh100 million.

Basically, we are paying per download and artists have a back end where they can see the number of downloads and their earnings. It’s purely based on numbers.”

But even with a back end for one to know how much one will be earning, many Kenyan artistes still feel short-changed.

“I was on Mdundo when I was part of Kelele Takatifu but once we split I have never gone back. It wasn’t paying that much considering we were really doing well at the time. But look it’s a good thing however, sometimes when these things are said they sound so juicy but are always far from reality.” Gospel artiste MojiShort Baba says.

Nielsen maintains the platform keeps striving to offer musicians better pay every year and that is best demonstrated with the latest Sh100 million to be disbursed, an amount similar to what they have paid artists in the last 10 years.

According to music website Aipate, Mdundo paid each downloaded song 54 cents in the 1st half of 2015 and the amount reduced to 42 cents in the 2nd half of 2015 and 34 cents in the 1st half of 2016.

Based on Nielsen’s explanation this could have been informed by the advert income generated by the end of each quarter. With Mdundo’s revenue stream mostly coming from in-content adverts, premium content and ads overlays on the platform it means most revenue comes from the overlay since most consumers who are the mass market, go for low quality but free downloads.

In 2015 Mdundo only had 2.3 million active users according to the annual report, a number that has multiplied 10 times to now.

To pay Sh100 million that simply means the Ad revenues have tremendously increased and Mdundo will be paying at least Sh2 per download.

To Nielsen who remained very cagey on the exact amount Kenyan artistes will receive this year, the situation can only get better.

“Africa music is starting to become huge globally. These are exciting times to be working in the African market. Price waters Coppers had projected that all major music streaming platforms will have paid Sh100 million by 2022 but we are already on course to beat that.”

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