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Lights, camera, action! Artistes brighten economy

By Esther Dianah | May 18th 2021
Covid-19 had negatively impacted entertainment revenues. [Courtesy]

A few decades ago, it was unthinkable that one could entirely live off music or any other art form in Kenya.

For many people in the entertainment industry, it was something they did as a hobby or a side hustle.

But today, the industry has become one of the biggest employers globally, especially among the youth, minting millionaires in the process.

According to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report released in 2017, the global entertainment and media industry was worth $2.1 billion (Sh224 billion) in 2016 and was projected to hit $3.2 billion (Sh342 billion) this year before the Covid-19 disruption.

Closer home, data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) indicates revenues from the arts and entertainment industry has been on a steady rise over the last few years and stood at Sh11.735 billion in 2019.

This was before the coronavirus pandemic struck in March last year, but industry players say while it is unlikely to hit such heights this year, there is every reason to be hopeful as artistes find new ways to adapt to the changing hostile environment. 

Benjamin Muchiri, a senior manager, macroeconomic statistics, at KNBS said Covid-19 had negatively impacted entertainment revenues.

“This was mainly due to the need for social distancing that led to a reduced number of clients and a reduction in disposable household incomes that meant that they had less to spend on leisure,” explained Mr Muchiri.

“In 2015, arts and entertainment were worth Sh8.01 billion, a 0.1 share of the GDP, while in 2016, it was estimated at Sh8.87 billion, Sh.9.652 billion in 2017 and Sh10.827 billion in 2018,” he added.

The industry has also evolved, with operations becoming more professionalised.

“To me, business is anything that generates revenue, and music has so many avenues of generating revenue,” said Dennis Njenga, a managing partner at Kaka Empire, a music label associated with popular secular musician King Kaka.

Revenue in music is generated in many ways, including royalty payments-  money an artist is paid for what they create - and publishing revenue, which is money paid to an artiste when their song is used in a movie or a campaign.

Njenga said entertainment plays a major role in the country’s economy because the different players pay taxes just like those in other industries, including withholding tax and Value Added Tax (VAT).

But how much does an average Kenyan artiste earn?

“With no corona disruption, the average artiste earns a minimum of Sh50,000 to a maximum of between Sh1.5 million and Sh2 million for a gig or a campaign,” he said.

For the streaming royalties, he reckons, their earnings are calculated by how many views one gets.

But like like any other business, Njenga notes, profits and losses are inevitable in the entertainment industry.

“The cycle of creating music is long and requires solid investment,” said Njenga. He said the cost of shooting a music video ranges between Sh500,000 and Sh1 million. 

George Njuguna, popularly known as DJ Crème De La Crème, said deejaying is a job like any other.

“I have lived off deejaying for 15 years because it is a service like any other. My first investment was a laptop gifted by my father,” said Njuguna.

His charges vary depending on the occasion and the client involved.

“We are in the business of making people forget their problems, and we are paid for it.

Over the years, the brand has grown and now I make money from endorsements and my clothing line,” he said.

William Nanjero, Sauti Sol’s Sol Generation General Manager said the entertainment ecosystem’s role in the economy cannot be overemphasised.

“When investing in music, we pick areas that we are most passionate about that we are sure to realise returns,” said Mr Nanjero.

Besides music production, Sauti Sol and Sol Generation have invested in products like Pace Sol Earpods in partnership with Pace Africa.  

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