Operating on what many industry insiders considered an untenable music business model, the trio pushed on, happy to play for their handful of followers in Nairobi’s bohemian bars and cultural centres.
Then, in 2010, the unexpected happened: after routinely uploading the video of ‘Ha-He’ on YouTube, Kenyans, for some strange reason, took a liking to it… and the song went off the charts, earning Just a Band the recognition and appreciation they had never imagined possible. Although the group has since disbanded, with its members concentrating on individual artistic pursuits, that uncomplicated act of uploading a video online helped push Just a Band in the pantheon of Kenyan music.
Today, streaming is the standard of the music business. It involves a dizzying amount of money, with millions of artists benefiting in much the same way Just a Band did in terms of earnings and exposure. But as much as it has contributed to the success of many international acts, countless musicians in Africa are yet to fully reap the benefits, mainly because the continent was overlooked for a long time by major streaming platforms, and due to lack of access to affordable and stable internet.
According to Weetracker, as of June 2021, global streaming behemoth Spotify had set up base in more than 39 African countries, bringing renewed optimism to the continent’s underpaid artists. Currently there are more than 25 homegrown and international web and mobile music streaming platforms on the continent – all seeking to engage Africa’s 1.2 billion youthful population.
So does this mean that the ‘Promised Land’ is on the horizon for African musicians, or do we need to place our optimism on hold? To help us put things into perspective, Music In Africa spoke with industry insider Billy Warero, a sales executive at MTECH Communications, which specialises in digital solutions in some 10 African countries.