Music Streaming in Botswana is not growing fast enough

By Arona Motsemeng

In 2015 Price Waterhouse Coopers Entertainment and Media Outlook estimated that South Africa’s total music revenue would grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.4% to $178 million by 2020, fuelled by surging digital music streaming revenue. On the other hand they projected Nigeria’s music industry to grow at 12.9% which would denote an increase from $47 million in 2015 to over $86 million in 2020. Similarly it was projected that Kenya’s total music industry revenue would rise from $19 million in 2015 to $29 million in 2020. All these countries attribute their success to a strong mobile music sector.
According to the PwC report, the rapid growth of the African music industry can be attributed to three factors: demographics, internet penetration, and streaming. More simply, the PwC report argues that this growth in Entertainment & Music spending is determined more by the age of a country’s population than by its comparative wealth. According to statistics, 6 in every 10 Africans are aged under 24 years and Botswana falls in this bracket and experiences one of the highest mobile internet penetrations in the continent. The question then is why isn’t our music industry not seeing the same level of growth and spend as the above mentioned nations.
Post 2010, the war on piracy still rages on as is the struggle for the establishment of a robust and reliable CD countrywide distribution chain. In December of 2017 Massie Hule of So Hype Records cited the closure of Chinese businessman Ming Hai’s network of stores across Botswana as a reason for a halt in CD sales which could sell up 100 000 copies in the early 2000s as was the case for artists such as Unik Attractions. Hule’s suggestion that artists invest in streaming to sell and market their music invoked applause from the Botswana International Music Conference attendees at Masa New Capitol Cinema.
It should be noted however, that digital purchases remain relatively low as Batswana have become accustomed to free music through social apps such as Whatsapp and downloads through DatafileHost. In this climate, the artist earns popularity but loses revenue that would benefit their career. On streaming apps such as Spotify 1500 song streams is equivalent to one song download which is then equated to 1 album sale. With streaming numbers in the country being low, the overall tally of album sales can be concluded to be negligible. As streaming becomes more popular, the culture must be developed and the onus is on the artist first to take matters in their own hands and teach the consumer how these platforms work.
BWMADE, under Intellegere Music, is one such distributor that has worked more recently with artist Han C in the digital distribution of his debut album. The company distributes digital masters of content providers, allowing them to “earn royalties and other income due to artists, authors, co-authors, copyright owners, copyright owners, producers and other record royalty participants from sales or other uses of these Digital Masters” according to their presser. As it stands, the company retains 30% of profits – a figure that falls within international standards. Intellegere Music has over the years helped with placement of Botswana Music across worldwide streaming and purchasing stores and BWMade is a portal made for homegrown music.
The advent and normalisation of streaming as a mode of music consumption leads to another neglected aspect of the music business – Law & Representation. Knowledge of basic music laws still lags behind as is the ability to use and enforce contractual obligations between the artist and all relevant parties i.e. contracts between artists, producers, dancers etc. as well as the corporate community and other service providers. With the culture of contracts slowly being introduced, the idea of what is a fair rate, how much non-financial value is being given and earned and other terms of contracts need to be streamlined and standardized. The formation of the much lauded Arts Council which musician and entrepreneur Kast walked across the country to lobby for, will do well in this regard.
At the Gaborone Book Festival Trust’s World Book Day commemoration held in April this year, the public was treated to a sweeping analysis by author Modirwa Kekwaletswe of his book Ratsie Setlhako; The Definitive Biography. At the event he painted a picture of a troubadour or travelling musician who made his money, however miniscule, exclusively from playing music house to house and odd functions. Men like Setlhako who were celebrated widely, albeit posthumously, paved the way for musicianship in Botswana. However newer generations inherited the poor mentality, poor business acumen and blasé nature musicians past handled their finances. New generations saw this suffering as a rite of passage and in this distorted image, kept themselves in a constant state of lack through poor negotiating, the fielding of poor rates and a bull-to-slaughterhouse martyrdom by thrusting themselves in constant whole scale exploitation. It could be argued that cultural factors such as societal perception of musicians also affects spend.
Musicians in Botswana still perish from lack of knowledge. There is a clear indication that most prefer to focus on their music in order to master writing and performing, leaving the business end in the hands of a third party. In some cases these managers themselves do not have the business skills to take the artist to the next level and fall prey to greed, thus enriching themselves instead of reinvesting towards career development. Outside of traditional streams of income, mobile music has not been fully taken advantage of. A perusal of caller tunes and ringtones provided by the three mobile and telephone companies suggests that only popular songs on high rotation on radio and top tier rated artists see much action in that space. It is a mystery whether placement in these platforms is dictated by popularity or if the playing field is levelled for every artist.
The music business is notoriously fickle, a new hit can phase out a current hit and artists are known to squabble over the same opportunities whether it be endorsements or lucrative corporate bookings that more often than not pit them against each other unnecessarily. The prerequisite for longevity seems to be constant reinvention, an effective and proactive team behind you and Business Management skills that will help in brand positioning. Manager and producer of current sensation Motlha of “Mma Motse” fame as well as Afro Jazz/Soul artist Ivon, Suffocate acknowledged this cycle. “An artist can be hot now but the hype can die out the next day so you need to position them for a time when bookings dry out,” he explained.
Digital will be musicians’ saving grace but for Botswana to see growth in the same stratosphere as South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, this support – attributed of factors including consumer spending, structural and financial support from the government and the private sector, as well as interventions that promote music such as radio and television – will have to be stepped up.