Youssou N’dour and Baaba Maal are among almost 200 artists who have signed up to MusikBi, which promises to promote and pay African musicians.
Africa’s first homegrown platform for legal music downloads has launched in Senegal with a mission to promote African artists, pay them properly and fight internet piracy.
Internationally famous musicians such as Youssou N’Dour and Baaba Maal are among almost 200 who have signed agreements with MusikBi, along with younger rappers, jazz artists and Christian and Muslim vocalists.
The platform draws its name from the word for music in Wolof, the language widely spoken in Senegal and neighbouring Gambia, said project developer Moustapha Diop at the launch in Dakar on Wednesday.
Songs cost between 300 and 500 CFA francs (50-85 US cents) and users can download them using mobile phone credit in a region where few have bank cards.
“It is the first platform of its kind enabling music downloads by text or PayPal,” said a statement released by Diop’s company, Solid.
Solid noted that many African music artists “cannot live comfortably by the proceeds of their work”, adding the platform offered a chance for “promotion and to allow them to make a living from their art”.
Concerts were one of the few ways local artists had to really make money, the firm noted.
Piracy and changing consumer habits have seen record sales drop across the continent, with illegal downloads tempting African consumers to look online for music while copyright enforcement remains relatively weak.
A source within the Solid group told AFP that after mobile operators took their share, artists kept 60% of their income from the service, while MusikBi took the remaining 40%.
MusikBi does not offer a streaming service because local internet speeds make it difficult to use the format, especially in a mobile-driven market.