Africa Unsigned: African music funded by fans!

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Africa Unsigned allows African musicians to record music funded by fans.
Through “crowd funding” artists raise money for the recording, distribution and promotion of an EP (three tracks). “Supporters” who invested in the artists receive the digital release and 50% of the income generated from music sales.
Music fans from all over the world can browse through artists on AfricaUnsigned.com. When they find an artist they like, they can invest in the artist’s music with increments of $5. When $10,000 is reached the budget is used to make a professional recording of three tracks. The music is then distributed to the fans that backed the artist and sold on all major online stores (incl. Amazon & iTunes). All the generated income from music sales is equally shared between the artists and the music fans that backed the recordings.

Africa Unsigned so far…
The site went officially live in June 2010. Since then 2 artists reached their target. Kenyan artist Muthoni the Drummer Queen recorded her EP with her $5000 budget, which will be released in spring 2011. Soul & Gospel singer Neema, also from Kenya, is recording a full album after raising $20.000. The album will be released early summer 2011. We’ve had successful collaborations with TED.com, the ASN Bank and the GCAP campaign. TED.com helped us in making a small tour possible for Muthoni the Drummer Queen, ASN Bank helped in raising the $20.000 for Neema and with the GCAP campaign we organized a collaboration between famous Dutch House producer Gregor Salto and the young Zimbabwean band Mokoomba. This resulted in the amazing Messe Messe EP which was received very well in the international DJ scene, partly because of the house remixes Gregor Salto created. The tracks & video clip are a huge success on YouTube and in online stores.

BiD Network

Submitting the business plan to BiD Network, helped to the overall improvement of the business concept, exposure for Africa Unsigned and a successful matching with three informal investors (incl. droomzaken) for a substantial amount. This initial investment also enabled Africa Unsigned to access other funds and create a steady fundament of knowledge, network and finance within the company, necessary for further growth.

Next Steps

• A well functioning website, which will go live in April 2011
• Organic growth of its community in terms of members, traffic and funds invested
• Integration of mobile payment provider MPESA in Kenya on our website resulting in
– Kenyan bands to crowd fund their recording budgets from local and international supporters
– International media attention
• Successful release of Neema’s album and Muthoni’s EP.
• Continue with radio-shows at DJ Broadcast and Red Light Radio, generate more listeners.
• Book our festival focus artists for concerts and festivals in Europe Q4 2011
• Broaden their PR scope to a more international audience, mainly focusing on the markets in the USA & UK.

Opportunities for growth

As described above Africa Unsigned will be launching a mobile payment system for the crowd funding platform in Kenya. The organisation is working with MPESA (Safaricom) to achieve this. Right now most African fans cannot support their artists on Africa Unsigned, because the payment methods are not available in their home country. However, they are used to paying for just about everything with their mobile phone, using systems like MPESA. MPESA is the largest system in Kenya, the strongest source geographically for artists so far. The system will be rolled out coming April, making it the first ever mobile connection between crowd funding & Africans, creating a whole new level of opportunities for the artists locally. Facilitating the connection is only the first step in building this success in Kenya. MPESA will need our attention and focus for promotion, maintenance and improvement of the payment method.