A respected social figure with admirable talent and profession. Nevertheless, in pondering over their lives, it becomes evident that music really bakes no bread in Ethiopia. Asked of their lifetime earnings, veteran musicians would often say, “my riches are the people.” But in a new age, with new media and its unprecedented reach, the nation’s performers are making more money, reports ABIY SOLOMON, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.
A successful vocalist is a respected social figure with admirable talent and profession. Nevertheless, in pondering over their lives, it becomes evident that music really bakes no bread in Ethiopia. Asked of their lifetime earnings, veteran musicians would often say, “my riches are the people.”
Albeit the grim reality, however, with the diversification of the internet and arrival of the game changing social media, music is making lucrative money online these days. In a country where there is no royalty payment for the use of works of music, the only source of revenue becomes the sale of an album or fees paid for stage performances.
The proliferation of video sharing websites has created ample opportunities for generating revenue. It has motivated musicians, making them believe that their work of art is worth something. Getesh Mamo, who has recently become more popular with his two singles, is the fourth most viewed musician on YouTube in Ethiopia concurs.
“At a time when the music industry’s profitability is threatened by various factors, including copyright infringements, what we are earning from the website is compensatory,” he said. “It is paying off the musicians well, unlike their previous loss and fruitless efforts.”
Albeit the grim reality, however, with the diversification of the internet and arrival of the game changing social media, music is making lucrative money online these days.
Out of about 70 video sharing platforms, musicians are using the prominent video sharing websites and YouTube channels to upload their music video and make money out of it. Amongst these sites, Dire Tube, Ethio One Love Entertainment and Hope Entertainment are the notable ones that are producing the lion’s share of the music video revenue the musicians are generating from YouTube.
Of the Ethiopian videos that were uploaded from January 2014 to April 2016, the most viewed is Abby Lakew’s Yene Habesha, with 21.4 million views. From the top ten most viewed videos on YouTube, three are by entertainment channels and two by individual ones. Ethio One Love Entertainment and Hope Music take the lead in this regard.
YouTube pays by cost per impression (CPI), which is the rate of every thousand views of the ads they attach to videos. While Youtube does not publish its CPI rates, online marketing firm Penna Powers estimates their current CPI ranges from around half a dollar to as high as 10 dollars.
Seemingly unaware of the technical details, most musicians use third party channels like Dire Tube to generate money from their music. Thereby, sharing almost half of their revenue with these sites.
“The musicians could not establish their own channels and enjoy the benefits independently because they do not have the technological awareness and know how,” says Habtom Berhe, an IT professional who has an experience of working on YouTube advertisement services.
“The video sharing tube channels take advantage of this chasm to share the benefits with the musicians,” he adds.
Binyam Negussu, the founder of the prominent video sharing website Dire Tube, a pioneer in the online revenue generating business, agrees that the musicians need to harvest from the online earnings independently.
“The fundamental problem is that no organisation has stood for the musicians’ rights or have the understanding of the revenue generated from video sharing sites,” he explains. “We have always encouraged artists to establish their own YouTube Channels.”
But to do so, there needs to be an intense awareness of the trend and requires hard work on the part of promoting and maintaining consistent update and uploading,” he adds.
In the case of the earnings of the Ethiopian music video sharing sites, the amount the artist earns is the dividend of the basic earning from which YouTube’s share and the uploading channel’s share. Binyam’s company, for instance, takes about 40pc of the earnings and gives the remaining to the musician.
Out of about 70 video sharing platforms, musicians are using the prominent video sharing websites and YouTube channels to upload their music video and make money out of it.
“I am paid about 250,000 Br with my two single music videos, not including the upcoming payments generated after I’ve received the first,” muses Getesh. “I am happy about it. It has created remarkable opportunity and motivation for the artists.”
There are only few who could establish their own YouTube Channels and make them profitable. Aggregating the most viewed top 10 music videos, it could be found that only two musicians utilise YouTube channels.
Realizing the ever rewarding business potential, these video sharing tubes are getting into competition with each other. Some, for instance, pre-pay artists whose song the website thinks would be quickly popular and marketable. They even go to the extent of producing the whole music video production.
“Musicians used to give their videos to TV stations and online tubes for free,” says Wolderufael Alemu who has undertaken the production of more than 200 music videos.
“But nowadays, the earning from these sites and even the video sharing channels cover the whole music production cost for a song they anticipate will be profitable,” he adds.
Despite the fact that this website video revenue has paid off musicians well, some listeners believe the trend has become a fertile ground for cheap pop art. After producing a single song, musicians are in haste to make a music video and rush to the well-known YouTube channels. Their immediate motive is just producing music which would be quickly familiar.
To this end, they manage to incorporate artistic elements which can be easily consumed. It is with the presupposition that such contents potentially attract large viewers within a short period of time.
“They just want to make a splash in media and earn money from their work,” says Wolderufael. “They do not want to captivate with lyrics or orchestrated composition. They just want to amuse and impress quickly.”
While popular music productions often enjoy more views and a high revenue, for some, early musicians are still more striking.
“The music of the country’s veteran musicians could be found scattered on YouTube, uploaded by various channels,” says Binyam. “In this regard, the artists who own the copyright to the songs need to open official YouTube channels and monetize the contents, which means anyone can use them for free.”
Habtom, on the other side, questions the appeal early music would have on the online media.
“The much-loved songs of the country’s acclaimed musicians need to be reproduced in a way to fit and enthrall the online audience,” he argues.