The Music Business in Kenya

How Kenyan musicians are making money in the industry

Music in Kenya has grown to tremendous levels with everyone struggling to get a piece of this pie. In the past decades, artists were not making enough money out of their craft but with advanced technology, more income streams have been developed by artists.

Now that the industry is flooded with upcoming artists and established personalities, cut-throat competition is the lifestyle of every Kenyan musician. To stay relevant on the airwaves and media is a delicate balancing act. This has become even more stressful with the popularity of social media and cyber-bullying which is strife and often directed at the artists.

Kenyan boy band, Sauti Sol embodies the hard work and creativity that it takes to make it to the top music charts in Kenya. At the pinnacle of their success, the band has managed to drop hits after hits. Before the money, fame, and girls, they produced relatable music and marketed it heavily. The Kenyan music industry is like any other music business; you have to be talented, know the right people and give your audience what they really need.

To have your song played on TV and radio stations means a serious marketing strategy was formulated. The airplay and reviews are what translates to money at the end of the day.

Kenyan musicians engage with consultants and managers to have an understanding of the music business in the country. To produce quality music, they seek the services of the best studios in town with the latest music technology equipment. The production houses help the musician come up with the best beats and employs marketing strategies to make the music sell.

Before the money, there is aggressive marketing. Here are three ways that Kenyan musicians market their music to increase song sales.

Improving Brand Image

Your brand is what sells you or your work out there. Musicians have invested in PR executives and branding experts to build their brands. Artists create websites about their work to have the audience locate them easily. Every top-hit musician in Kenya has a website from Sauti Sol, Nyashinski, Timmy T Dat, Vivianne Kenya as well as gospel artists such as Willy Paul and Bahati Kenya.

They employ managers to oversee the operations of the website such as mailing list, comment, and updates. You will notice that artists seek the services of the best photographers locally available to take charge of their shooting projects and take images for public consumption. These are efforts to create an influential brand.

Social Media

Artists have taken advantage of the popularity of social media. A majority of the musicians publish their songs on YouTube to increase views. This is also a money-making venture if they chose to monetize the views. Kenyan musicians are the most popular personalities on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The number of followers an artist is a pointer to his/her popularity.

Aggressive distribution of Music

The industry is flooded with artists trying to make it hence it gets difficult day by day to have your music rule the airwaves. Due to this, artists have formulated ways to sell their music such as paying bloggers and influencers to write about your music and sending music works to TV and radio stations.

Kenyan artists have mastered the art of diversifying income streams. Gone are the times when they only depended on album sales. After all, it’s a business. Here are the best ways Kenyan musicians are making money.

  1. Bookings.

Getting booked for performances and events is the most popular method of earning. A bulk of their earnings is made from performing at events such as corporate events, concerts, weddings and national celebrations. During public holidays such as Madaraka Day celebrations, artists that entertain the President and guests earn good money.

This is a fruit you enjoy after building your brand. Artists who have a huge appeal in a specific market, are used to advertise products and services by big brands via endorsement deals. This can range from a million shillings to infinity depending on the popularity of the musician. By now you have seen musicians on TV ads, billboards, and papers promoting a product or service. Forexample, recentlyMejja (Kenyan artist) has been appearing in an MPESA-TU advert by Safaricom.

  1. Album sales.

A considerable number of Kenyan artists do not earn much from album sales because most Kenyans don’t buy complete albums. However vernacular music artists have CD unit sales that are profitable.

  1. Royalties

These are payments made to musicians when their music is played on TV, radio or any other medium playing their songs commercially. To receive royalties, a musician registers with the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) who monitors the industry for plays and collects the monies for the artist. The disbursement of money depends on the agreement between the two parties. Kenyan musicians have complained of receiving peanuts from the regulatory agencies.

  1. Ring-back Tunes.

Kenyan musicians such as gospel artist, Bahati have been collecting cheques from Safaricom which operates the service. The amount of money collected depends on downloads and subscriptions of Kenyan callers.


  1. Designer clothing brands

Influential artists have launched clothing brands consisting of clothes, shoes, and fragrances. This is to tap into the loyal following these musicians have. Kenyan artist, Timmy T Dat has a line of customized wear and shoes.

There is no secret to making money in Kenya’s music industry. Being creative about identifying plenty of income streams is what you need to succeed in the music business.



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