For Clarifying What a Hit Song Is, and Debunking A Few Kenyan Music Industry Myths With Data…

There have always been some sore points in the Kenyan music industry.  Players have had back and forths about these issues, which, it now seems, are not so black and white,  after all.

One curious point with the music scene is the distribution of the MCSK earnings. When he now suspended body started publishing the amount paid to artists, some people were surprise that some of the earnings weren’t representative of the people’s perceived popularity of certain artists.

MCSK used a platform called Vericast to log the frequency at which each song is played. Payment of royalties is commensurate with the pings of  song on the platform. This is the data that Dan Aceda, a.k.a The Crown Prince of Benga, got access to, and decided to crunch to see if it reflects some notions held about the music scene.

The Multiplicity of a Hit Song

For someone to be among the top royalty earners, then their songs had to have been played more than the rest. Which would qualify it as a hit. However, as Dan discovered, two quite different radio stations targeting completely different demographics could have different popular songs whose airtime could almost mirror each other in their specific demographics.

He made some assumptions to create a baseline: one play for a song is equal to five minutes, all stations monitored were broadcasting for 24 hours, each day.  The data used was from 50 radio stations for 130 days, and the top 100 songs from across board. These songs took 495,444 minutes, which translates to 5%  of airtime. The rest of the time is dedicated to songs not in the top 100 bracket, and non-music programming.

By factoring in the number of urban and rural radio stations, the number of times a song got played, a song called Takomugaksei by Mum Cherop, probably played at Kalenjin radio stations, around three in number, comes really close to the Sura Yako, the number one song, in terms of the total amount of airtime they were accorded during the said period within their specific demographic. Sura Yako got 1.55% while Takomugaksei got 1.3% of total airtime. This shows there are hit songs outside each person’s echo chamber.

Kenyan Songs Are Played More Than Foreign Ones When Compared With Individual Countries.

The premise is always that Nigerian and Tanzanian songs get played more than Kenyan ones. However, Kenyan songs got 31% of the time allocated to the top 100 songs. Nigeria comes second at 21% while Tanzania follows at 18%. For a greater analysis and contextualization of the data, check out this piece that Dan published on Hapa Kenya.

The second bit of is findings focus on the musicians who use brick and mortar methods to distribute music. Two particular anecdotes that I hope make it to his article when he publishes the second instalment of his research findings  feature Mike Rua and a Benga artist whose full house almost caused a near stampede in Eastlands the same time a foreign act was booed off stage. For Mike Rua’s case, the guy performed a burst of short gigs at various one night across Nairobi where he pocketed around Ksh.60 000 per show. His wife was selling his  as well CD’s this whole time. Those are earnings that will probably never be entered into any tracking system and therefore never factor in incase he gets compared to other artists.

PS:  There are close to 200 radio stations in the country. The music industry is fragmented. What plays on Coro has nothing to do with what plays at Kiss 100. Their playlists are almost 100% different.

Featured Photo: Youtube/KennedyKeriko

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