Music has now evolved very much and makes a big part of the online content used around the world and in the African entertainment markets.
Music is growing fast in the African continent and in Kenya, a music distributing and streaming service is up to help musicians share their songs all over Africa. Mdundo, which is based in Kenya, co-founded by a Danish native, is helping Kenyan musicians sell their music well.
It all began when Martin Neilsen moved to Kenya to work with 88MPH, where he saw that the Kenyan music industry lacked the streaming and distribution feature, he explains how the company started and grew to this day.
Mdundo is currently operating in 10 countries in Africa and promises to expand into more countries as its goal os to cover all of the African continent.
Martin Nielsen, a Danish native who moved the Kenyan music industry to another level talks about how it all began.
After moving to Kenya, working for a tech company 88MPH, he realized that Kenyan musicians needed a better way to share their music and therefore went on creating one of the most known music distributing services in East Africa, Mdundo, a music streaming and distribution service based in Kenya.
“We saw a huge market for online music discovery,” he says.
In the beginning.
Martin Nielsen worked for 88MPH while having much interest in music, he then worked on his idea of music streaming and distribution services, where the company he worked for wanted Mdundo to focus on online content in Africa.
“We focused a lot on content and content applications, and one of the things we were interested in was music. We were unable to find any interesting musical ideas at the time, so we started working in-house,” Nielsen says.
How Mdundo has grown to the company that has staff in 10 countries.
Founded in 2012 and officially launched in 2013, Mdundo became a separate company from the original investment firm 88MP with Martin Nielsen as CEO and co-founder.
After the launch, Mdundo grew and signed to partner with companies such as Airtel and Microsoft.
Nielsen explains that growing the business wasn’t so much of a guesswork, he explains that the Kenyan music industry lacked this feature,
There was a real need in the market, he says. Most musicians did not know how to distribute their catalogs to their fans in a legal and structured way. Mdundo then added an online distribution channel in the market and the growth since then has been tremendous.
“For the last 12 months, we have had 30 million customers. We have 150,000 African songs from 37 different African countries and have staff in over 10 different African countries,” Nielsen confirms. Mdundo has a presence in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Cameroon.
“We have an international licensing [agreement] with Warner Music Group,” Nielsen says. “We distribute their music here, which is more than one million songs from renowned international artists.”
How Mdundo works with musicians on its platform.
Mdundo offers two types of memberships, one which is free and another which is premium, at a price of 199KSH, about $1.9 US monthly.
However, the company makes a lot of its money through online advertising which is done on the free membership portal, which the profit is shared with the artists.
And on the premium version, the artist gets 60% of the income from the subscription service.
Although the money seems to be little, Neilsen explains that there is transparency and freedom for all artists to choose what they want,
“Artists are still making little money on distribution. However, we do have strong submissions from artists to the tune of around 2,000 to 3,000 new artists every month. We have put a lot of effort into being transparent and made it easy for the artist to opt in and opt out,” Nielsen says.
In addition, Neilsen explains about the challenges faced while starting, well all this wasn’t a click on the button.
He explains that Starting the service in Kenya wasn’t easy, and one of the biggest challenges was how to bill customers, and also integrating a business in other countries with different payment methods.
“Trying to start a streaming service in Kenya was not easy, especially in finding ways to bill customers. M-Pesa, the mobile payment service, was pervasive at the time the company started and the hope was that it could be used as a mode of payment for Mdundo’s services.”
“The billing options were few if you looked continent-wide,” Nielsen says. “It is only recently that we got the M-Pesa push SDK (software development kit). M-Pesa has not been focusing online but on retail merchants, and if you go outside of Kenya there are even fewer options.”
Going international may not be so fast in the African continent with different payment systems.
“When we started, I expected the billing system to mature much faster. We hear of startups solving the billing issues, but we still have the challenges we had five years ago. It is a challenge for anyone doing e-commerce on the continent.”
Although some of these challenges have been solved with the evolving technology in payments and money transactions, Mdundo still has some few challenges.
Mdundo still faces a challenge in generating revenue through online advertising. “We do still find most advertisers go into the traditional channels and there hasn’t been a big shift to online marketing. It is still under-invested from companies across Africa,” he adds.
As for now, Mdundo still has some challenges which have slowed it down from attaining its goal to cover the whole African Continent but with the rising music industry in the African countries, it has a productive ground.
He also added that the company’s goals for the coming months include going further and expanding in more African countries that lack streaming music services, “Over the next couple of months, we will scale across the continent,” he says and promises.
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