The melody of music-tech

MusicTech Mania: Has Africa’s Music Industry Finally Caught The Venture Bug?

By  |  December 9, 2020

In today’s world, technology has evolved beyond existing as a stand-alone entity. Rather, technology breeds innovation and is now powering multiple sectors. Simply put, technology, at this time, forms the foundation upon which many other sectors are built. 

Just like technology forms the bedrock of fintech, edtech, healthtech, and many other segments where tech startups are solving everyday problems and creating value in the process, several other new doors are opening up to the prospect of technology.

The gigantic music industry is one of these green areas that is beginning to take to the adoption of technology and is now demanding greater attention. It’s a growing space that appears to have massive untapped potential.

It might be a little blurry and unclear (or maybe not), regarding what the music technology (music-tech) space would look like. Or simply, there’s the question of what the “tech” in music covers.

In an overview, music-tech would entail utilizing technology for the growth of the industry. This growth would herald innovation, as well as disruption in the industry. 

Therefore, this would mean an improvement in several sub-sectors such as the ease of accessibility of music to listeners i.e music distribution, label and artist management, and very importantly, improved funding access to musicians to grow in the space.

The music industry is one that is highly capital intensive. Hence, the area of funding provision via venture capitalists needs to come into play and, in fact, can be regarded to be highly critical for the industry to advance via technology.

On a global level, there already exists some big shots that have covered some ground in music technology. A good example is the streaming services such as Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube music; they play a role in advancing the music industry through technology via streaming.

The streaming endeavour has shelved the outdated practice of buying individual songs or albums, like in the old days when individual music CDs and even cassette tapes were a thing. 

Now, these streaming services have improved the accessibility and distribution of a wide range of music content, and it’s all happening in one place.

Undoubtedly, this solution for the industry rests on the pillar of technology and thereby shows how powerful technology can be to the music sector.

Relatively, the music-tech scene in Africa is a nascent one. However, a new effort is springing forth in recent times, especially in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, which could as well be the straw that stirs the drink in the music technology space on the continent.

Gamechangers for music-tech in Africa

The music-tech sector in Africa is still a pretty green one where tangible efforts have been made but still needs a whole lot of work. 

Remarkable efforts in the African music-tech space have been seen to stem from Nigeria.

Apparently, venture capital is beginning to find its way into the sprouting space that is the African music industry, where notable efforts have been made. 

Venture capital largely exists to fund startups with high growth potential, and it is a well-known fact that the backbone of any business and even innovation is capital.

In accordance, venture capital can be labeled as the catalyst that is aiding the coming together of the music technology segment in Africa while opening it up to more.

In the middle of this year, the Nigerian music star, Mr. Eazi (real name: Oluwatosin Ajibade) set up what the Africa Music Fund (AMF) targeted at investing in music artists (both emerging and existing) in Africa.

At the time, he told CNN that the Africa Music Fund was looking to raise USD 20 Mn. This fund is billed as one that will invest in the future of  African music stars.

Through the AMF, Mr. Eazi aims to create a new funding model for the music business on the continent.

He highlighted then that the business of music isn’t one that is clearly understood by many investors and financial institutions, and this has created a gap in funding for musicians. This was a nudge as to why the fund was created.

In his words, “Artists cannot go to banks to get money for their music because financial institutions don’t understand how to secure intellectual property. They get it for physical properties but not for music. So, because not a lot of people understand the music business, there is no finance product for musicians,” he said.

Beyond providing musicians with funds, the AMF according to Mr. Eazi is also targeted at helping musicians create access to a larger audience by helping them find and book shows as well as distribute their music.

Mr. Eazi’s “incubatory” work in the music industry didn’t start from the launch of the AMF. There have been prior records of his effort in time past.

In 2018, he launched emPawa Africa, an incubator program that provided artists with funding and resources to market their music, access radio and TV airplay. 

The ultimate aim of the program then was to train artists to become independent music entrepreneurs. Through emPawa Africa, some of the continent’s fast-growing artists like Nigeria’s Joeboy and Ghana’s J. Derobie were discovered.

Overall, Mr. Eazi pronounced then, that he aims to contribute towards the creation of a music industry where Africans are the owners of their content and intellectual property.

In his words, “I want to look back and be fulfilled knowing that I contributed to getting African equity participation in the music infrastructure that has been built on the continent.”

A similar initiative was also announced last month by a renowned Nigerian hip-hop artiste, A-Q whose real name is Gilbert Bani.

The veteran artist disclosed in November that he was leaving his position at Chocolate City; one of the most recognised record labels in Africa, to set up a music incubator for African artists.

“I had a wholesome experience at Chocolate City, and I’m happy to have been part of the label’s journey to profitability”, A-Q stated.

This initiative is a joint venture deal with one of Africa’s top music distribution platforms, Africori Music Group. According to him, the next 18 months would be spent in partnership with Africori on discovering and funding artists’ careers across Sub-Saharan Africa.

“I’m even more excited about my new business venture with Africori; I’m very passionate about discovering and nurturing talent. We are confident that the music incubator is what African artists need right now. We all know access to funds is very limited for young acts across the continent’, A-Q added in his statement.

There appear to be great light signals of what he might pull off with the new initiative, considering his mark and feat with Chocolate City. In retrospect, A-Q co-founded 100 Crowns, Chocolate City’s first subsidiary label focused on the Hip-Hop genre. Through 100 Crowns, A-Q signed BlaqBonez who happens to be Chocolate City’s biggest artiste at the moment.

Another effort that is seen to have been made in the music-tech space is the recent Music-Tech Innovation Challenge, powered by the famous African incubator, Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) in partnership with MusicTechSpace. 

MusicTechSpace is an innovation and community platform that was launched in 2019 and is focused on the intersection of music and technology. 

The Music-Tech Innovation Challenge aims to find, identify and develop innovative solutions across four critical opportunity areas in the Nigerian music industry, namely legal advisory for artists, digitization of label operations, artist management, and event management. The winners of the challenge would be provided with a three-month incubation period.

There is also the possibility of funding from CcHUB for exceptional teams that demonstrate the potential to scale.

The selection process closed out just a few days ago and saw the emergence of four winners in the four different categories.

These winners would be receiving support from CcHUB and four key experts in the music industry. They are Audu Maikori (founder, Chocolate City Group), Uduak Oduok (founder, Africa Music Law), Godwin Tom (founder, The Godwin Tom Company, and iManage Africa Entertainment), and Wale Davies (founder, Palmwine Music Festival).

On a final note, the music technology space in Africa is one that is currently being mined and looks to be a fertile ground with great potential for new grounds to be broken.

This may be just the start of the breakthrough that would happen in the industry in the coming years. But of course, fingers-crossed!

Featured Image Courtesy: Uberchord

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