Africa is enjoying a financial boom,with Nigeria leading the way. The economy of the continent’s most populous country grew 15-fold during the first decade of the new millennium, continuing strongly into the second. is progress mirrored by that of its music industry. There is no shortage of talent, so why isn’t the Nigerian music industry raking in the big-bucks?
It Nigerian music enjoys myriad influences, called-upon by the country’s current leading-lights. Twin-brother duo P-Square lead the way on the RandB scene; their latest album The Invasion selling a million copies in four days.
Singer-songwriter D’banj has produced four successful albums with Don Jazzy, and won three producer of the year awards. Internationally successful, he signed with Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music in 2011.
2face Idibia has also won much acclaim, including Best Male and Artist of the Year at the 2010 MTV African Music Awards. He has had five successful studio albums, and will perform at London’s Forum this December.
Economic success brings opportunities for the entertainment industry, but also challenges for those at its forefront.
A Billion Men
These are challenges well-understood by Iboro Otu, a Nigerian filmmaker and founder of media and production company ABillionMen.
Taking its name from Africa’s current population, the company provides entertainment business management and consultancy services. It also invests in film and TV production, as well as music production.
Otu, who studied Music Engineering and Production at Wales’ Glamorgan University, recognises the talent, but understands the issues preventing it from flourishing. After his studies, he returned to Nigeria to try and put this right, taking part in a project called “Good enterprise in markets and states”.
He said: “They were looking to invest $300 million into the Nigerian entertainment sector: music, film, comedy. Being a part of the team, and interfacing with the stakeholders, I got to really understand the major problems in the Nigerian entertainment sector, with distribution being a major issue.”
“I started interfacing with government agencies like the film and video centre and the copyrights commission, and realised there was a great gap between the policies already on the ground, and implementation. This caused a lot of revenue-loss for the country in terms of tax, and for the entertainment industry in terms of the money coming into their pockets.”
“Armed with this information, I started putting together a strategy for solving this problem, including actually getting the statistics and information from relevant parties so we could know what’s happening where statistically.”
Pirates in Alaba
The Nigerian entertainment industry suffers widespread copyright infringement and piracy. Otu said that for every record bought legitimately in Nigeria, over ten pirated copies are sold. What’s more, possession of multi-million naira machines allows pirates to mass produce CDs quickly and cheaply.
Most of these CD’s are printed in Alaba, Lagos, home to a large market that Otu describes as being “controlled by pirates.” Unfortunately, pirates are attractive to record labels, due to their printing capabilities, and the lack of alternative distribution channels.
Otu explained: “It’s the pirates who have the machines to spin CDs. They spin more than the industry and sell much more illegitimately than legitimately. Unfortunately there isn’t a proper system where point of sale can be aggregated, so only the pirates can tell the artists how many they sell.”
The shift in Nigeria toward digital platforms like iPods and smartphones for music consumption has done little to help matters. Otu said that these technologies only serve to simplify the copy-process.
“A single CD can feed up to ten phones or ten digital platforms, because it’s easier to transfer via USB sticks. CD sales are actually lower now than before. In 2008, eight million CDs were sold. Today it’s way less, particularly when you consider that we have more artists and music,” he said.
It is all very well having talented artists capable of making great music, but a lack of structure and protection of their content is preventing them from receiving the correct royalties from use of their work, stifling careers before they have a chance to get started.
Reasons to be positive
There are however reasons for optimism. Some industry figures are moving in the right direction. In 2010, Otu collected statistics and calculated that 550 albums were produced in Nigeria annually. Today he sees a large increase.
“Compared to the number of artists we have, it has increased significantly. Off the top of my head, the figure could be up to 1,000,” he said.
He also welcomes advances in production standards, which have “increased dramatically” as a result of strong revenue streams from live shows and product-placement in music videos pushing artists to create well-produced material.
Additionally, online stores like Amazon and Itunes have improved distribution channels, although the overall picture is still “very fragmented.”
Perhaps the greatest positive is Nigeria’s live music scene, where Otu sees “tremendous happenings, producing a lot of revenue for the artists.” He estimates that Nigerian shows generate more than $105 million annually domestically and internationally.
At total of 80 percent of revenue comes from concerts, with lucrative partnerships with telecommunication companies, who promote them for free making it inexpensive for artists to perform. Universities are a popular venue, giving artists the chance to connect with a young and eager audience.
Otu may be a businessman, but it is this connection with Nigeria’s youth which motivates him more than the financial reward of the entertainment industry.
“I am more attracted to its soft power,” he said. “We are influencing young people, and that’s why I think our entertainment industry should really define itself, what we represent, and how we can bring our trading sector to young people all across West Africa.”
Tapping into overseas markets
As things improve domestically, Otu recognises the need to take advantage of huge overseas audiences, achievable only through partnerships with international entertainment giants.
“We are beginning to show that we can export our content to Africans in diaspora. However, we’ve not been able to connect with organisations out there.”
“I understand their concerns in terms of investment, but the Nigerian entertainment industry and government is generally democratic and showing that we are ready for these kinds of partnerships. I think they are just a few years away.”
Diaspora Nigerians represent a huge and eager source of potential revenue. Otu notes that a million Nigerians live in the UK alone.
He said: “We need organisations like Sony and Universal coming in with the technical know-how and knowledge of the business side of entertainment, the framework that is working for them: the marketing channels, PR and media. Then it is easier to get our finished product over there, promote it, and sell it.”
“Some artists are signed abroad, but it’s not tangible. With a real organisation here in Nigeria, going out there with a face, having our own festivals abroad with strong promotion and strong branding will mean a lot in terms of revenue generation.”
Ten year’s time
It is an industry which Otu describes as coming on in “leaps and bounds”, but if the last decade was encouraging, then the best is yet to come.
“In ten years time, it will have grown a lot. Four years ago we were making about $206 million. Today, the same shows are bringing $105 million overseas, $100 million from CD sales, $150 million from ringtones for mobile operators, and $200 million generated locally from renting and sales and (satellite broadcaster) DSTV,” he explained.
Growth is certainly encouraging, and if Nigeria continues on its current economic trajectory, with strong and stable government, then there are very exciting and rewarding times ahead for its entertainment industry. Clearly this is just the beginning.