New Age – New Media – New Reach – And More Money

A successful vocalist is a respected social figure with admirable talent and profession. Nevertheless, in pondering over their lives, it becomes evident that music really bakes no bread in Ethiopia. Asked of their lifetime earnings, veteran musicians would often say, “my riches are the people.”

Albeit the grim reality, however, with the diversification of the internet and arrival of the game changing social media, music is making lucrative money online these days. In a country where there is no royalty payment for the use of works of music, the only source of revenue becomes the sale of an album or fees paid for stage performances.

The proliferation of video sharing websites has created ample opportunities for generating revenue. It has motivated musicians, making them believe that their work of art is worth something. Getesh Mamo, who has recently become more popular with his two singles, is the fourth most viewed musician on YouTube in Ethiopia concurs.

“At a time when the music industry’s profitability is threatened by various factors, including copyright infringements, what we are earning from the website is compensatory,” he said. “It is paying off the musicians well, unlike their previous loss and fruitless efforts.”

Out of about 70 video sharing platforms, musicians are using the prominent video sharing websites and YouTube channels to upload their music video and make money out of it. Amongst these sites, Dire Tube, Ethio One Love Entertainment and Hope Entertainment are the notable ones that are producing the lion’s share of the music video revenue the musicians are generating from YouTube.

Of the Ethiopian videos that were uploaded from January 2014 to April 2016, the most viewed is Abby Lakew’s Yene Habesha, with 21.4 million views. From the top ten most viewed videos on YouTube, three are by entertainment channels and two by individual ones. Ethio One Love Entertainment and Hope Music take the lead in this regard.

YouTube pays by cost per impression (CPI), which is the rate of every thousand views of the ads they attach to videos. While Youtube does not publish its CPI rates, online marketing firm Penna Powers estimates their current CPI ranges from around half a dollar to as high as 10 dollars.

Seemingly unaware of the technical details, most musicians use third party channels like Dire Tube to generate money from their music. Thereby, sharing almost half of their revenue with these sites.

Albeit the grim reality, however, with the diversification of the internet and arrival of the game changing social media, music is making lucrative money online these days.

“The musicians could not establish their own channels and enjoy the benefits independently because they do not have the technological awareness and know how,” says Habtom Berhe, an IT professional who has an experience of working on YouTube advertisement services.

“The video sharing tube channels take advantage of this chasm to share the benefits with the musicians,” he adds.

Binyam Negussu, the founder of the prominent video sharing website Dire Tube, a pioneer in the online revenue generating business, agrees that the musicians need to harvest from the online earnings independently.

“The fundamental problem is that no organisation has stood for the musicians’ rights or have the understanding of the revenue generated from video sharing sites,” he explains. “We have always encouraged artists to establish their own YouTube Channels.”

“But to do so, there needs to be an intense awareness of the trend and requires hard work on the part of promoting and maintaining consistent update and uploading,” he adds.

In the case of the earnings of the Ethiopian music video sharing sites, the amount the artist earns is the dividend of the basic earning from which YouTube’s share and the uploading channel’s share. Binyam’s company, for instance, takes about 40pc of the earnings and gives the remaining to the musician.

“I am paid about 250,000 Br with my two single music videos, not including the upcoming payments generated after I’ve received the first,” muses Getesh. “I am happy about it. It has created remarkable opportunity and motivation for the artists.”

There are only few who could establish their own YouTube Channels and make them profitable. Aggregating the most viewed top 10 music videos, it could be found that only two musicians utilise YouTube channels.

Out of about 70 video sharing platforms, musicians are using the prominent video sharing websites and YouTube channels to upload their music video and make money out of it.

Realizing the ever rewarding business potential, these video sharing tubes are getting into competition with each other. Some, for instance, pre-pay artists whose song the website thinks would be quickly popular and marketable. They even go to the extent of producing the whole music video production.

“Musicians used to give their videos to TV stations and online tubes for free,” says Wolderufael Alemu who has undertaken the production of more than 200 music videos.

“But nowadays, the earning from these sites and even the video sharing channels cover the whole music production cost for a song they anticipate will be profitable,” he adds.

Despite the fact that this website video revenue has paid off musicians well, some listeners believe the trend has become a fertile ground for cheap pop art. After producing a single song, musicians are in haste to make a music video and rush to the well-known YouTube channels. Their immediate motive is just producing music which would be quickly familiar.

To this end, they manage to incorporate artistic elements which can be easily consumed. It is with the presupposition that such contents potentially attract large viewers within a short period of time.

“They just want to make a splash in media and earn money from their work,” says Wolderufael. “They do not want to captivate with lyrics or orchestrated composition. They just want to amuse and impress quickly.”

While popular music productions often enjoy more views and a high revenue, for some, early musicians are still more striking.

“The music of the country’s veteran musicians could be found scattered on YouTube, uploaded by various channels,” says Binyam. “In this regard, the artists who own the copyright to the songs need to open official YouTube channels and monetize the contents, which means anyone can use them for free.”

Habtom, on the other side, questions the appeal early music would have on the online media.

“The much-loved songs of the country’s acclaimed musicians need to be reproduced in a way to fit and enthrall the online audience,” he argues.


Top 10 most viewed Music Videos on Youtube

1-Abby Lakew

Born in Gondar, Abby Lakew left Ethiopia for the US at the age of thirteen. She had taken choir and African dance classes throughout her high school years in Dallas, Texas. In 2007,  she released her debut studio album “Man’ale”. In 2012, she released a new single Shikorina, followed by Endmewadih and Abererew in 2014 and the smash hits Yene Habesha and Befikir Eskista in 2015.

