Universal Music buys 70% stake in Kenyan label AI Records


Universal Music Group’s expansion plans are making Africa a priority, with the latest example being UMG’s acquisition of a majority stake in Kenyan label AI Records.

According to news site Business Daily, Universal has bought a 70% stake in the label, whose artists include well-known east African artists like Orchestra Super Mazembe, Afro 70, and Western Jazz. The deal appears focused on UMG giving AI Records’ catalogue better global distribution.

“We’ve entered into a strategic alliance…they will digitise the music and make it available to the world. We are too small to do that but they can,” said its general manager John Andrews. That includes reviving AI Records’ roster of recording artists, which the site suggests had been scaled back eight years ago due to the costs of recording.

“We are in the process of communicating with many artistes. Hopefully we will sign contracts and begin new recordings by the end of the year,” said Andrews.

East Africa is interesting for more than just the potential international appeal of its music though: local streaming services like Songa and Mdundo are starting to make waves too, in an area previously so underlooked by the industry, that its sales weren’t even quantified by the IFPI’s annual Global Music Report.

Stuart Dredge

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