Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Aurelia J. Schultz

Kenyan Company Secures Music Licensing Rights to Stream Global Catalog

Select your location on Mdundo
The big international music news in Africa is usually about an African artist signing with an American label, but this time, Mdundo.com has flipped the meza.  Mdundo has licensed the rights to stream Warner Music's catalog in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Nigeria (one of these things is not like the others...). Disrupt Africa and Billboard provide some details, including much optimism from Mdundo CEO Martin Nielsen and Africa Warner Music South Africa Director Tracy Fraser.

Mdundo has been operating for five years and happens to one of Afro-Ng'ombe's favorite spots to find new African tracks.  (See a little footnote here from Kingsley's tour d'Africa in 2012.)  The Kenyan company received start-up capital from Berlin-based incubator 88mph, which focuses on web and mobile startups that target the African markets.  From the beginning, it sought to set itself apart as a service that not only provided accessible music to listeners but also paid artists.  (Phillip Nyalenda broke down the payment math last year here.)  Originally, Mdundo users purchased music via scratch cards like those used for mobile top-up minutes.  Now they can download, stream and pay directly from their phones or PCs. 

Mdundo features music from around the continent and has specific website arrangements targeted for users in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia.  The news reports do not mention why South Africa, Ghana, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia are not included for streaming rights.  Speculations, especially from people and animals hanging out on an IP blog, may focus on copyright law and issues commonly associated with digital music, such as internet service provider (ISP) liability and making available rights.  But not all of the countries where the Warner catalog will be available through Mdundo have these in their current laws.  This leads Afro-Ng'ombe to shrug, moo, and assume it has something to do with market demand verses costs; South Africa and Ghana may already have platforms distributing Warner's music. (And to this Zed music fan, it seems Zambia and Zimbabwe are often left out.)  In any case, and it is quite exciting to see an African-based company distributing external content instead of vice versa.

As always, thoughts and more info are welcome in the comments!  For those interested in more info about Mdundo, there is an in-depth interview with CEO Nielsen here.

Hat tip to @dorianpeters and @ellabmosheim.

Aurelia J. Schultz

Aurelia J. Schultz

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