Building a market for performing artists in Kenya

When it comes to public events - it is always about people. This makes things extraordinarily complicated to understand.

Yes you can lead a horse to water, but will it drink?
Why will people come to an event even if they know about it and it’s location? Even if their friends are going?

There are too many variables to consider, but one thing I do know to be true is:

Bringing people to an event is much more difficult than bringing an event to where people already are.

For MapJam, post-PIVOTEAST pullout I made a major decision - find your specific customer. Yes we can conceive of mass market applicability - but how are we going to achieve product-market fit?

Zahid Metha was our assigned mentor for the PivotEast session and he asked us this one thing repeatedly - who is your customer? Break it down to the most specific segments possible.

I answered him with: artists looking for gigs. Why? bear with me.

This is making the assumption that there is actually a market for performing artists in Kenya! If artists can pay us to get them gigs we can get paid by venues to bring them artists and patrons. Ok? GO FOR IT!

In September I gathered together a motley crew to test these assumptions in the market. We quit our jobs and we hit the streets.

The good:

We have attracted 56 venues in Kenya to use MapJam to advertise 300 + events on MapJam.
100+ artists are registered with us, & 78% of them are willing to pay us a monthly subscription.
We have secured 45% of them a paid gig.
We have been paid in advance by event organisers on 10 occasions to program entertainment for them.
In Nov' 2014 Native Instruments (Germany) sponsored 4 micro-festivals in Nairobi we organised.
We have pioneered the concept of the micro-festival in Kenya whereby pop-up food & beverage sellers pay us to serve small concerts outside of Nairobi.

The bad:

There is not an existing market for performing artists in Kenya. It has to be built.

Venues and event organisers are more than often not able to pay artists at all.

There is not a private mechanism to support the livelihoods of musicians in Kenya. The performing artist music scene seems to be propped-up by public funding with the exception of the most sought after acts (30 to 50 acts), by which I mean people making a living from performing music.

How do we know this is a problem with solving?

People, public venues (bars) and events (festivals) are paying us, a little, to solve it for them.

How do we know this is a viable market?

Currently it is not a viable market. The acquisition cost of getting gigs for performing artists is far higher than the rates of return from the subscription they are willing to pay (1000/- per month). I define acquisition cost to be efforts to get an artist signed-up on our platform and then everything it takes from there to secure a gig and make a gig happen. The following is a minimal necessary list of things that need to be coordinated:


The picture does not look favourable when taking a 10 to 25% commission on booking multiple artists still puts us well in the red for the first year. Acquisition costs do begin to begin to flatten in comparison to growth rates of subscriptions and events, but that alone is not a favourable long term picture. The profit to be made in the events industry comes from the sometimes vast margins that can be made from event production depending on the client.

It does not make sense to bear these huge short to medium term costs in this kind of competitive market. I predict that profit margins are getting smaller as more players enter the events market and as consumers are getting smarter.

For these reasons performing artists will continue to be marginalized wherever possible by the events and entertainment industries. Performing thus artists cannot rely on the successes of the events industry in itself.

The Lean Way Through.

The smart approach is to vastly increase the market for performing arts latching the events industry unto this market.


There needs to be a virtuous circle of increasing gains rather than a market of diminishing returns. Costs need to reduce and simultaeneously sales volumes of event services increase significantly. If such a market place can be developed it will create a slowly rising wage floor for professional performing artists that will enable thousands and even tens of thousands of them to make a living from their creativity.


An online marketplace platform is required.

It has come down to a solving the problem of how someone putting on an event can organise it [quickly, effectively and at a a short notice, or in advance]; and at the same time seek guarantee from service providers for an event.

In other words how can I organize an event confidently and quickly? LIke how can I get a Taxi confidently and quickly kinda problem.

Basically, the events market must be expanded to be accesible to internet users in Kenya who will pay through MPESA.

We at MapJam want to develop this online marketplace.

MapJam can bring a virtuous-circle of increasing gains to the local area in which our web-plaform market place is activated.

MapJam solves the problem of how to organize events at a a short notice, or in advance; and seek guarantees from service providers. MapJam allows you to organise all the components of a party/event/gig anywhere & at anytime, including the people part.
MapJam solves the problem of how to find an artist, and establish the terms you are comfortable with. MapJam assists in finding the indispensable equipment and service providers you need for your event, and seeks guarantees from them, even in an emergency.

We want to expand on our success and rapidly develop a beta product that will open up the event service provider + entertainment market to the private individual & event organiser in Kenya. The beta product of MapJam will make it easy for anyone to access the service provider & entertainment market all over Kenya.