There is wealth in our creative content

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Kenya’s investment in undersea cables for high speed broadband was criticised as yet another white elephant.

We urged people to take advantage of the infrastructure to develop local creative content. Ten years down the road broadband has liberated the country.

Now we must move one step further – show the people how to monetise their creative content online – and help citizens unlock their hidden wealth.

As we celebrate ten years since the landing of the undersea cables, I have spent many hours rummaging through the Internet, searching for creative content and I see opportunity in the amount of raw creativity that is not fully exploited.

From art exhibits to music of all genres to different types of films, Africa is developing unprecedented creative content online and the world has not disappointed them. There is demand for good content. Some videos have attracted more than 15 million views with substantial subscriptions and this translates easily into money.

When Korean Psy and Noh Hong-chul released their music video Gangnam Style in July 2012, they didn’t know that five months later one billion people could be watching the video. Seven years down the road, it has had more than 3.4 billion views and earned them millions of dollars.

The success demonstrates that the world is simply a global village that we should be looking at a seven-billion market rather than the narrow markets of our respective countries.

There are many creative people walking on the streets looking for jobs in line with social expectations and an unchanged mindset. In the past, we thought that wealth is only brought from employment and entrepreneurship.

The creativity in poetry, music, dance and simply art is a source of wealth we must explore to create abundant opportunities for our bulging population. If we change the mindset, we could have more schools and more students in creative content development.

In Kenya, we have very few colleges and students interested in this space. Some of the colleges include: Kenyatta University School of Creative Arts and Film Technology, Africa Creative Arts & Innovation College, Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, Africa Digital Media Institute, Kabarak University, Daystar University and Hekima University College.

Many of the creative content developers in You Tube hardly consult experts like choreographers, script editors, content curators, composers and photographers. Even with the random creations, some have done well by any standards and on their way to achieving the success other artists have seen in this digital era.

For our content to be competitive, we must do more by creating many incubators and accelerators that will assist in producing content that is globally competitive.

We must educate many of the artists on the benefits of using lawyers to help them understand aspects of intellectual property as well as negotiate better deals from buyers of their content.

Unfortunately, many artists have fallen prey to some global organisations ostensibly created by composers and music writers to protect their intellectual property rights. They collect money on behalf of artists. There is rising concern, however, which governments must seek to resolve in order to enable the full potential of emerging creative content providers.

Critics from the developed countries argue that the enforcement strategies by these organisations, although having good intentions in attempting to license every artist, are unfair, especially to budding musicians. Some artists have no negotiating capacity to fairly negotiate with powerful global organisations.

As they say, wherever there is smoke, there is fire. The interest in creative content providers has been exploding with many new digital platforms that distribute content coming up. While they provide ease of distribution, they are after the money.

A 2015 report, Rethink Music Releases Report on Transparency and Fairness in the Music Industry, by Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship, identified barriers in many flows to artists noting that “only a small proportion of the money beyond the initial recording advances ultimately makes its way to artists as ongoing revenue.”

In this digital era, there is hardly any developing country that has mustered the business models advanced by especially streaming service companies. The Berklee report says that revenue streams from such providers are often obscure and non-transparent.
YouTube, for example, attempts to provide important data but no one really can validate it.

Data from other streaming services is not available. Nevertheless, these numbers show that there is indeed wealth in creative content for Kenyans. Unfortunately, we do not pursue it with the same vigour as we do in employment.

The opportunities in this space are limitless. These include podcast where individuals with talented voices can build new business models to serve millions across the globe.

For example, creating an audio bible, books and poetry for the millions of blind people in local languages.

There are other unexplored areas like virtualising African Art, story telling (recreating Africa’s oral literature), and illustrators for developing other content like contextual children’s books, graphic designers and many more.

Many of these jobs can be done from the comfort of home environment without necessarily sitting at an institution. They form the bulk of the future jobs.

We need to create centers of knowledge throughout the country to disseminate emerging opportunities to young people.

Creative arts are unexplored, yet they provide great opportunities for wealth creation across different age groups.

The writer is a professor of entrepreneurship at University of Nairobi’s School of Business. @bantigito

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