The problem to solve.

We believe in a Kenya where every performing artist can earn a respectable income.

But right now the reality is a majority of musicians in Kenya cannot make a living from practicing their art because their revenue streams do not match their costs.

This is a sad situation as there are only a handful of performing artists (in a nation of 44 million people there are less than 200) that are able to claim their a respectable living from their talent. It's hard to talk about, but Kenya is actually a terrible place for an artist to dwell, particularly for musicians.
I'm Harvey and I'm the founder of MapJam.co.ke. I have recorded hundreds of musicians and produced over 100 shows in Kenya since 2001.

I recently interviewed 22 prolific performing musicians, under the age of 30 from Nairobi county about their earnings and their expenditures. These artists all performed at least once every 2 months; are recording artists with at least one track recorded earning them some form of revenue and participated in other forms of earning revenue from being a musician, i.e. production and teaching.

I wanted to know whether they could earn a living from practicing their art; what they expected to earn, and what their realized earnings were. I also wanted to know how much they had invested in terms of capital, and how much it cost them to rehearse.

The results are indicative of the general problem I describe above:

  1. Expenditures are variable but all exceed > $750 capital investment, with an average investment of >=$1500 in musical equipment and technology.

  2. Artist’s must spend between $10>=$=<$90 on expenses related to practicing per month whereby, notably, the reported amount of time spent in actual rehearsal is less than 12 hours per month.

  3. Artist’s expected earnings are variable because they involve a variable number of people (i.e. a band) and a variable amount of time, i.e the performance. Assuming that what they think they ought to earn is independent based on these factors mentioned, their expected earnings per performance are variable between $80 to $500, however their reported average earnings per gig are much less variable with a mean of $30 per gig/per person

  4. A large majority (7/10) reported that they could earn a supplemental revenue stream from being a musician but that they could not rely on it (1/5) reported that music generated all of their income with only (1/10) reporting that their main source of income was live performance (1/10) reported that live performance, teaching, selling songs and session work provided them their income.

Artists must spend at least $570 a year to be able to do what they do but they currently find it difficult to earn more than $300 per year from performing. To survive, performing artist's must see out as many other revenue streams as possible. This is a common exercise known as "hustling" and a problem that we feel we could address by augmenting the ability of performing artists to get hired for gigs. The measured success rates of these other streams: i.e teaching, selling songs/beats, session work, and music sales - are for another post.

At MapJam we want to dramatically change the fortune of performing artists by getting them at least one paid gig per month. Only one 2 artists out of 20 reported that a majority of their income came from gigs. We want to change that figure to 1/2. BY 2017 we want to be directly impacting >=15,000 performing artists by providing a platform for them to earn a respectable income. We would like to get 100,000 gigs by that year all across Kenya and we want to vastly augment the cultural value of live music, drama, and dance in Kenya forever.