A Brief History of Digital Music in Kenya

Check Out The Best Collabos Between Kenyan Artistes And International Musicians

Up until the 80s, international music labels including CBS Records and PolyGram recording frequently at their recording studios in Kenya. And by all means, it was flourishing. Everything went for a downfall when audio cassettes entered the market, which were easy to duplicate. Because of high piracy rates, the Kenyan government decided to localise music, which badly affected international labels in Nairobi.  Since then, there has been a lot of improvement, primarily because of Kenya’s intent to push in digital literacy today. With more internet accessibility, people don’t just play online casino games on, they love to listen to digital music too.


Below, we will take a look at Kenya’s journey when it comes to digital music and how it has progressed down the years.


The Digital Music Industry in Kenya: What was Pushing in Back?


In the next 10 years, music suffered badly in Kenya and it wasn’t until the late 1990s that Kenya got its very first private radio station. This encouraged many others to open radio stations and fund them as well. Because of their popularity, music producers could easily access state of art instruments and music software. CDs became a new normal during this time and the issue of piracy only escalated.

Check Out The Best Collabos Between Kenyan Artistes And International Musicians

Blue Zebra, formally known as Audio Vault, was one of the first private music labels to do extremely well in the market. It was run by David Muriithi, accountant at DJ and band management chops, Tedd Josiah, music producer, and Myke Rabar, member of Homeboy, a DJing group. Audio Vault sold a lot of albums by partnering with River Road from Nairobi. This helped them to diversify their income and land endorsement deals and gigs with big companies from Kenya and internationally.

How did the 2000s Fare?

In 2003, Bernard Kioko, a software developer and Fakii Liwali, talent manager launched an online music platform called MyMusic. It wasn’t as successful as they wished for it be to and was soon closed down. A few years down the line, in 2012, Kenya’s biggest telco, Safaricom launched Skiza, a ringtone based service that received a whopping four million subscribers.


Around the same time, MTech East Africa entered Kenya, which brought in the aspect of music management into the industry. The company also connected Kenyan and Nigerian artists to strengthen the local music community.


More than a couple years later, in 2015, Juliani, Kenyan gospel rapper, founded MySanni, an artist booking platform. The idea was to make it convenient to find artists to play at weddings, concerts, and birthdays. In 2017, Mdundo signed a deal with Warner Music to distribute their catalogue in Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya.


The most recent development is Safaricom launching Songa in February 2018, a music streaming service similar to Spotify and Apple Music. Over the past years, digital music in Kenya has gained quite a lot of momentum and has great potential.


What do you think of the digital music industry in Kenya today? Let us know below!



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