Universal buys majority stake in Kenyan label AI Records

Universal Music Group has acquired a 70% stake in leading Kenyan label, AI Records, as the Vivendi-owned major ramps up its presence in Africa.

The acquisition was made by Universal’s Dutch subsidiary (Universal International Music BV) for an undisclosed fee, according to local reports.

Based in Nairobi, Kenya, AI Records owns one of the largest catalogues of East African music in the world.

Its roster includes recordings by local stars such as Orchestra Super Mazembe and Afro 70.

AI Records was founded in the 1950s by Michael Andrews whose son, John Andrews, heads up the business today.

The Andrews family will retain 30% ownership in the label, which will digitise its catalogue as part of the Universal partnership.

When UMG boss Sir Lucian Grainge (pictured) signed a new five-year contract in 2015, Universal parent Vivendi highlighted Africa, China and India as “high-potential markets” in which it would actively invest over the following half-decade.

In 2016, UMG appointed Sipho Dlamini as Managing Director of Universal Music South Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa (English-speaking).

In 2017, Vivendi announced that it was launching four music venues across Africa under the CanalOlympia brand – one each in Cameroon, Guinea, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Universal Music Group is involved in operating all four concert halls, using them to help discover local talent.

Universal is not the only significant music company investing in Africa this year: Kobalt has reportedly just struck a worldwide administration deal with established Nigerian publisher Replete.

It’s been a year of major change in Africa’s music business already. In February, local telecoms giant Safaricom launched its own music streaming platform, Songa, with a catalogue of more than 400,000 artists, having signed a licensing deal with Sony Music.

And at the end of 2017, Warner Music Group inked a deal with rival local streaming service, Mdundo, making available the major’s catalogue of music to Mdundo’s 1.5 million monthly users.

Other major label activity in Africa over the past decade has included Warner buying out Gallo Records in South Africa, a move that has allowed WMG to better manage the release of its own repertoire across the continent.Music Business Worldwide

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