Earlier this year, rapper Jay-Z bought music streaming service Tidal for $56 Million. In March, he re-introduced the service to the world in a line-up that included Kanye Kardashian, Madonna, Daft Punk, Beyonce among others. Rap music is deeply associated with the entrepreneurial culture but this was the first high profile tech investment by any Hip-hop artist. Rappers Nas, Snoop Dogg and P.Diddy are also venture capitalists. In Africa and Kenya, we have not seen local stars venture into the tech space beyond product endorsement until now.
Driven by curiosity, Gospel rapper Juliani has set out to make a mark in the tech space with his startup My Msanii. Juliani wants to create a record label without exactly owning a record label. This is Juliani’s second venture in the tech space having previously launched CustomerBora, an SMS based service aimed at keeping the environment clean. A CustomerBora user earns points by collecting and voicing their concerns about trash which, one can redeem for various prizes.
With My Msanii, Juliani is creating a platform through which artistes can connect with potential clients for various shows.” In Kenya, artistes do not have managers or personal assistants. We do not have an established music profession. These are problem that only technology can solve”,he says. “Many at times, someone is looking for an artist but they do not know how to get them. In other instances, an artist gets booked but cannot receive their worth. With My Msanii, these two parties can easily engage and a trail is created making the music business professional”.
How it Works?
My Msanii is a service targeting musicians, comedians, Djs, MCs and artistes in general. So one will create an account on the platform under the talent sign-up feature. They will then be ushered into a form where they will add their artiste information including their name, number, art category as well as add their bio-data. Upon sign-up, they are added into the database, which is based on their category (Dj, comedian, musician) and they can receive information via email or calls if anyone is interested in booking a gig with them.
Now assuming I want a DJ to come perform at my event, I go to My Msanii website where I am presented with two search options. I can directly search for the DJ I want, if I have made up my mind or I can also opt to filter the artistes by their craft such as comedians, musicians and Djs. This then ushers a drop down with the available options and on clicking, I am presented with their information including a book now button that allows me to input my details alongside my budget and I am done.
Juliani who started rapping in 2005 says he conceptualized the idea 2 years ago but the real work has been ongoing for the last one year. He currently has a team of 3 working on the project full-time. “The project is still in its pilot phase, we are yet to launch it and what we are doing now is fine-tuning. We are also building excitement around the product as we seek to bring more artistes of all types of crafts on board”, he added.
We asked Juliani how he intends to make money off his startup. “Well, my focus now is not on making money but solving a problem and immediate need for artistes”. Juliani who has invested over Kshs. 1 Million into the project says once the needs are taken care of he can begin moving towards the monetization aspects.
My Msanii is currently offering its services on a freemium model with the goal of adding premium tiers as the product grows. “The plan is to introduce a silver, gold and platinum product tiers for the various artistes using our platform”. With the planned addition of the payment gateway, artistes on the silver tier or freemium model will receive 50% of their payment before their performances and 50% of the same after. In addition, My Msanii will 2 hours before the performance communicate with the artist to confirm the performance and communicate the same with the artistes.
With gold tier, My Msanii will offer management services to various artistes on the platform, which will include several guarantees of events. Platinum tier will act as a launching pad for careers of artistes. “With platinum, we shall offer a bouquet of services from brand management, events, bookings as well as recording and music production for both new and established artistes”,he added.
Why use My Msanii?
Facebook and Twitter have served as effective tools for artistes and celebrities alike to connect with their fans, announce new projects, share media as well as points of communication for bookings and related information. So why use My Msanii? According to Juliani, My Msanii will firstly offer accurate and timely information to the artistes. “Anyone can like your Facebook page or even follow you on Twitter, My Msanii is a platform that allows you to engage with your real fans”, he says. “I post events on my Facebook page, 2,000 people will say they will click attending. However, the turnout during the events is significantly lower”. My Msanii seeks to offer validity to information on concerts, engagement and even bookings.” I can tweet information, anyone will retweet it or favorite it but what about the impact? that is what we seek to bring with this product”.
My Msanii’s engine will include a wide metric integration, which will be used as a reporting mechanism of how much value artistes are deriving from the platform. The metrics include most searched artistes, most booked as well as the one with most fans on the platform. These metrics will also be used in helping artistes get booked for events. “This is critical information for an artist to gauge their outreach and feedback”, he says of the platform.
Being an artiste and a non-techie, we sought to know the challenges of owning a startup, whose engine is technology. “The two biggest problems for us have been talent retention and product development. Getting a team that understands the vision, that is patient enough to see the product through has been a challenge for the business”.
According to the rapper, My Msanii has had 3 builds, with the initial one limited to users searching for artistes. The second build allowed artistes to create a profile besides allowing users to search. The third build boasts of several features such as adding media, events, refined search. New additions expected will include the launching on app for Android as well as addition of a payment gateway. Juliani says the builds have stemmed from the need to have a well refined and clean product that users will find easy to use. “We just don’t want to bring anything to market, we want a product that is high quality”.
My Msanii’s focus for the long term is becoming a one-stop shop for artistes of different categories. “What used to set record labels apart is having the network”, he says. “With that in mind, we shall use the data we collect now, harness the necessary networks and in the future use it to impact artistes using our platform. Expansion to other markets in Africa is also another goal for the future. At the moment, My Msanii is receiving interest in Rwanda and Tanzania despite lacking presence in these markets. “We also hope in when we have the product refined, an app ready and everything running, we can keep the artistes and fans more on the platform”,he added.