The #MESTAfricaSummit on Tuesday hosted a debate on how to make your company sustainable while also making it impactful.
CAPE TOWN - The final panel discussion for Day 1 of the third annual MEST Africa Summit focused on Creativity in Tech and the link between two concepts such worlds apart.

Technology has immeasurably impacted how artists, musicians and brands reach new audiences on a Pan-African and global scale. The panel, facilitated by hard-hitter Toby Shapshak, explored the intersection between artists, startups and large corporates, and how together they are leveraging the “Wakanda moment” to reach a global audience, and help both the startup and artist scale their reach, as well as some of the negative impact that this has on the artist's freedom to create.

Toby Shapshak, independent Journalist and Editor, was the moderator of this panel. He often speaks about how innovation is better in Africa and how Africa as a continent is solving real problems. 

Joining him on the panel was Yinka Adegoke, the Africa Editor of Quartz Media; Sakhile Xulu, the CEO of Qisimah; Herman Singh, Executive of Innovation Strategy at the MTN Group; Catherine Lückhoff, CEO of Nichestreem; and Toya Delazy, well-known South African-born independent musician.

The panel kicked off with a discussion on how technology can impact the distribution of local music as well as improve royalties earned by musicians. 

“Herman is the man that brings you the music, Toya is the one who makes it and the rest of us are going to talk about it,” is how Shapshak started the panel.

Shapshak called on Sakhile Xulu to discuss the conundrum of tech in the music industry.

“When we started building our platform we realized how fragmented the music industry actually was,” started Xulu, “Yes, it’s easier to distribute your music today but it’s more complicated to understand if it’s reaching the right audience. The music industry in terms of data is very very far behind.”

Xulu also touched on the notion that before technology, and especially niche focus areas of his company Qisimah, helped artists collect royalties, musicians weren’t making money with independent work.

By empowering local talent through fundamentals like royalties, tech can ensure home-grown musicians get recognized elsewhere. 

“We’ve seen how digital music can really transform the African pop music scene, for example,” commented Yinka Adegoke, “Tech, YouTube especially, showed us how it can really open up the music industry, which started as a local business in cities like Lagos, Accra, Cape Town and Durban, suddenly they’re discovering all these audiences around the world who want to listen to this music as well. With tech not only is music now getting to foreign audiences, but there is now a way to monetize it. Five to ten years ago, this was unthinkable.”

Technology is showing us how in a very basic way it can really open up the world, especially for music. All of a sudden, your audience as a local musician is global.

Toya Delazy is an excellent example of an independent local musician gone global with tech at the helm. 

“Being independent it’s not like you can employ a whole bunch of people,” Delazy commented in the panel, “Technology for me has improved the transition from being part of a traditional record label to starting my own independent label Delazy Entertainment. Tech has also helped me keep in touch with my fans and get new partners as well as distributors. Tech has made the world, for me, really small and I was able to connect with lots of different artists across the world.”

The problem in the music value chain is that 73% of all revenue generated goes to 3 record labels. We need to change this. We need to build platforms that channel money back into the artists. 

In order to address piracy, we need to make it cheaper and easier to legally buy and download music than to pirate it. This, in turn, will also drive revenue back to local creatives.

“The trick is to get people to pay for music, that is the challenge,” commented Herman Singh, “What we figured out is that if people are buying pirated CDs or movies for about 1$ and we are able to give them a video package per month of 100 movies for $3, why would you pirate? It’s actually easier and cheaper then to not commit a crime.” 

In response to this insightful comment, Catherine Lückhoff added that we are too blinded by revenue not going to artists and seeing it as a problem.

“We should see it as an opportunity to figure out other ways to monetize,” Lückhoff explains.

However, Africans and creatives in Africa should understand that people will pay for music they like. Subscription models have been proven to work in Africa. 

What we need to understand is that the artist ecosystem in Africa is not formalized, there is no formalized way of collecting money – and this is where the tech opportunity lies.

Technology is enabling empowerment across all sectors and where creativity and tech connect, local goes global. 

Thanks to tech we as a continent are now able to start asking the right questions and telling the right stories that aren’t limited by continental borders. 

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- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE