Let us start by establishing some facts:
- Foreign music (primarily that that originates from Nigeria and Tanzania) receives more airplay than homegrown talent
- Without as much exposure as their foreign counterpart’s Kenyan artists receive pennies to perform at concerts, often serving as curtain raisers
- Nigerians have perfected the art of marketing their music
This month we saw Nigerian superstar Patoranking hold a very star-studded well-attended listening party for his new albim….in Kenya! From Nyashinski, to Sauti Sol to Betty Kyalo majority of our A-list celebrities were in attendance. Could the same be said if one of our own held a similar event? Would the best of the best show up in support? Anyone who follows King Kaka’s career would disagree. Simply because when he launched his album Eastlando Royalty, it did not get the same kind of backing. Tetu Shani, Fena Gitu and even Bien from Sauti Sol have all said it Kenyan’s don’t support their own. The reasons from this are lengthy and complex. From the government not supporting the craft, to the Music Copyright Society of Kenya allegedly not giving the artists their dues with royalty’s magically disappearing, to radio producers claiming that their playlists are made up of foreign music because that’s what the fans are asking for, to musicians claiming that the reasons DJ’s and producers play foreign music is because they are given kitu kidogo to do so.
Then there is how the Nigerians and Tanzanians seem to exploit this myriad of problems that we are facing. They have managed to grow their local industries by whole-heartedly embracing their own. It is rumored that Nigerian clubs don’t allow Kenyan song requests at all. The fans, the government, the radio stations and the DJ’s prioritize their own before any other. Veteran Nigerian blogger controversially said that he doesn’t know a single Kenyan artist and he does not even have one Kenyan song on his playlist. Coupled with the fact that Nigerian musicians have a whole team behind them ensuring that the relevant stations and most happening DJ’s have their audio tracks in the right format, that all streaming services are regularly updated with new music and that they are constantly engaging with their fans via social media…. of course they will receive more airplay!
The fact that a Nigerian artist would come and hold a listening party here, and be received with such welcome arms is evidence that our foreign friends know where to hit us where it hurts. Not that this article is a condemnation of the music Nigerians produce, they are bangers! We are simply trying to say that no situation exists in which the reverse would be possible. The marketing for the event was done so well that one could not help but listen to the album and see what the much-deserved fuss was all about.
Dan Aceda probably has the best solution to the whole predicament. He said “It’s true radio stations need to make money, but they have an obligation to grow local talents. We need to protect our upcoming industry from unfair competition from established foreign acts. Nigerians grew their market by blocking out the competition and that helped them incubate and grow their market.”