by Samuel M for Bitcoins.co.ke
is Kenyan underground hip hop artist, who has two albums to his name. He attends social events in Nairobi specifically to hawk his albums, which he carries in a back pack. Being underground; recording with small independent studios and without the backing of any promoter means he has to pitch himself directly to new customers. The first part of the pitch involves saying how real
he is, while the second involves letting the potential customer sample the music flowing from his portable CD player. Sometimes the listener is impressed while other times they are bored, or fall in love with only one of the songs, but not enough to purchase the whole album.
The same situation exists in the virtual world; he has over 1000 friends on Facebook but is not able to sell his albums. Other than the music on his albums, Gas frequently records what he simply calls “verses” - freestyle rhymes which are a witty commentary of the day’s events in the country. These he sometimes gives free of charge to his Facebook friends. Initially he tried to put a price to the verses and single tracks but there was resistance; the price of Ksh.10 ($0.12) per verse was felt to be high for an artist who is not well known, after all to download songs by some award-winning Kenyan musicians costs Ksh.5 and ring backs only Ksh.075 cents. Gas was ready to sell the verses at less than Ksh.10, but how could he do it?
The minimum transaction through Mpesa is Ksh.10 but if he was to factor in transaction charges, the amount adds up to Ksh.13. On the other hand he could get paid through airtime, where an amount of Ksh.5 can be transferred. Still to convert the airtime to cash he has to offer huge discounts. As an independent musician Gas has been unable to get his music into the official download and ring back services run by mobile phone companies so for now he is content hawking his albums and giving away his verses free of charge.
What if there was a way that would help Gas sell his music and verses at a price of his choice, below the minimum price of Ksh.10 set by Safaricom? An amount which can’t possibly go lower because of the transaction costs involved in M-Pesa, and of course the profit motive of the company. This is an example of one opportunity for Bitcoin in Kenya. Since Bitcoin has minimal transaction costs and can also be subdivided to the extent that it can be used for micro-transactions, Gas can find and charge the market rate. In other words music-lovers could sample Gas’ music at the price of their choice, and Gas would earn from his creativity.
At this early stage what would Gas do with these Bitcoins? He could start by trading them with his fans for the things he needs. Or he might use them to buy something from the Internet where M-Pesa and Kenyan Shillings are not as widely accepted. Finally, time should bring forward individuals who will convert Bitcoin to M-Pesa or cash at low fees. Then Gas F will be able to spend less time hawking and more time recording and performing. (Gas Fyatu tip jar: 15wUgPptDTeD7U7L7NA917SwkWmFbLiUUG)