Growing up, children chose and aspired to be lawyers, doctors, journalists amongst others and, therefore, attained various levels of education to meet their ends. However, music and various forms of arts which were associated with talent gained minimum attention – arts were practised on the sidelines of a ‘main’ career - perhaps because it would not fetch as much revenue or recognition.
Today, the arts go beyond talent. The arts, specifically music, have taken a different turn over time, as far as business is concerned, with the emergence of advanced technology. As young as I am, I have witnessed tremendously progressive transitions in the music business and I cannot but wonder what we should expect next.
At least, I heard of the gramophone/ phonograph (records), which was first invented in 1877. The device’s use was very cumbersome as per the narrations of my older folks - for it was out of use long before I could make sense of situations.
Then the era of the cassette tape/ player came. The device allowed for audio recordings and playbacks. Unlike the sophisticated gramophone/phonograph, the cassette tape could be used everywhere, provided there was a player.
The emergence of the cassette technology brought about physical music shops (distributors) who sold copies of music products within specific geographical areas, thereby raking in some revenue for these distributors and the musicians as a whole.
The compact disc (CD) was more of an upgrade of the cassette tape. Also very portable, CDs contained larger amounts of data. Copying music on these devices gained prominence and yet again, boosted the music business.
With time, pen drives became the in thing. Even though the CDs are still in use, pen drives have become better options for accessing music and other art forms in digital formats. Now, disc jockeys and music lovers prefer to use pen drives to efficiently access information.
Digital music streaming
A ‘beef-up’ in technology has brought digital music streaming and distribution to us, with just the click of a button. Internet savvy folks are able to stream and make payments for music online without stress. Platforms such as Apple Music, Itunes, Google Play, Spotify, Boomplay, Amazon, Aftown and Deezer among others have assumed the manual music distribution role, as was the case during the early days of cassette tapes and CDs.
These online music stores reap revenue for musicians per stream, download or purchase. In countries where technology and knowledge of how the digital music stores operate, musicians are gaining more money from selling their music than the physical mode of distribution and sales.
Statistics from the Buzz Angle end of year report in 2018 show that a total of over 500 billion music streams were collated worldwide, which denote an increase as compared to 300 billion streams in the previous year. These statistics do not only show that people are considering the use of digital music platforms for businesses. Also, what it means is that the awareness net has been cast and industry people are getting familiar with the impact of these digital platforms.
Most of the digital music platforms are foreign in nature. They have not been designed to serve our purposes here in Africa and Ghana to be specific. Even though Aftown, MTN Shortz and Distroplug have fashioned out systems to suit the Ghanaian digital environment because there is more room for improvement, the payment systems on those foreign music platforms are not friendly and are restricted to only credit card, visa card or PayPal account holders.
The Mobile Money (MoMo) initiative is a more convenient option in Ghana especially and Aftown must be lauded for infusing that as part of their payment systems.
It will not also be out of place if our banking system is tailored towards providing such services.
Another major challenge peculiar to Africa has to do with the exorbitant data charges. Internet connectivity is the vehicle which drives the digital space. It is, therefore, expedient on the part of telecommunication companies and related regulatory bodies to subsidise internet cost (data charges) to ensure that industry players take maximum advantage of the various digital music platforms.
With all the above full-glaring challenges, it is important to add that the quality of music productions, publishing and adherence to copyright laws must not be downplayed.