The music industry today locally and globally is a major contributor to youth employment and empowerment. Its current value doesn’t represent “food for the soul’’ only, but as well “food for the pocket”
There have been several studies that have corroborated the claim made in the earlier paragraph. One is a research study by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) published on their website on the 17th of November 2020, stating that the music sector contributes €81.9billion to the economy of the 27 European Union member states and the United Kingdom whilst supporting about two million jobs. Another study was carried out in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America, reporting that the music industry contributes about $170billion to the US GDP annually and supports about 2.5 million jobs across the core music activities like recording, streaming, and live performance as well as adjacent fields like travel, retail, and marketing.
Also, a study conducted by UBOS in Uganda revealed that the music sector’s revenue grew from 5 million US dollars in 2014 to 9 million dollars in 2018. This figure according to the research and projection by UBOS, is expected to grow to 15 million dollars by 2023.
The statistics from these studies reveal that the music industry possesses both the capacity to support millions of teeming youths and generate considerable revenue for the economy.
Therefore, in this article, we would examine the business of music in Uganda, draw comparisons with the music industry of a developed economy; specifically, the United States (US), and highlight the important learning points.
The Current State of the Music Industry in Uganda
- The Music Business in Uganda
To understand the state of the music industry in Uganda, it is important to highlight some of the several business opportunities inherent in this industry which has made it an immensely profitable one without necessarily being a music artist, they include but are not limited to owning a record label, owning a music streaming platform, commercialized songwriting gigs, artist or band management, music event planning, music video directing, entertainment law, being an actual musical artiste, owning a Music TV or radio station ownership, amongst others. A key stakeholder involved in the music business is the telecommunications service providers who actively utilize the output of the music industry for their product servicing such as ring tones, caller-tunes, etc.
- Investing/Funding of the Music Business
Investing in the Ugandan music industry may appear to be a herculean and confusing venture. This is hugely attributed to the vaguely defined business structure of the industry. For example, an investor seeking investment opportunities in an organization would expect that the financial statements are duly audited by a competent accountant or accounting firm. They would also expect that forecast and projections are properly done and that the management team and corporate structure of the intended firm are clearly defined. Sadly, most of the music record labels or crews in Uganda cannot boast of possessing all these criteria, and this continues to stand in the way of solid investments.
- The Music Industry Umbrella
The Uganda Musician`s Association (UMA) is a body set up in November 2017 to protect and promote the interest of musicians in Uganda. We would expect that by 2022, this body would already have an official website of the association, with the main purpose of storing the data of all performing artists in Uganda; but all in vain. If put up very soon, It will be indeed a welcomed development as potential investors looking to invest in any artist can verify the details of such artists via this database.
It is important to state that the exact effectiveness of UMA in achieving its objectives over the years is rather unknown. However, it is necessary that this and other similar bodies are actively pursuing the interest of the players in this industry to ensure growth.
- Impact of Technology
The emergence of streaming services and streaming platforms like Boomplay, Apple Music, and Spotify has greatly impacted the music listening experience in Uganda and globally. With this development, any Ugandan artist is expected to earn royalties based on the number of streams their songs have garnered on the streaming platform. Although these streaming platforms have made CD piracy a thing of the past, a new challenge was created – digital piracy.
Prior to the emergence, music recordings in Uganda were sold on Compact Discs (CDs). This created a huge opportunity for pirates to reproduce and sell these CDs at a cheaper rate, thereby stripping the artist of any profit on such a piece of work.
- Impact of COVID-19
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Ugandan economy cannot be over-emphasised. The music industry is one of the numerous sectors that recorded high financial losses as a result of the pandemic, from the halt in of live performances to ticket purchasing audience, there was a significant dip in the financial status of the players in the Ugandan music industry.
A quick review of the music industry in the United States
- The Music business in the United States (US)
The US music industry like its Ugandan counterpart constitutes different players. These players range from record labels to streaming platforms, to music distributors, publishers, booking agents, amongst others. The US houses the three biggest record labels in the world, namely; Sony BMG, Universal Music Group (EMI used to be one of the top record labels in the US until it was purchased by Universal Music Group in 2012, thus expanding Universal Music Group even further) and Warner Music group. These record labels have in their books some of the biggest names in the music industry in the world. Sony has; Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Celine Dion, to mention but a few, Universal Music Group has; Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Tiwa Savage, etc., with Warner Music group, having; Ed Sheeran, Madonna, Jason Derulo, amongst others.
- Ease of Investing
Due to the structure of the music industry in the US, it is relatively easy for investors to determine how and where to invest their money in the music space. For example, the top record labels mentioned above have their accounts audited by professional audit firms, hence, it can be easy to determine how much a record label is worth or the value of returns an investor might expect on his investment. The corporate structure is also well defined, and potential investors have an idea of the custodians of their investments and determine whether to proceed or not with investment decisions.
- The music industry in Uganda needs to adopt a proper business structure and “speak the language of the business community”. What we currently see are different talented individuals churning out music from time to time, their ability to translate what they do into attracting investment is lost when they do not speak the “business language”, which is what the business and/or investing community understands. It needs to be clear which vehicle investments are being made, the financial statements and forecasts need to be signed-off by professionals. etc. This is presently not the case but needs to change if the business of entertainment, particularly, music is to match its potential of revenue generation and contributions to the economy. To accelerate the realization of the potential in this industry, it must speak the language of the business community.
- Another burning issue affecting the Ugandan music industry is the lack of education or guidance to aspiring artists on the peculiarities of the music industry. This is important because the success of the music industry is largely dependent on the training of young and aspiring artists. Many aspiring artists do not understand the contents of the contracts signed with record labels, thereby creating a need to educate and engage the services of professionals in this regard. This is an identified gap that needs to be urgently bridged if the music industry is to compete with the global economies, and this can be achieved by employing the services of such professionals in the industry/value chain.
- Associations in the music industry such as the UMA needs to ensure that the interest of the players in the industry is protected. This could be in the form of influencing or lobbying policymakers on matters that could impact the industry.
If the aforementioned are properly implemented, there is a potential for even further growth in the Ugandan music industry than earlier projected by UBOS.
To drive growth in the music industry, all stakeholders in the industry need to take note of the following:
- Proper corporate governance and business structure.
- Proper education and guidance of artists and other relevant players in the industry.
- Synergy and collaboration.
- Regular interactions with the Government and other policymakers.