Birds enjoy the tranquil of the green lawn of the white old-styled bungalow located next to Sunny Side Seventh Day Adventist Church as they whistle sweet melodies. But inside the building there is more music being uploaded for consumption of a world bigger than the whistle of these birds can reach.
A walk into the building fades away the sound of birds and clattering of computer keyboards and clicks of computer mice fades in. It is a small office with not more than 10 people but everybody looks very busy. It would be surprising if anyone turned and stared at the squeaking sound of the door hinge.
The office looks casual in a way, perhaps because the majority of the workers in look younger than 30. It might be hard to believe that this is the office that brings Malawian music to the people faster than most mediums. Welcome to the offices of www.malawi-music.com .
Sean Chikago, Dingaani Whayo and Kenny Klips are ordinary people but where Malawian music is concerned one can arguably call them supermen. They are the brains behind the establishment.
In an interview with Chill Sean Chikago who is responsible for building of the websites at the firm [like an IT Manager but they said their positions are not that formal they like to keep it casual] says that the idea was conceived when he was in school in USA.
“During my degree programme I used to communicate with Dingaani my cousin who was doing almost a similar course at University of Cape Town in South Africa. I noticed that during my time there it was very hard to access Malawian music and since Dingaani was more inclined to music we agreed to build a music retail website where people from all over can access Malawian music,” says Sean.
Dingaan interrupts his cousin saying: “The idea was born from love of music and using technology to find solutions for the challenges that the industry faces. The idea of selling music online wasn’t very new globally but for some reason like with so many other things in Malawi it was.”
The idea of having a music retail website did not leave Sean and Dingaani’s minds such that the moment they met after their studies they had an informal business meeting.
“But the problem is that we discovered spending a number of years in Diaspora, we were not well connected to musicians so it was very hard for us to make strides in that business. We started looking for someone who could have the connections in the business,” says Sean.
As they were searching for someone who could have that connection, they discovered they had the connection from their circle of childhood friends, so they roped in Kenny Wako who is better known by his moniker, Kenny Klips.
“Sean Dingi and I have been friends from childhood. So when they had this idea they thought with my experience and connections in the music circles I could help them find the connections for the venture,” said Kenny Klips.
Two years ago the trio met at Sean’s house over a cup of coffee where they established what will later be the most famous music retail website in the country, www.malawi-music.com, boasting of over a million hits a month.
It is very common for artists to advertise release of their songs on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook and the website seems to have flushed out the music sharing portals such as ReverbNation.
Dingaani shares with Chill that Sales are picking up with Black Missionaries, Lucius Banda and Mr Cool just like the urban musicians such as Saint, NesNes and Gwamba.
“The revenue is slowly trickling in but it should be very significant in the coming months as more people start to use our mobile money payment system. At the moment the figures are not very impressive but It’s an upward trend though that we hope continues,” said Dingaani.
Kenny Klips who is Artists’ Relations Manager at the firm says artist have welcomed the website well just like the music consumers in the country and abroad.
“Artists have a broader audience, as our site is the number one music site in Malawi. So, whenever anyone around the world would like to explore, discover and enjoy Malawi music, they go to our site,” says Klips.
Dingani reports that most of the traffic on music sales on the website is local taking about 80% while the rest is international.
“The approach we have taken is to make sure artists and rights owners get 70% from their music while we get 30% publishing commission,” said Dingaani.
Although the money that the website makes is not enough to sustain itself, the trio say the website is sustained by other websites such as real estate website www.nyumba24.com and car sales website www.cars365.com.
“The fact that the music industry has embraced and adopted Internet technologies ahead of many other retail industries in Malawi is a good sign and a step forward. It would be retrogressive to think that the future of the music industry can be separated from the Internet” says Dingaani.
The three bemoaned on lack of commitment by mobile telephone operators and banks to help in selling of music.
“Even advertisers sometimes do not understand what it means to have a million views on a website. It means it is a potential advertising space to over a million customers. So we are appealing to companies to advertise with the website,” said Sean.