In honor of African Music Month (AMM), CNN Africa put together a panel of Nigerian music executives from Chocolate City Music, other influencers such as Mike Ugwu of Sony Music West Africa and DJ Cuppy. A well qualified panel by all means: all have made significant impacts on the growth of Nigerian entertainment and the African music industry overall.
The Nigerian music industry has come a very long way from where it was, but it still has a long way to go. It is actually very impressive and encouraging to see how much growth the industry has had.
One topic that stood out across the panel was on the issue of publishing: the process of getting songwriters, producers and artists paid for their digitally distributed works. This is an issue because as it stands, very few, if any, artists have the means to get their entire catalogues distributed to several streaming platforms and collect their royalties.
Why Is This A Problem?
As a creator, whether as a writer, singer or producer/composer, you have some rights to dictate the use of your intellectual property. These rights require any platform that plays your song to pay you. However, without the infrastructure to track it all, most artists never see a dime from their works besides the up-front fee or money from live performances. Even with platforms such as Spotify, African rights holders still don’t know the process of how to collect their money from those organizations, hence the importance of working with a publisher.
Being no stranger to the entertainment industry and how it works, I need to point out some of the flaws of the African music industry and then some solutions.
- Media companies are still run by people who are hired because of who they know rather than what they know. We already know our people, but this is a cultural flaw that holds most businesses back from achieving high levels of success. And it makes doing business hard when you have unqualified candidates doing a job they may know nothing about.
- Stop chasing the “short” money from live performances, while ignoring the long money from royalties. Most people only pay attention to what they get paid at a club or for their shows. There’s no longevity in that. Due to the lack of infrastructure, I can understand why a lot of people choose to ignore royalties as a revenue source. However, things are changing, and it’s time for labels to begin actively seeking out royalty collection through publishers. There also needs to be some sort of creativity in the diversification of revenue streams built around the popularity of an artist or song.
- Build the right partnerships. A lot of record labels and artists may have the right talent for entertainment, but a poor business infrastructure around it. If you’re a small label and can’t afford in-house teams, then build partnerships with at least a legal and marketing team. Bigger labels may need more involved partnerships with a consulting firm or a publishing house to administer their catalogue.
- Have a real strategy and vision for your artists. The music industry needs to be looked at as what it is: an industry. You’re building careers, and artists need to be treated as though their career matters, not only their immediate profitability to the company. A label should be able to work together with artists to build an agreed-upon vision for the long-term viability of their talents.
- Pay attention to the details. We live in a digital era, and little mistakes such as spelling errors or too many aliases could be costing you a lot of money. A variance in spelling an artist’s name in a web page’s metadata could be sending the digital traffic you should be getting over to someone else. Ok, so what did all that tech jargon mean? It means that when you spell your name with variances (Tekno vs Tecno), it makes it harder to track the number of plays you’ve had on any given streaming platform, which is a huge factor in how you get paid. So consistency is important.
What’s The Solution?
The solution is first, raising awareness among artists and labels that they actually can – and should – get paid for their works anywhere they are used, especially in digital form. The nice thing is there are some publishers beginning to pop up, such as DNA (Dreams-N-Ambition) & 5iveMusic. Publishers should have the capability of taking entire catalogues of work and sending them across most streaming platforms around the world, track their usage, collect the money owed and ultimately, deliver it back to the artist/label who owns the rights.
It’s nice to see that African music is finally getting some more and very much deserved international publicity. So in light of this, let’s clean up a bit and begin implementing infrastructure before the “major” distributors take notice and get to the finish line before we even notice what’s going on.