You recently cofounded Waabeh. Tell us about this.
Waabeh (waabeh.com) is an audio market place. This encompasses audio books, podcasts, music and generally anything that you can perceive with your ears. This was a response to a genuine existing problem. A lot of great African content is being made but the distribution is not organised. The West has its iTunes and Spotify. Waabeh is a good idea and we hope it will turn into dollars one day. As governments begin cracking down on piracy across Africa, the demand for genuine content will increase. Waabeh is one such avenue to access content. We currently have content from the East African region and we are expanding our portfolio.
What tips would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in the music business?
You need to have a proper business plan, clear targets and a good team. If your entire team is made up of musicians, you are definitely going to fail. You need professionals like a lawyer, business strategist and accountant who can advise you appropriately. On the outside it looks like a hobby, but if you run it like a hobby, you will fail. You require skills in time management and organisation. You also need to, as my dad says, read the wind. Some things fail because their time has not come. Five years ago, Waabeh would not have worked because mobile devices were expensive and internet access was low.
Tell us about some of the major challenges you face?
The biggest challenge is actually distribution. We have a lot of great content but no one knows how to get it to the market. Piracy is a direct result of this and now musicians are putting their music out for free. When an artist uploads their song on YouTube without a strategy, how does that make them money? Because of ignorance, some musicians are looking for eyeballs, but they have no plan on how to get return on investment. The success rates are very low because people do not think of the creative industry as a business.
Where do you see the industry in five years?
The entertainment industry is going to grow about ten or fifteen fold. Opportunities will increase simultaneously with the growing middle class population in Africa. The African middle class population can afford to spend on entertainment. The majors in the world like Universal and Sony Music Entertainment are coming to Africa because they have realised there is an opportunity. There is great demand for African content, not just for sale here, but across the globe. You will notice that there is a desire to move away from Western-centric entertainment. Think about it, the biggest music artist last year was from South Korea (PSY of ‘Gangnam Style’ fame). As the majors sign up artists here in Africa, producers will cash in big time. After all, it is African producers who will be doing the work. Such heavyweights can also easily convince the government to address pertinent issues like intellectual property.