Musicians in Kenya are poised to recover a significant percentage of their revenue from music, thanks to a new airplay monitoring system developed by a team of young enterprising techies.
According to one of the founders of Systech Entreprises, the web-based and mobile platform restores transparency and accountability in the management of royalties as artists will now almost always be armed with concrete facts in case of a dispute with media organisations and royalty management organisations, also known as collective management organisations(CMOs).
“Our platform known as REQUEST addresses the challenges in music monitoring due to flaws in the current royalty management systems,” says the co-founder of the Nairobi based software development start-up.
“For instance the CMOs only monitor music aired on radio leaving out a huge quantity of music played on TV and public places, which eventually means under distribution of royalties to artists.”
Further, the 22 year-old graduate of the University of Nairobi notes that on radio, royalty management organisations solely depend on logs provided to them by the stations to establish how much airplay each artist receives.
“The problem with this is that submission of radio logs by radio stations to CMOs is not mandated by law and therefore about 80 per cent of radio stations in Kenya refuse to submit their logs.
This makes the CMOs of little use, resorting instead to distribute collected monies based on logs provided by friendly radio stations only,”observes Valentino Shimanyi, lead developer at Sisitech Enterprises Ltd.
But with their system, Mr Shimanyi says that REQUEST provides an avenue for music artists and organisations that collect revenue on their behalf to monitor in real time the royalty collection points-in this case radio, TV and public places-”from the comfort of their smart devices.”
“In the end, to say the least, it is an encouraging scenario for both artists and collective management organisations when the individual artist is able to transparently monitor their song performance and the CMOs are able to determine with ease the amount they should disburse to artists,” he says.
In any case Shimanyi says their soon-to-be subscription-based system can capture remotely any song being played within the country on radio and TV stations, as well as Social Media.
“When a song we are monitoring is played in a media organisation or online, the acoustic fingerprints of that song are captured instantly and sent to our servers.
Thereafter our song recognition algorithm analyzes the data and the results are forwarded to CMOs and individual musicians,” he explains.
“In spite of the challenges we have gone through so far in trying to keep Sisitech going, I couldn’t leave it for a salaried job.
Yes, sometimes it gets to a point where you feel that formal employment is preferable to ‘hustling’, but this is what I have always loved to do,” he notes.
“By the way, with skills that I have, I know I can get a job that pays hundreds of thousands of shillings a month, but what is it to me if I don’t feel in charge of my own destiny?” he poses.
“I consider myself a rather multi-talented person, therefore I can’t fit in formal employment which has many limitations including specialization.”
In addition, Mr Shimanyi says he works best on “self-inflicted pressure”, not forgetting to mention that his training as a computer scientist is a “very open channel for solving many pressing problems in society.”
“Besides, I value people a lot and since I found that through software I can reach so many people on my own terms with required solutions, formal employment is out of the question.”
“And because of that”, he notes, “we are better off making slightly more than Sh100, 000 after several months of waiting rather than depend on much money from a less rewarding career.”
Interestingly, asked whether the company would welcome support from outsiders, the jovial tech-preneur had this to say:
“I fear we might get less out of our business if we generously open it to investors, but then if we are looking for any at all, the investor has to chip in not just money, but much more,” concludes a resolute Shimanyi.
BY MOSES OMUSOLO