Album: “Man’ale”(2007),  Single: Shikorina, Endmewadih, Abererew

Hit Song: Yene Habesha 

Release Date: June 16, 2015

YouTube Channel: Abby Lakew (Her Own Channel)

View Count: 21.4 million


2-Jacky Gosse

Jacky Gosse started music as a kid at Children & Youth Theatre and was lucky enough to have had training from Mulu Gebeyehu. Three years after joining the Theater he, along with Yodit Zeleke and Amelework Girma, released an album collection titled Ye Wolajoch Getoch – becoming the first CD he co-released with the two female musicians. Jacky has become well acquainted with the Ethiopian music scene and audience with his song entitled “Sela.” Afterwards, the singles he released got him a significant place in the popular Ethiopian music scene.

Singles: Fim Esat New (with Nhatty Man), Yene Akal, Meley, Fiameta, Wanko, Hak, Balambaras, Bandiraw 

Hit Song: Fiammetta

Release Date: April 13, 2014

YouTube Channel: Jacky Gosse (His Own Channel)

View Count: 17.1 million


3-Behailu Bayou

Working as a vocalist in a renowned local band known as Habesha Band, Behailu Bayou is a privileged musician who achieved big success with his very first single called Feta Feta.

Singles: Feta Feta, Des Bilognal, Liyuye, Fikir Aleme, Yager Lij

Hit Song: Feta Feta

Release Date: February 26, 2015

YouTube Channel: Ethio One Love

View Count: 14.1 million


4-Getesh Mamo

Getesh Mamo embarked on his musical career in school. He later refined his skills in Forum 84 and Defence Forces, local music bands. Getesh was prominently introduced to the music scenr as a lyric and melody writer for three songs in Helen Berhe’s much-applauded album Tasfeligegnaleh. He produced two albums entitled Eyase and Tiwodegnalech. The recent release of his consecutive singles called Tekebel No. 1 and Tekebel No. 2 have achieved a greater number of view count in a short time, helping him to become the 4th most watched musician of the year.

Albums: Eyase and Tiwedegnalech

Singles: Tekebel No 1, Tekebel No 2, Mebte New, Kezih Belay

Hit Song: Tekebel

Release Date: August 19, 2016

YouTube Channel: Hope Music Ethiopia

View Count: 12.2 million


5-Mesfin Bekele

Mesfin Bekele is known for his first single Ney Bekiremit that he released back in 2005. Having produced two albums entitled Min Yilegnal and O Manesh, the singles Ney Bekiremt, Demelash and Asresh Michiw have brought him significant popularity.

Albums: Min Yilegnal and O Manesh 

Singles: Ney Bekiremt, Demelash, Welelawa and Asresh Michiw

Hit Song: Asresh Michiw

Release Date: July 1, 2015

YouTube Channel: Ethio One Love

View Count: 10.4 million


6-Wondi Mac

Wondi Mac is one of the most beloved young musicians who is well known for his debut single Min Yitrash, which is a cover reproduction of the song of the late vocalist Gashaw Adal. The song has made him famous and brought him a considerable YouTube following.

Singles: Min Yitrash, Shi-Semanya, Tagebignalesh Wey, Yamarew, Jeba, Ej Wedelay, Alehu

Hit Song: Min Yitrash

Release Date: April 18, 2014

YouTube Channel: Ethio One Love

View Count: 9.8 million


7 -Emebet Negasi

Emebet Negasi has been working in Hager Fiker Theatre as a vocalist for the last ten years. She has released a traditional music album entitled Senda Bel three years ago, in which the hit song Min Yishal is included. The music video she produced for the song Min Yishalal attracted a significant number of YouTube Views, which could be attributed to Emebet’s lively performance on the video.

Album: Senda bel

Hit Song: Min Yishalal

Release Date: January 3, 2014

YouTube Channel: Hope Music Ethiopia

View Count: 9.3 million


8-Teddy Afro

The famous singer Teddy Afro has a remarkable status in contemporary Ethiopian music. He has produced four albums and some singles that reigned him king in the country’s music scene. His latest album, Ethiopia, could be said to be a milestone in his musical career, especially as the album was ranked number one on the Billboard World Music Chart. It made him the only Ethiopian who is privileged to enjoy this global professional achievement.

Albums: Abugida, Yasteseryal, Tikur Sew, Ethiopia

Singles: Beseba Dereja, Alhonilih Alegn, Bob Marley, Washto Lemenor, Alhed Ale, Korkuma Africa, Abel & Kain (few among others)

Hit Song: Beseba Dereja

Release Date: August 22, 2014

YouTube Channel: Hope Music Ethiopia

View Count: 9.1 million


9-Dina Anteneh

Born and raised in Arat Kilo, Dina Anteneh was sent to Yared School of Music at the age of twenty by her parents who are also musicians. She has become popular with the cover song Game, originally performed by Marta Hailu. She performed in the music video with a Game hairdressing that became her signature style in her videos henceforth. Dina released all of her songs abroad except one. The single she released was accompanied by the traditional dancer Abyot.

Singles: Game, Nama, Bede, Alichilim

Hit Song: Nama

Release Date: August 25, 2015

YouTube Channel: Ethio One Love

View Count: 8.8 million


10-Dawit Nega

He embarked on his musical journey as a drum player in the marching band of Circus Tigray. He has produced single Tigrigna songs which were received with extraordinary popularity. His unique style fuses the traditional Tigrigna with the modern one, while preserving the intonation and vocalisation of the traditional one. His song Wozamay remains the most viewed Tigrigna song of all time.

Singles: Wezamay

Hit Song: Wezamay

Release Date: April 22, 2016

YouTube Channel: Dire Tube

View Count: 8.7 million

Published on: Sep 13, 2017



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