Kenyan Artists Don’t want Radio Stations to Play Foreign Music—How Absurd that Sounds?

The recent call on Kenyan radio and television stations to give local artists more airplay preference over their foreign counterparts is the latest attempt by the country’s entertainment industry to increase the popularity of Kenyan music. But they’re doing it the wrong way. Rather than eliminate competition in the music industry, Kenyan artists should treat music as a business and invest in individual popularity. Not press for an easy way to stardom.

Helping local artists find a greater audience is a good idea, however, the majority of Kenyan media outlets are privately owned. An outright demand like this will be against thier independence. 

‘Tujiangalie’ by Sauti Sol and Nyashinski is among Kenya’s most viewed music videos on YouTube in 2018. The song made raves for highlighting corruption, government debts, selfish politics, and cybercrime in Kenya. 

 Music should be Treated like Business

It is true that music industries across the top entertainment hubs in Africa including Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, and Tanzania, are growing fast due to the tremendous participation of local media. But narrowing down the music industry in Kenya to favor local musicians only indicates laziness and lack of creativity among stakeholders in the industry.

Music preference—just like any other commodityis largely determined by the quality of mixing and production and personal taste. The lack of depth in this regard points to why Kenyan music videos get fewer views on streaming platforms like YouTube compared to those from Nigerian and Ghanaian artists.

Kenyan artists must improve the quality of their recordings. If a product is appealing, there is no reason to force anyone to buy it. They should package their concerts properly to attract the local audience; their foreign competitors are good at this.

In Kenya, though, there are hardly any large-audience sold out concerts anymore. In fact, top branded concerts like Mashujaa, SawaSawa, and Jamhuri festivals have struggled to sell tickets in recent years.

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Artists should stop counting on patriotism to promote local music in an industry where there is an abundance of substitutes. Improved quality and packaging are better lines to press.[/perfectpullquote]

Quality of recording and Personal Promotion must Improve

Those promoting this idea should know that the playlist of media outlets are determined by the current interest of their audience, and sometimes the quality of a recording. These outlets will always be in charge of their own affairs. Artists should stop counting on patriotism to their music in a competitive industry. Improved quality and packaging are better for them to press.

Not playing foreign music is pointless without good local alternatives. Besides, this campaign will only reduce the level of competition in the industry thereby triggering even slower growth. In contrast, though, competition is necessary for creativity, and creativity always leads to more and better options for the audience.

Competition between Kenyan and international artists for airplay will only benefit the Kenyan music industry on the long-run. It will lead to an increase in demand for studio managers, mixers, and sound engineers as artists become more business-minded. This is because modern music production demands a high level of research and creativity. Not only by the artist but by the songwriters, promoters, and producers.

Of course, bringing in these talents to support the artist can be quite expensive and it is understandable that many Kenyan artists do not have the resources. But one must water his own path to have a soft landing.

They should also embrace the local culture as opposed to copying the style of foreign acts, especially North American genres. If artists want the locals to buy their music, they should give the locals the best of local music. It’s that simple. It’s what most Nigerian and South African artists do most times.

Kenyan artists should nonetheless, expand their acts to the broader entertainment industry by working with movie stars, television hosts and other players. Collaboration with other players in the entertainment industry will open more opportunities for them and grow their popularity.

Musila Muoki is a writing fellow at African liberty. He is the social media and marketing director at African Students for Liberty  Twitter @musilamuoki