Kenyan tech startup ‘Waabeh’ fights music piracy
Online audio market seeks to empower artists rather than exploiting them.
Copyright infringement of African musicians’ work has irked a Kenyan based businessman so much that he launched a technology startup to tackle the problem.
Hailing from a music background and having worked as a producer for the last fourteen years, Tim Rimbui, co-founder and chief executive officer of music technology startup Waabeh, says he has seen too many musicians work hard in studios only to lose their content to piracy.
It is for this reason that he co-founded Waabeh: a music-tech startup that was launched with a purpose to solve the problem of search, discovery and distribution of audio content (music and podcasts, online radio) from Africa to the rest of the world.
Waabeh is an online audio market that seeks to empower artists with simple upload and distribution over the internet and mobile apps, giving them higher sales royalties as compared to the likes of African telecom firms that he says keep up to 85% of revenues earned on their music distribution channels.
Rimbui also blames a lack of proper distribution channels for musicians’ piracy woes.
Waabeh then has been operating for one year, and Rimbui admits that it has not been all smooth-sailing.
“When we started, it was not really clear whether people would start buying music,” Tim Rimbui told ITWeb Africa.
“We have; however, been able to have a working concept and model, something that is very important for any business,” Rimbui added.
Since its inception, Waabeh has surpassed 10,000 downloads and serves up over 330,000 streams of its content.
The company has also been able to expand beyond its initial base of Nairobi, Kenya, and to serve musicians and their fans from across the world in such varied places such as The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa and even Japan.
Rimbui says that their content base has been growing over the year, based on the premise that musicians take home 75% of the revenue generated on their content, unlike with telcos where they only receive 15%.
Telecom companies, such as Safaricom, that runs Skiza Tunes, have tried to justify their lion’s share of the content revenue, saying that content distribution over the network comes at an extra expense for the network provider.
This approach has; however, not gone down well with most musicians and other music enthusiasts.
Nevertheless, moving forward, Waabeh is positioning itself via partnerships and increasing content on its offering.
“We are now focusing on marketing, as we try to make more people know about Waabeh. We are also sourcing for content that people want to listen to and are willing to pay for,” Rimbui told ITWeb Africa.
“We have also identified a gap in the education sector, and we are planning to convert some of the popular books into audio books that anyone can download and listen to even on their mobile phones,” Rimbui added.
The music industry in Kenya has been growing tremendously, and with the advent of mobile phones, music consumers have been shifting from just listening to music on their FM channels on their devices to downloading content that suits their taste.
Several music distribution companies have been formed, including 88mph-funded Mdundo as everyone jostles to provide music content to the end user.
Rimbui says that competition is high, but it’s their unique distribution model and also revenue sharing approach that has enabled them to stay relevant in the market.
In conclusion, Rimbui says that only via such services like Waabeh where music piracy in Africa will be fought, as well as ensuring that musicians and other content generators get value for their hard work.