The Kenyan music industry has grown exponentially in the last decade alone. More and more artists in Nairobi are making their way into the diverse and vibrant music industry without the help of major record labels.
Fans on the other hand are supporting Kenyan music more than ever as exhibited by the popularity of new independent artists both on social media and streaming platforms, and the meteoric rise of new genres such as Gengetone and Kenyan Drill.
Almost all independent artists believe it’s important for them to retain creative control over their art. This piece highlights key reasons why it’s better to be an independent artist in Nairobi.
1. Total control of your music career.
Many artists have the ideal scenario where they have the free will to make crucial decisions about what they want in their careers. Being an Indie will give you that free will and total control over your career. You will be able to explore diverse lyrical content and innovative musical styles that are excluded from the mainstream but resonate well with your target audience, a perfect example being Gengetone. This means you won’t have to sacrifice your musical taste in favor of seeking chart success, unlike when signed to a recording label.
2. Keep all your profits.
Being an independent artist basically means that you are your own record label. This means that all profits made from sales, performances, streams and even licensing solely belong to you. You’re then left to decide how these profits now trickle down to any other parties involved.
3. Sole ownership of your Masters.
In most cases being signed under a record label means that the artist won’t get to keep the rights to their masters. Without a label, any revenue generated from things like album sales goes right into your pocket. The benefit of owning your copyrights is that you can determine how much of the royalties will each person that took part in the song will get. It comes in the form of controlling how much of the publishing gets distributed. Most record deals allow the label to have control over the copyright of an artist’s original work. Giving up your copyrights means giving up the ability to control how much you make.
4. Ease of music distribution.
With the internet, independent artists can access a wide variety of tools and services to create, market, and distribute their music. Artists can also reach new audiences easily through the internet and get to deliver their music to them via digital music platforms and stores without necessarily having a recording label like Spotify, Apple Music, or even Boomplay.
5. No deadlines
As an independent artist, you’re your own boss, you answer to yourself. This can build or break your career if you don’t have self-discipline. On the upside, you don’t have deadlines to meet as you work on your own schedule and can do what you want at the time you please. Without pressure, you can have ample time to focus on creating awesome music for your fans.
Being associated with a major label requires you to meet the deadlines; your music is influenced by corporate demands. Whereas as an independent artist you are your own boss
6. Long-run Turnover
Contrary to popular belief, major labels do sign many artists, but much of what is signed quickly gets turned over and dropped by the label. Most labels play the numbers game. They sign a ton of artists hoping that at least one-third will make it big and they will get their return plus more. Pragmatically it may happen that your project never sees the light of day. You’ll be entangled in the limitations of your contract, just waiting around until your agreement runs out so you can actually make music. What’s worse is at the end of the year, those artists that they signed but didn’t promote will be claimed as a loss on their taxes and the label will get most of their original investment back, leaving an artist bankrupt and devoid of work.