In an unexpected move, Nation Media group has thrown its hat into the music business by launching a new recording label, Lit Music. The record label will start from scratch, scouting and developing talent, in addition to offering artist management services including managing their brands and trademarks. Lit Music will be in charge of coordinating production, distribution and marketing of music by artists signed to the label.
“We believe that through the new record label we will bring something unique and fresh for the local artists and make it easier for them to commercialise their talent. This record label is also an initiative by Nation Media Group to support the music industry in Kenya and find ways to make it efficient for local artists to have transparency on revenues earned through various platforms,” said Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama.
Revenue has been a bone of contention for artists in Kenya, the most notable case being that of music group Elani who called out the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) in 2016 for not adequately paying them their dues. Elani had earned a paltry Ksh. 35,000 for their work in 2014/2015, despite it being a great year for them in terms of radio play; and were lobbying to have MCSK to open up their ledgers for inspection.
MCSK has so far lost their license to collect royalties on behalf of authors, composers and publishers after the Kenya Copyright Board (state body in charge of enforcing copyright laws in Kenya) found them at fault for not producing audited financial statements as required by law. Currently, Music Publishers Association of Kenya (MPAKE), Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP) and Performance Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) are the only bodies charged with collecting royalties on behalf of artists.
It will be interesting to see how this new venture by Nation Media Group pans out as Lit music will compete against a host of other music labels including industry veterans like Ogopa Deejays, Calif Records etc. and relatively new labels like Chocolate City and Kaka Empire. Lit Music has an advantage in marketing and promotions-having a whole TV station, a radio station and several newspapers (in three countries) behind a music label doesn’t hurt either.
Lit Music has already kicked off with a new one-hour lifestyle TV show called Lit 360 on NTV featuring local and international artists, fashion trends, and events. Artists signed to the label including Gloria Muliro (with hits such as Narudisha and Ndio Yako), Mwenye Haki, Redemption, Rachel Adiyo, Helianda Ken, Vanessa, Bugz, Dee and Alex Munyiri, will also be featured on the show. Nation Fm has also launched a morning show called Lit 963 to promote the label’s music.
Kenya’s music industry is currently experiencing increased interest from investors, Universal Music Group (the label behind artists such as the late Avicii, Lady Gaga, Kanye West etc.), recently acquired a 70% stake in AI records- a Kenyan record label founded in the 1950s. The acquisition gives Universal Music access to AI’s wide East African songs catalogue, including music from legendary groups such as Super Mazembe, Afro 70 and Western Jazz, which will be digitised and sold internationally.
Safaricom has also joined the fray with the launch of the music streaming app Songa which has songs from up to 40,000 artists including musicians from Sony Music Entertainment (artists signed with Sony include Shakira, Beyonce and the late Michael Jackson). Additionally, Warner Music Group, also with heavyweights including Ed Sheeran, the late Prince, Quincy Jones and Bruno Mars under them, signed a deal with music streaming and download service provider Mdundo to avail its music catalogue to Mdundo’s subscribers.
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