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What Uganda's film industry can learn from the music industry to grow impact and success.
What Uganda's film industry can learn from the music industry to grow impact and success.
What Uganda's film industry can learn from the music industry to grow impact and success.

If there is one thing that we can all agree on, it is the fact that musicians are more popular in Uganda than filmmakers, and songs are more popular than movies. There is no survey to allude that Ugandans listen to more music than they watch movies, but from my observation, Ugandans, especially the middle and upper lower class, consume as many movies as they do music, just not for Ugandan movies. In fact, in Hollywood, actors and filmmakers have close to the same star power as musicians. Why is it different for Uganda, and what can we do about it?

The music industry in Uganda, like on the global scene, has experienced remarkable growth and impact locally, on the continent, and globally, thanks to artists like Eddy Kenzo, Chameleon, Maddox Ssematimba, Philly Bongole Lutaaya, and so on, which is not the same for the movie industry. This is due to many reasons but partly also because the music industry has been here longer than the film industry. Music, unlike film, has had Ugandans involved from back in pre-colonial times. Ugandans have been creating music with locally made instruments like Adungu for Buganda, Drums, Endigidi, and many other weapons that were used in the traditional society.

Whereas film could be compared to the stage plays that have also been around for a while, instruments of recording have just come around to be a norm like three decades ago. So, it makes it easier for Ugandans to adapt to music and music-making than film and filmmaking. In short terms, music had a great head start compared to film. That’s something we can’t control, but there are those reasons that we can look at that are within our means of control to try and match the music popularity in Uganda. So, let’s look at them.

Embracing Digital Transformation.

One of the key lessons from the music industry is the power of digital transformation. One of the reasons music is so popular is how easy it is to access. The rise of digital platforms, streaming services, and online distribution channels has democratized access to music, expanded audience reach, and created new revenue streams. We’re talking about the freely accessible YouTube, Spotify, TikTok, and more. Artists have learned that putting their music on these platforms for free creates greater returns in terms of revenue, i.e., YouTube payments, but also a boost in popularity as more people watch and listen to their content.

Similarly, the film industry can leverage digital platforms for content distribution, audience engagement, and monetization. In Uganda, the biggest challenge for film has been film access due to poor distribution channels. Embracing digital technologies enables filmmakers to reach global audiences, explore niche markets, and diversify revenue sources beyond traditional box office sales. One of the filmmakers who has tried that method is Loukman Ali of LoukOut Films who has created great short films and uploaded them on YouTube for free. He is arguably the most popular filmmaker in Uganda due to that and of course other reasons.  Ugandans need to know there is good content being done by Ugandan filmmakers and that can only happen if Ugandan filmmakers sacrifice some of their best content and distribute it via YouTube for free.

Cultivating a Strong Local Identity.

The music industry in Uganda thrives on its rich cultural heritage, diverse musical genres, and authentic storytelling. Local artists have successfully carved out unique identities that resonate with domestic audiences while also attracting international attention. Similarly, the film industry can grow its impact by celebrating Uganda's cultural diversity, telling authentic stories that reflect local realities, and showcasing indigenous talent, narratives, and landscapes. Cultivating a strong local identity not only fosters audience connection but also distinguishes Ugandan cinema on the global stage.

Investing in Talent Development.

Talent development is a cornerstone of success in both the music and film industries. The music sector in Uganda has seen the emergence of talented artists, producers, and songwriters who have honed their craft through training, mentorship, and industry support that are not well streamlined but by older artists training the upcoming ones indirectly. Likewise, the film industry can invest in talent development programs, workshops, and mentorship initiatives to nurture a new generation of filmmakers, actors, technicians, and storytellers. Building a robust talent pipeline not only elevates the quality of production but also drives industry innovation and sustainability.

Collaboration and Cross-Promotion.

Collaboration and cross-promotion have been instrumental in the music industry's growth and visibility. Local musicians often collaborate within themselves but also with continental and international artists, they participate in music festivals and leverage digital platforms to reach global audiences. The film industry, on the other hand, has had a hard time collaborating, especially “seasoned filmmakers”.

The film industry can foster collaborations between local filmmakers, production houses, distributors, and international partners to co-produce films, access new markets, and amplify promotional efforts. Cross-promotion through music videos, soundtracks, and film tie-ins can also enhance audience engagement and broaden reach.

Entrepreneurship and Business Acumen.

While the music industry has heavily relied on talent to push its brand across, there have also been great entrepreneurs that have invested heavily in the music industry like Kyazze and Benon of Swangz Avenue, Manager Roja, Jeff Kiwa of Team No Sleep, and so on. Also, most successful musicians in Uganda have demonstrated strong entrepreneurial skills, business acumen, and strategic partnerships that have propelled their careers and financial success. Artists like Eddy Kenzo, Ykee Benda, Bebe Cool, and others have shown how good they are when it comes to grabbing the available opportunities to grow their revenues and careers.

Similarly, filmmakers can benefit from cultivating a business mindset, exploring diverse revenue streams (such as merchandise, endorsements, and licensing deals), and forging partnerships with sponsors, investors, and brands. Understanding the business side of the industry, including marketing, distribution, and audience analytics, is crucial for sustainable growth and industry leadership.

Leveraging Social Media and Influencer Marketing.

The music industry has effectively utilized social media platforms and influencer marketing to connect with fans, build communities, and promote music releases. Great fanbases like Team Eddy Kenzo, Gagamel Family, Sheebaholics, and so on have created great value for their artists by helping them win Awards, creating revenues by attending their concerts selling and buying their merchandise, and so on. Similarly, the film industry can harness the power of social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok to showcase trailers, and behind-the-scenes content, and engage with audiences in real-time.

TV Shows can create fanbases that are strong enough to influence discussion online about the series, but the industry can also use those same channels to pass on information relating to other projects. TV Show fanbases like Team Sanyu, Prestige Fans, and Nabbossa fans online can be nurtured into serious communities that can influence other Ugandans to care about Ugandan film content. Collaborating with social media influencers, bloggers, and digital content creators can also amplify promotional efforts, generate buzz around film releases, and attract younger demographics.

Audience Engagement and Interactive Experiences.

Interactive experiences have become increasingly popular in the music industry, with virtual concerts, live-streaming events, and interactive fan experiences gaining traction. There are often meet-and-greets with artists, online concerts like Tusker Malt Coversessions, and more. The film industry can explore similar avenues by hosting virtual film screenings, interactive Q&A sessions with filmmakers and cast members, and immersive storytelling experiences through augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Engaging audiences in meaningful ways fosters loyalty, and word-of-mouth promotion, and enhances the overall viewing experience.

Continuous Learning and Adaptation.

Both the music and film industries thrive on continuous learning, adaptation, and staying ahead of evolving trends and technologies. The rapid pace of technological innovation, changing audience preferences, and global market dynamics require industry stakeholders to be agile, innovative, and open to experimentation. Embracing new storytelling formats, exploring emerging distribution channels, and leveraging cutting-edge technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) can position the film industry for long-term success and relevance in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Symphony of Growth and Innovation.

In conclusion, the journey towards growth and success for Uganda's film industry mirrors the harmonious evolution of the music sector. By leveraging social media, embracing audience engagement strategies, fostering collaboration and cross-promotion, and nurturing entrepreneurship and business acumen, the film industry can orchestrate a symphony of growth, innovation, and impact. Drawing inspiration from the music industry's resilience, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit, Uganda's film industry can write its own success story and inspire audiences both locally and globally.

Written by Martin Kabagambe.