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iHub By Mugethi Gitau / June 1, 2014

When music meets tech


“I am no longer working with this recording house because they screwed me over”

“Piracy is our biggest problem”

“I thought I was doing so well, but I have no money to show for it.”

All of us have heard these statements at least once from a music artist complaining about distribution (of both the music and the returns) and discoverability.

We’ve all had a hearty laugh when a friend or relative who lives in the diaspora comes back home still bumping to Kenyan Music that was released 10 years ago, because that’s all they had access to all these years.

So in this era where tech makes everything a possibility, has tech made things better in the music industry?


The download button


Let’s face it, the Internet makes it way to easy to pirate stuff. When you put up your video on You Tube, you need to face the fact that someone is going to rip it into their computer without your consent. Some people have even  gone as far as creating apps that let you convert You Tube videos into a format of your liking (.mp3, .mp4, whatever)  and save it onto your machine.


So, if you are able to access virtually any music for free, why buy?


My thoughts on this would be that if I can readily access the music at an affordable price, and I like it, I would rather buy it than pirate. Especially if it’s a Kenyan/African artist, I would be happy to promote their music by paying for it.

So what would make me buy a song or an album online?


  • It should be easy to search for the music. I shouldn’t be a music guru to be able to locate content on your site. When I go on the site, and all I know is a few lyrics from the chorus, I should be able to type those in and find my song. Yay!
  • It should be easy to pay for. If I need a credit card to pay local content, forget me! If you try to access my bank account and try to make me vulnerable to fraud – it’s never that serious, I could take a walk to my nearest vendor. Tomorrow.  Mobile money works well because it is way convenient and doesn’t make me vulnerable at all.
  • Seriously, give a decent chunk of the money to the person with the talent who actually sang the song. Some have companies with large distribution networks and are actually able to pay what appears to be large amount of money to the artist. But when you consider that they keep 85% and give 15% to the artist. That is just downright immoral.
  • I have access to good internet, OK? If I’m buying from your site, the song better be good quality – not ringtone quality. That is an insult to my Bose noise cancelling headphones!
  • And you know what else would be great. If you let me listen to the song right on your site before I make the decision to buy. I mean, If I like it enough, I will buy it, right? If I’m forced to go on You Tube and listen first before buying because you won’t let me preview, I will hold a grudge.
  • Your site should look good (user interface) and feel good to use (user experience). In this day and age and in the Nairobi market, all you need to do is walk into the iHub and you will find techie-magicians who can do whatever is required. If your site looks drab, has poor graphics and is hard to use, why would I put myself through the torture?

For the artist

Selling your music online has a number of benefits

  • You can keep most of your money as distribution  costs are low. Some good audio markets like have a revenue share policy of 70:30 in favor of the artist.
  • Unlike launching a DVD or an audio CD where people have to find a store that stocks it, an online launch is a global launch. So if you live in the diaspora, you do not need to come home to discover what’s fresh.
  • You can use social media to market your music at little to no costs. Examples are Lady Karun’s and Wangeci’s album launches on which caused a considerable buzz amongst KOT (Kenyans on Twitter); in turn driving up numbers of streams and downloads.

We would love to hear what you think of tech in music. Is it for the good or for the bad? Let us know in the comments section Or send a tweet to @HerGeekyness


This article was also published by Up Magazine in print and online at

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Author : Mugethi Gitau

Mugethi Gitau is an all round creative. A techie by training, she is into all things design - Graphics, fashion, interiors. A writer of fiction and a poet, and tech/gadget blogger on Mugethi has a rich mix of experience ranging from training, community development and advocacy, research and design. A people's person, she enjoys linking the iHub Tech Community with each other, investors/corporates, academics and other stakeholders. She has a dream that one day, Kenyan techies will innovate their own computers and mobile devices and people all over the world will buy them. And use them.

  • Moses Njenga at 12:27:11PM Monday, June 2, 2014

    I have a collection of over 4000 songs, and each one of them I have Purchased. My collection can easily be about Ksh 250,000. My challenge is, getting access to legit music in Kenya is such a hussle. I am generally a non technical person, but the hussle gave me energy to learn web development to come up with a platform where people can download music legally locally.

    IFPF 2013 report indicates that 67 of all people online interact with legal music sites, so all is not lost

  • zack matere at 19:11:19PM Monday, June 2, 2014

    Serendipity !
    I am a poor Kenyan but I will pay 50 bob for a song I always find when am changing Radio channels .its on kass fm and goes like this “thereva veleka kari vole vole ili nifige gwetu salama” and there is another hilarious maasai accented song that drives me to stitches .Then there is this song that kanji mbugwa sang that I always took for granted UNTIL I heard his testimony on hope f.m and how he wrote the song a month after his fiancée was hit by a car two weeks to the wedding. I will pay 100 bob for that song roho safi.
    But I cant get this songs, I don’t know the titles and its an effort just getting to know then let alone buy them .Then again because the songs come to me out of the blue they are sweeter than having a list of songs where you know hii inafuata hii ..haileti raha. Serendipity
    My idea is a billion doller idea that can save the music industry . when a song comes on the radio or T.V enable me to flash my phone and in a few seconds I get an S.M.S that asks me
    Hi zack were you listening to A. NTV the Beat –Elani 5.47 B.KASS F.M Thereva veleka kari salama c. HOPE F.M –Kanji Mbugua

  • Warui Nduati at 22:32:38PM Monday, June 2, 2014

    Being a Management Label Owner, I have been looking for such a platform that will enable My client, the Artist, release Music and still feel its Worth and not just do as a Side-hustle but can devote all his or her life into it. We do need to promote that patriotism Culture where we encourage our own to support the cause of buying our Local Content.
    What Waabeh are doing is Brilliant! I tip My Hat to them for creating such a platform and indeed thanks to them, I have become a Proud Local Music Ambassador and using the Site to launch My clients work.
    On the downside though, Do people know Waabeh’s Existence and convenience in purchase of Music?
    They need to go out there and make a Mark!
    Put out Ads on how convenient it is to deposit and purchase Music. I believe tht with the proper. They got brilliant minds and I know can come up with a proper infomercial and I wouldnt mind throwing My 2 cents into it because its been on my mind constantly!

  • Neville at 00:24:40AM Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    I think your thoughts on the issue are pretty valid but apart from the musician and the marketer making it easy to buy said music, the developers of the marketing platform should also put their back into it to make sure it is impossible to access content for free under the guise of previewing said content on the net . I for one know a kenyan music site that allows u to rip of the song from the site while previewing using a site grabber like IDM so it goes to say the issue with digital music is always going to be something we all have to battle with. till then i keep my ideas on solivng the problem to myself.
    P.S your article makes for a great read.

  • Moses Kimani at 08:20:18AM Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    Kudo’s to the Waabeh team. Having used the service before, I can say that it works very well and finally there exists an opportunity for us/me to buy the music right from the comfort of my home.
    Well done guys; sky’s the limit.

  • Jopha at 11:09:55AM Tuesday, June 3, 2014

    My take is fairly straight forward. Having a tech solution that solves a problem is normally the first step.
    Making it easy for the end user to interact with it on a regular becomes the second and most difficult.

    There are many African solutions but how many people use them on a day to day basic?
    Content providers on the tech space have to built products that end users can easily use without thinking too too hard. My belief is piracy exists in the African audio space based on the fact that it’s easier to STEAL than BUY.


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