Self-sufficient: Kenyan artistes take matters into own hands

A collage of Nyashinski, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Bien and Savara.

The music industry in Kenya has for long been dominated by powerful cartels, controlling the organization and revenue of major music concerts.

However, in recent years, a new trend has emerged as Kenya artistes take matters into their own hands.

DIY events, organised and executed by the artistes themselves, are quickly gaining popularity and breaking down barriers.

These events are not only providing a platform for local talent to showcase their music, but also challenging the traditional ways of conducting concerts and giving creatives more control over their careers.

“This is the new norm in events in Nairobi. Being disruptive. People want exclusivity, security, and their own space. For a long time, VIP felt like regular, and now you get bold event organizers bringing Fabolous to Nairobi on a Thursday for Sh10,000 a ticket. This is to trim the fat and offer value to those that find it valuable, and they will sell out.” Hakuna Matata promoter says.

With DIY events, artistes have the freedom to experiment, collaborate and curate their concerts in a way that resonates with their audience.

Artistes have become their own managers, promoters and producers.

One such success story is that of Muthoni Drummer Queen, who took matters into her own hands and organized her own concert. By curating an immersive and unique experience for her fans, she was able to connect with her audience on a deeper level and establish a stronger bond.

This approach not only allowed her to showcase her true artistic vision but also generated a significant amount of revenue, proving that artistes can thrive outside of the traditional concert model.

Whether it’s Nyashinski with Shin City or Muthoni and Good Times Africa’s regional festival Blankets & Wine or Sauti Sol with ‘Solfest', there is a lot to learn.

But it’s not just musicians doing their own events, other creatives are following suit.

Now podcasters are venturing into live shows with live audiences; these include names such as Chaxy, Mariah, and Mwas’ Mic Cheque podcast with 'Cheque Mates Hang Out' or Sandwich Podcast’s Live Show.

And YouTubers cum Content creators like Andrew Kibe are also looking to test the waters with his event dubbed 'Graduation'. 'Graduation' will have performers such as Wakadinali.

No one knows what to expect but tickets, according to those who have purchased them include redeemable drinks, merchandise and meet and greet access to Kibe who will host the event on December 3rd. Only 2000 fans will be in attendance.

Andrew Kibe

Partnerships are the other avenue some are exploring.

“For Wangechi, we saw that we wanted to take things into our own hands and actualize our own vision. Not be part of someone else’s story. We have teamed up with brands like EABL who believe in us and our relationship is blossoming,” says Sharon Mulwa.

The same can be said for artistes like Charisma, Brandy Maina, Mutoriah, Ethan Muziki and others who boldly bypass the gatekeepers and take entrepreneurship into their own hands with their event Wazi Wazi Fest.

Brandy Maina [Instagram]

“There is more value derived from hosting your own events beyond the financial gain,” Folk Fusion co-founder Simon Maina says.

He encourages artists to tap into the business side and approach brands for sponsorship opportunities.

“A lot of the times, we do gigs and don’t get treated well backstage or get our money’s worth. Doing our own gigs comes with its challenges but we get creative control, and full profits,” artist Njeri says.

She has regular gigs in partnership with 254 Brewing and Bwibo’s Restaurant in Westlands and Lavington, Nairobi, respectively.

Waziwazi Fest, along with podcasters Sandwich Podcast, have teamed up with Yellow Moon Agency to host their parties.

Artists who have ready markets such as Kinoti and Ethan Muziki, are mid-sized brands compared to corporate behemoths but their audiences are niche and these are markets brands can tap into.

“My team and I have done about three live shows now and this has been all self-funded. In the beginning, we only had about 20-50 people,” multi-talented Kevin Maina says of his themed shows that started in March last year.

He has established himself with a cult following on social media and has grown to about 300 people per show.

“First of all we’re self-sponsored. I’d say we’re 80 per cent female. Even at the shows it’s 90 per cent women and only recently we’d have couples. Women are super loyal and will vouch for you. Age-wise it’s about 18-30 and we pulled about 350 people to the show. First show we had 100 to 250 in the second one,” he says.

As more artistes take control of their own destinies, we can expect to see a flourishing of creativity, innovation, and artistic expression in the years to come.

Venues such as Alchemist, Nairobi, and Nairobi Street Kitchen have opened their doors making these events a possibility.

Organising your own concerts may empower artistes, but it is not without its challenges.

One major hurdle is the financial burden. From venue rentals to equipment costs and marketing expenses, the financial burden can be overwhelming for many artistes.

Another challenge is the lack of experience and expertise in event planning and management.

Artists may have a strong artistic vision, but executing that vision and ensuring a smooth event requires a different set of skills. From logistics to marketing strategies and ticket sales, artistes often find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

Furthermore, there is the challenge of reaching a wide audience and attracting a significant crowd.

Without the backing of powerful networks, artistes struggle to promote their events effectively and reach a broad audience.


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