You have seen the numerous ads about having some song, joke, or message as your Skiza tune. It is also available in your local artist’s YouTube video description. There seems to be this crazy push for people to get Skiza on their phones. The only question why is Skiza such a big deal in Kenya?
To answer this question, we have to understand how Skiza works and who benefits from this service.
How Skiza works
Its premise is quite simple. Safaricom, the owner of the service, offers its subscribers with an opportunity to entertain its callers with some audio clip of their choice. The clips replace the mundane call-waiting tone while waiting for someone to pick up the phone. The clips will run throughout until the user picks the call.
These audio clips have a specific code to it through which users of Safaricom Network can choose through Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) code *811#.
What makes this service attractive is that you will only be charged Ksh 1 every day. That doesn’t sound like much now does it? Well, if you consider a rough estimate of 5 million people using the service for 30 days straight. That sums up to Ksh 150 million shillings every month!
How Revenue is Distributed
Let’s work with the Ksh 150 million as the working budget.
There are three parties that get shares of the revenue: Safaricom, Middlemen, and artists. It doesn’t have to be artists because Skiza isn’t limited to songs only. You could come up with a funny audio clip and post it on the service. What happens in such a situation is that one would be referred to as the owner of the intellectual property.
So, Safaricom, being the owner of the service will have the bigger cut. Why? The service is made available to millions of its subscribers so they must be paid for offering it in the first place. This can see them take up to 40% of the cash (Ksh 6 million).
We then have the middlemen who get their cut for publishing the content on behalf of the artist. As it stands, no one can just come up and be a middle man. Safaricom has to approve you first. There are 11 approved publishers of the content if the list provided by Safaricom is anything to go by.
Let’s focus on one publisher, Ngomma, because you have heard about it before. It is responsible for publishing local music. You can even compare them to Vevo Music. Because they are the ones who have access to publish the content, they get their cut from this revenue.
It isn’t clear why Safaricom can’t allow the artists to publish the content by themselves but that’s how it is at the moment. They get around 30% of the share (Ksh 4.5 million)
Last, we have the artists themselves who take up the remaining Ksh 4.5 million. It isn’t a bad way to earn money but you need to be quite popular in Kenya to make any returns from Skiza tune. Gospel artists like Mercy Masika and Size 8 always smile on their way to the bank.
Kenya’s Own Version of Music Streaming
For the most part, Skiza works like conventional streaming services. Apple Music and Spotify get their revenue from subscriptions and ads (Spotify only). The revenue is then shared amongst themselves, the record company who owns the music, and the artists. Again, you have to be a big artist to see any profitable returns from it.
What’s interesting that one of the streaming platforms, Apple Music, is available in Kenya. You pay a monthly fee of Ksh 500 and you get access to a huge library of music. It is big, trust me. I use it to do my reviews so I can tell you it is huge. Safaricom also launched their own streaming platform, Songa, but it’s quite inferior to the competition.
Despite that fact, Skiza seems to be reigning king of selling music in Kenya. Why is this so? It simply has to do with the Kenyan demographic. They prefer that is simply handed down to them with a spoon. They don’t like their technology complicated.
This, of course, has brought great innovations like M-PESA which put Apple Pay and Samsung Pay to shame. Skiza doesn’t work for someone like me because it would be pointless to be charged for a 15-second audio clip. I’d rather pay for full streaming rights. But hey, we are talking about Kenyans here. They are the same people who love Gengetone. What do I know?
The service is just convenient for many Kenyans and you can’t blame artists and other content creators for trying to get some of that sweet cash. What do you think? Do you have a Skiza ringtone? Let me know in the comments below.