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Musician’s app helps Kenyan creatives sell music and merchandise

Bien-Aime Baraza, the lead singer and songwriter of Sauti Sol, a Kenyan Afro-fusion band performs with other band members during the during the SolFest Class of 2022 concert, at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC) in Nairobi, Kenya December 18, 2022. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya

In pink trousers and a matching puffer jacket, Grammy-nominated Kenyan musician Bien-Aime Alusa gyrates on stage as he sings to a bank of swaying fans, many capturing the moment on their mobile phones.

When the curtain drops on the concert in Nairobi, Alusa keeps making connections and profit through a digital streaming and payment platform, HustleSasa, which he co-founded to help artists recover from revenues lost to the coronavirus lockdown.

HustleSasa, which officially launched in November 2021, allows the singer-songwriter and fellow creatives to stream music or sell branded merchandise, concert tickets, food, fashion and other services in one mobile phone application.

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Artists or vendors sell their products directly to the market, with no set-up costs or monthly fees, and receive payment instantly via bank card or mobile money, avoiding expensive commissions charged by some apps.

“Our region has one of the lowest payout rates in the world from other streaming platforms, but on HustleSasa you are getting value for money in real time,” Alusa said.

Glena Jiwani, who owns the fashion boutique Pink Savannah in the capital Nairobi, said it has allowed her to expand her business online, and keep tabs on stock and sales. “I did not even have a website but now it’s so easy,” she said.

Yaba, another Kenyan musician, said the app’s streaming service allows him to make more money and to connect directly to his audience. “As a musician who is fighting his way to the top, when it comes to streaming it’s not like the other platforms,” he said at his studio in Rongai, western Kenya.

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Alusa said he is in talks to spread operations across the continent, from Ghana to South Africa.

“It’s the future of ticketing, it’s the future of selling merch, it’s the future where we are going to have the power and future in our hands.”

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