How Kenyan artistes made millions in 2022

From left: Otile Brown, Nikita Kering, Bien-Aime Baraza and Muthoni Ndonga (MDQ).

From left: Otile Brown, Nikita Kering, Bien-Aime Baraza and Muthoni Ndonga (MDQ).

Photo credit: Nation Media Group | Pool

The world of music is a booming business. As the year comes to an end, Kenyan entertainers will be self-reflecting, taking stock of their hits and misses in 2022 as far as revenue generation is concerned.

Whereas not all of them were successful, a good number rocked and were on a financial roll. This group made its money from concert revenues, appearance fees, streaming platforms, partnerships and brand ambassadorial deals.

This year, we also saw a section of the top artists diversify their income streams by venturing into businesses. However, it is safe to say their millions were first earned the hard way; by climbing to the top of the music charts, one, slow, plodding step at a time.

Otile Brown

The Dusuma hit-maker arguably had one of the most successful years in his musical career in 2022. He made most of his money from shows but a large chunk of it came from music streams. For an hour concert performance, Otile charges a minimum of Sh500,000 but the amount varies on an upward trajectory depending on who the client is.

Corporate clients pay more. In June he was among the artists who performed at the Koroga Festival and was paid Sh500,000. He made an excess of Sh700,000 later in August when he performed at the ‘Stanbic Yetu Festival’ headlined by American singer Anthony Hamilton. The flamboyant RnB singer however charges slightly lower, an average of Sh200,000 for a club appearance, which could be anything between 30- 45 minutes.

Over the Christmas festive season, Otile has had a busy itinerary performing at various concerts in and outside Nairobi. 2022 is also the year Otile made his maiden US tour, performing in 14 different cities; Los Angeles, Kansas City, Seattle, Dallas, and Boston among others during his two-month stay. Otile was the top most earning musician on the Swedish giant audio streaming platform Spotify.

Also known as Jacob Obunga, he beat every Kenyan musician to top the list of the most exported local artiste garnering over 16.7 million streams. He was also the top Kenyan artiste with the most streams on Boomplay this year. The icing on it is that he became the first Kenyan artiste to join Boomplay’s prestigious Golden Club in September 2022.

Golden Club, celebrates artists who have achieved over 100 million streams on Boomplay. Otile is the only Kenyan artiste amongst 36 artistes in Africa to hit the milestone so far. This was also the year Otile signed his first ambassadorial deal entering into a multi-million deal believed to be Sh15 million with Chinese mobile maker Tecno Mobile. In the deal, Otile was made Chief Creative Officer and Brand Ambassador of the Tecno Camon 19.

Bien-Aime Baraza

When Sauti Sol made a decision to launch a solo career in October 2021, each member had a year or more of self-exploration. Bien stood out as the most bankable of the four. Despite charging a staggering $7,000 (Sh857,000) for a one-hour 30 minutes performance, the 35-year-old attracted the most bookings over his colleague.

“We paid Bien $6,500 (796,000) when he performed at our Party Verse concert in July this year. Initially, he had asked for $7,000 but we were able to negotiate,” the organizer of the event told Nation.

Other notable shows the ‘mbwe mbwe’ hitmaker thrilled fans this year includes the Seven Island Festival held in Watamu and Throne Lounge party in Uganda. 2022 was also the year Bien opened up his nightclub The Manhattan located in Imaara Mall along Mombasa road, Nairobi.

Sauti Sol

Arguably the most expensive local act, this best explains why the Kenyan boy band continues to get fewer bookings in the country. Despite the lack of enough shows in the country this year, Sauti Sol, who charges not less than Sh1 million for local shows, still managed to make approximately in excess of Sh7 million from performance fees alone.

In July when they performed at the MimiMkenya Peace concert in Nakuru, the band was paid Sh3.5 million. Last month Sauti Sol held a sold-out live performance event in Dar-es-Salaam and was reportedly paid Sh4 million.

Following the success of their 2021 Sol Fest concert, Sauti Sol organized the second edition of their Sol Fest held on December 17 at KICC, splashing US 500,000 (Sh61 million) to put up the event. Unlike the 2021 edition where they were the only performers, this year the lineup included bongo flava singer Harmonize, South African rapper Costa Titch, Nadia Mukami, Octopizzo, Brandy Maina, Fena Gitu among others.

The event was heavily backed up by corporate sponsors East African Breweries Limited (EABL), MediaPal, Home 254, WePlay and Schweepers. With the regular tickets going for Sh3,500 and the golden circle Sh4,500, Sauti Sol made a killing from gate collection at the sold-out concert which attracted over 3,000 revellers.

Sauti Sol supplemented their revenue from streaming income generated from Spotify, iTunes, Boomplay, YouTube. The band also continued to reap from the multi-million brand ambassadorial deal they signed with the smartphone manufacturer, Infinix last year.

Nikita Kering

The 20-year-old has a lot to be thankful for this year as far as her musical career is concerned. Success seems to be following her every move. In May, she landed a Kenyan brand ambassadorial deal for Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty which was officially launched in Africa on the 27th of that month. Nikita has also been on a run of shows to the extent that she had to “turn some down” to avoid burn out according to her handlers who spoke to Nation. Of the many shows she performed at, BBC Radio 1Xtra AfroBeat Concerto held in November, the United Kingdom stood out.

It was the first full orchestra concert in the United Kingdom dedicated to Afro-beats. However, according to the singer, most of her money did come from music streams. “What probably most people don’t know is that right now where the most money is, is on music streams,” Nikita told Nation during a recent Spotify brunch.

She was among the top 10 most streamed artists on Spotify in 2022. Her Ex hit song made it onto the list of Top 100 most streamed songs on Apple Music. In 2020, Nikita signed a recording and distribution deal with Universal Music Africa which has been paying her an average of Sh300,000 every month according to a source.

Muthoni Ndonga (MDQ)

Even though Muthoni Ndonga hasn’t been releasing more of her own music, the once-taunted Kenya’s richest female artiste has been cashing in from music-related ventures. This year, Muthoni The Drummer Queen (MDQ) as she is popularly known, successfully organized two sold-out events in Kampala, Uganda and Nairobi, Kenya minting millions in return. The two events held in December marked the return of the Blankets & Wines Festival, which she founded in 2008.

Both the editions had the major backing of corporate sponsors injecting millions of shillings into the events. They included Beefeater Gins, Jameson Black Barrel, Malfy Gin, RwandAir, The Whine Down, WePlay, Media Pal, Parapet among others.

“In Uganda we recently signed a two-year sponsorship deal with EABL for the next editions of Blankets & Wine.” MDQ told Nation in a recent interview. Besides organizing events, MDQ made her money through her upskilling programme called Perform Music Incubator which has trained over 100 musicians, producers, directors and talent managers. “Because we are doing skill set development and education, we are able to apply for grants to do that, and that is another stream of income.” She added.

May this year MDQ was among the creatives shortlisted for a Sh22 million grant from Ignite Culture, an ACP EU Culture Programme (East Africa).

She was among the eight Kenyans whose creative businesses were picked among the 379 applicants to receive the grant to support creative and cultural industries in 14 Eastern African countries.