It has been obvious for a while now that a good number of operators of broadcast stations (radio and television) in Nigeria would do anything to avoid paying royalties for the commercial exploitation of music.
A few associates have tried to argue that this is not the case, citing issues like the figures being demanded and the licensing format as the obstacles militating against mass compliance.
I have maintained, even at a recent IBAN meeting held at Oriental Hotel that these positions were mere excuses as COSON has demonstrated a clear willingness to negotiate with broadcast outfits and engender a relationship based on mutual respect and cooperation
The main obstacle lies in the fact that a section of the media executives find the idea of paying to use music absolutely revolting. These execs and some of their subordinates believe that the music industry owes them a debt of eternal gratitude for their magnanimous decision to play music made by Nigerians to Nigerians. They consider the very idea of COSON unsavory and the polite request of compliance to payment for a license, a legal pre-requisite for operation and international standard practice, an affront. Therein lies the problem.
Finally, the BON threat presents proof and it is indeed unfortunate. In line with the regrettable tendency to create a “Nigerian standard” that is clearly self-serving and retrogressive, the broadcast industry in 2013 has played a hand that every Nigerian IP owner should condemn and fight.
Before I go further, let me state clearly that the threat to pull out Nigerian music from the electronic media is an empty albeit unpatriotic one. BON is clearly aware that it is impracticable and I would love to see them execute it. Simply put, I dare BON to carry out the threat!
The threat is a desperate attempt at divide and conquer. The leadership of BON are aware of the existence of a number of artistes that can fall for this kind of cheap blackmail and get jittery all over. Of course, an artiste that is willing to pay an Alaba bootlegger to include his music in an illegal “mix tape” for promo is likely to fall for this kind of threat.
Before COSON settled out of court with Globe and Steam Broadcasting, owners of Wazobia and Cool FM, a similar strategy was tested and a few guys on our side of the divide hurriedly jumped ship for almighty promo. One year plus down the road, the reward for their “loyalty” hasn’t translated to much as far as I can see. I stand to be corrected but these guys are neither in the top bracket of highest earners in terms of performance fees nor are they the ones who got the biggest endorsement deals. All they have got is some “complimentary” rotation and the ignominy of being the ones who betrayed their industry at a crucial time in its evolution and growth.
For easy reference, l break down the basic difference between COSON and BON’s perspectives thus:
A: COSON: Music is intellectual property, the commercial exploitation of which should be duly compensated.
BON: Music, sorry, Nigerian music is something we plug in primarily to “help” promote artistes. It is service to the local music industry and to the country at large and we should not be asked to pay for its use. If anything, we deserve national honours for our selfless service to the growth of the industry.
B: COSON: Content for broadcast basically revolves around music and talk (in varying ratio). The better the quality of music and talk, the bigger the audience. The bigger the audience, the better the attraction to advertisers and of course, the bigger the earnings. Music is primary raw material for media operations.
BON: Some of us want to pay what is absolutely convenient for us at our own time. Some others would rather hire additional OAPs or produce talk-driven content at a fee, and even pay lawyers to engage in long and bruising lawsuits than to pay for music. Anything but the music.
C: COSON: Talk is paid for, handsomely in some cases. The editors and newscasters are paid. The producers, cast, crew members, cameras, lights and everything else come at a cost. The deejay that plays the music is paid, so the music which in most cases is the main thing, can’t be for free. It is intellectual property belonging to a couple of people and is also quite expensive to produce and package.
BON: Dead right! We pay for all of these and more. We pay rent, pay for generators, buy diesel, company vehicles and a lot more. We are “compelled” to pay for these because we have to. As for the music, we can intimidate the fragmented industry so we will exercise our choice as far as that is concerned.
D: COSON: There is a global standard in tariff and format. A few people in the Nigerian broadcast industry cannot hold the industry down by insisting on what is absolutely convenient for them which is indeed to continually kick the can down the road and never ever pay for the music they commercially exploit.
BON: We have to work out something that takes into consideration the “peculiarities” of the Nigerian situation and collectively decide on what we can pay.
E: BON: This thorny issue of royalties is one we as an industry insist on tackling as a unit.
COSON: This is obviously a gang up to weaken collective bargaining strategy. Of all the other inputs, which do you acquire by collective bargaining? Does the industry have a collectively bargained position on what it pays for diesel, OAPs, newscasters etc? Why music? Isn’t this borne out of the perception that we are weak or unworthy?
F: COSON: COSON has organized countless stakeholders fora and made repeated calls to the offices of broadcast stations. While a few have done the right thing by negotiating and signing licensing agreements with COSON, others haven’t deemed it necessary to engage and comply. As a law-abiding corporate organization, COSON has therefore approached the courts to resolve this dispute.
BON: COSON has embarked on the intolerable harassment and “picketing” of broadcast stations across Nigeria deploying its draconian monopoly status to pressure broadcast stations into paying unreasonably high tariffs that have been arbitrarily foisted on stations.
G: BON: Artistes beg us to help them to promote their music and we graciously oblige. We have helped and are still helping a lot of artistes. Some of us have personally come to their aid in times of need. This whole COSON and licensing matter will force us to withdraw our help. This is ingratitude.
COSON: Thank you for whatever personal help you have rendered to artistes in distress. On behalf of the few who have been opportune to have access to you and benefit from your generosity, we say thank you and may God reward you abundantly. This is however a little bigger than those artistes who we are sure have expressed a great deal
of appreciation themselves and who come running to render their services for free or a token each time you have had need for such. This is a little bigger than a few of your personal favorites, particularly the big and popular ones who have remained loyal and humble. This is about building a world class industry where writers, composers, publishers and labels can thrive side by side the “performer” who you sometimes see as the beginning and end of the music you “help to promote”. This is about the writer, composer, publisher of the tune that is used as an anthem in 1000 weddings every Saturday across Nigeria while he sits at home unable to provide food, medicare or education for his family as the cover band or deejay who have been well paid, deploys his IP to keep the wedding jumping. This is about the IP owner from whose work that hot, new, relevant, loyal superstar borrowed heavily to score that top 10 hit that is on heavy rotation on that A list radio station. This is about an industry that is tired of being everybody’s pet or jester. This is about honoring countless international conventions that Nigeria is signatory to. This is about right and wrong, morality and propriety. This is about fighting back the temptation to act as a cog in the wheel of progress of a growing industry with immense potential. This is a about both owners and users of IP standing side by side in mutual respect into a new dawn of propriety and progress. This is a plea. This is a call. This is a challenge. This is peace. This is war. This is where we decide to do right or have it all go wrong.
PS: To the artistes, don’t buy the lie. BON CANNOT pull out Nigerian music from Nigerian airwaves. The ads that sustain their businesses are placed by Nigerian companies seeking to sell their products and services to Nigerian consumers living in Nigeria and just in case someone out there is unaware, the 2013 Nigerian is not particularly big on foreign music.
The NBC insists on a minimum required percentage of local content for these guys to even retain their broadcast licenses. If for some reason, they succeed in the criminally unpatriotic bid to pull out Nigerian music off our airwaves, what will they replace it with? Foreign music? Most of that is controlled by PRS, SAMRO etc, all represented in Nigeria by the same COSON. Back to square one. BON, get a grip! Time is up.
– Efe Omorogbe