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Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Nokia set up a research center in Kenya two years ago as part of its 11 world research centers. Nokia Research Africa held its first progress update yesterday to talk about its work in Africa so far.

Of course due to competition they could not talk about what precisely they were doing but NRC Africa team leader did say that typically, 10 per cent of its research findings in Western research centers ends up being incorporated in their phones.

One interesting thing did emerge though. Nokia has been trying to set up a Kenyan online music store where Kenyans can download local music without much success so far because of too many hands in the pot.

Essentially, there are too many people with whom it needs to sign licenses with unlike in some Western countries where it merely needs to sign a deal with one record label and the artists under that label with have their music available on its Comes With Music online store.

Dorothy Ooko the Nokia Communications Manager for East & Central Africa said only one artist, Eric Wainaina was a one-stop shop with whom they could sign with. All other jokers had like a retinue of 5-people with whom the company had to sign contracts with, a tedious process to say the least.

But Jussi Impio, Nokia Research Center Africa team leader, did hint that we could have an online music store here in the next two years.

And get this: NOT ONE of these so-called celebs makes any money from the records they do. Piracy and other associated costs coupled with forgettable actual sales ensures that nothing remains to talk about.

Their money comes from Gigs at concerts and clubs. The only reason many of them are doing records at all is for promotion purposes. So it beats reason why they should make it so hard to sign with an online music store unless someone in these so-called record labels is fleecing them and doesnt want to lose the gravy train when artists move online.

Actually this is a long overdue move. For Nokia which has moved into solutions in a big way with its Online Shop Ovi Store, Ovi Maps, and Comes With Music store, Kenya would have been a quick adopter if it could come up with a deal that artists can sign to.

This is because Kenya has prolific users of internet both on PC and on mobile phones and two, the transactional ability using mobile money is deeply entrenched to pay for online downloads.

Comes With Music could work in Kenya by following the Ovi Store model. On Ovi, developers of mobile phone applications upload their apps onto Ovi which then distributes it to thousands of mobile phone users. The developer gets 70 per cent of revenue while Nokia keeps 30 per cent.

If Kenyan artists were to upload their music on Comes With Music and have users download it, they could similarly be paid for songs sold which potentially could be paid for with M-PESA.

In recent years local and regional music has taken Kenya by storm and gradually reduced the influence of Western Music. Kenyans could for example appreciate a local portal where they could download unique Congolose, Cameroonian or Mozambiqan music.

For up and coming artists who do not have record deals with local outfits, Comes With Music could offer a quick and effective way to put their music out there and combined with other social media such as Facebook, marketing themselves would be a much cheaper exercise.

So really, the Kenyan music industry needs to rethink its stand and make the process of signing with online music stores much easier.

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