Why Mannywellz Is Taking His Music Off Streaming Platforms 

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In 2020, Peace, the Tems-featuring RnB zinger by Nigerian-US singer Mannywellz exploded to become his career’s peak point. His melodious rhythm and soul-scorching voice were his primary attractions, and being of mixed origins, the track was enjoyed by his bases in Nigeria and beyond. Now, three years after its release, it has garnered an impressive 7.4 million streams on Spotify, which, according to Spotify’s revenue payment of about $0.003-0.004 per stream, amounts to about $25,000 in income. The song remains Mannywellz’s best performing single on the platform, so his other brilliant but less-popular tracks, like the sensuous Oou Ahh and the soothing So Good, should be expected to have netted him even less revenue. 

Mannywellz does not feel this model is a commensurate reward on the investment that goes into creating these songs, so at the start of the year, he announced that he would subsequently be releasing new music through a private channel, where he would be able to receive payment directly from fans who purchase his music. It is a bold and unusual move that the singer is making, but how effective will it be, and what can this spell for the rest of the industry?


Mannywellz may be making the uncommon decision in actually finding an alternative home for his music, but he is not the first artist to voice out his displeasure against Digital Streaming Platforms (DSPs) and their payment model. In 2022, The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers called on Spotify to raise its per-stream royalty for musicians, decrying the very low average rates that makes it hard for younger artists, especially, to break even. In 2014, American megastar Taylor Swift made the move of pulling her entire music catalogue from Spotify as a protest, forcing the company to the table to negotiate a better per-stream revenue for her. Most artists, however, do not have that power. And as the music industry adopts a more commercial model requiring significant marketing budgets, a lot more money is needed to push music to the consumer. In a recent post, Nigerian journalist Joey Akan spoke to Lucas Emeodi, whose company, Speed Plug promotions, handles music marketing for a number of major artists. He provided an estimate of 25-30 million naira as the cost of marketing a single. If the hypothetical single happens to garner 7 million streams on Spotify, which is not even guaranteed, the artist already struggles to make a profit on the music even before cutting up this parcel to provide other right-holders (like music producers) with their percentages.

This creates a harsh reality where an artist will either need to accumulate an astronomical amount of streams to make a healthy profit, or use the released music solely to gain popularity that then translates into bookings and endorsements that put money in the pocket of the artist and their investors. Mannywellz, being an independent artist, does not possess the machinery to promote songs on a large scale. But what he does have is a community, a close knit circle of loyal, loving fans. In a way, it is why his new model may be a great fit for him. On Twitter, he outlined the specifics of his new music distribution plan, stating that he would release a total of 8 EPs of 3 songs each in 2024, and they would only be accessible on the Grouped platform. Fans would have to pay a subscription fee of $8 a month to get access, and in addition to the music, he promises the ability for these fans to connect one on one with him and one other, the power for subscribed fans to vote on the music that would get released to DSPs (8 of the 24 songs, he says) and a $1 donation to charity for each subscription.


This is where his model gets interesting. On the one hand, it affords him the opportunity to build a tighter base, grow his community, and better organize live performances and intimate shows with them. Mannywellz has already gotten a preliminary report on the effectiveness of his model, and it appears positive. The singer made $957 on the platform off 110 subscriptions in the first week, an amount that would have required a whopping 250,000-300,000 streams to attain on Spotify.

On the other hand, it would be premature for the singer to celebrate these wins just yet. For one, although the revenue is extremely encouraging, the number of listeners—only 110—is quite poor. Putting the music behind a paywall severely restricts his listener base, and thus, hampers his ability to grow his audience. A lot of music awareness is gotten through peer to peer recommendation, which is sometimes as simple as sending a link to a friend. When that music cannot immediately be accessed, being able to add a new convert to the fold may prove difficult. Having the rest of his previous music still existing on DSPs may help in this regard, as well as his compromise in publishing a third of his new music on DSPs, as they can serve as appetizers to convince a few to fork out for the main meal.

Asides publishing, an important function of DSPs that Mannywellz may be overlooking is discoverability. A lot of music discovery is done via the power of DSPs to push music to searching fans—through playlists, ‘similar to’ recommendations or even the accidental tapping of a song to discover it. Placing his music behind a paywall restricts the ability for new fans to discover him organically. 

There must be a few artists, especially independent acts, who are eying Mannywellz’s experiment with interest, to see if they can also tap into the model and bypass the streaming platforms meagre payouts. Their success, just like Mannywellz’s, will depend on a few key factors. Chief of these is an established fanbase. An artist in the nascent stage of gathering a listener base will be doing a heavy disservice by taking their music to a market where it cannot easily be found. For Mannywellz, however, who has built a small, but loyal fanbase that values his music enough to shell out a few dollars just for it, this valiant attempt to bypass middlemen and receive revenue directly from fans may prove hugely successful. Mannywellz is travelling in uncharted territory, and it remains to be seen if he discovers gold at the end of it.