Indies Provide Vital Outlet For New Talent

Africa remains woefully underserved by the major labels—but its thriving indie scene continues to gain vital exposure for the continent's artists.

With piracy rampant—estimates suggest such product represents 95% of sales in some countries—and legit retail outlets few and far between, none of the majors have operations on the continent outside of South Africa, although some have appointed agents in other countries. But a new wave of African talent is nonetheless emerging through a network of tiny independent labels.

Insiders say a good barometer of African indies' growing influence is the increased volume of new artists aired on Johannesburg-based Pan-African satellite music TV channel Channel O. GM Yolisa Phahle says companies like Nigeria's Storm Records, Kennis Music and Mozambique's Bang Entertainment "are doing amazing things."

"In reality a lot of these companies are run as a passion with the profits of other businesses," she says. "The [managing directors] of these companies are working hard amid piracy so they can provide an income for the artists and composers."

Solomon Sonaiya, outgoing head of Lagos, Nigeria-based Storm Records—home to "the first lady of African hip-hop," Sasha, and part of the wider entertainment group Storm Media Group—acknowledges the difficulties piracy causes.

"The majors will not want to do business here until government deals effectively with the pirates," he says, noting that pirated albums sell for as little as $1. "You can have a song debut on the radio and five days later it will be on the streets."

Consequently, many indies look to other areas of the business to make money...

Click here for the full story, including some of the most successful areas to book shows, the growth strategy for some of South Africa's indies, as well as profiles on two other emerging markets.