The 2014 edition of the revolutionary, Social Media Week (SMW) Lagos, has come and gone. However, the ideas and thoughts espoused by the expert panelists and erudite speakers on the sundry issues discussed at all the events held during the ‘week’ will remain. Although too occupied to be at any of the events, especially those that were about the Music Business, I was able to keep abreast of issues via social media, of course. From my remote corner, I found the various arguments about the different aspects of the Music Business mostly intriguing and sometimes brilliant. However, I couldn’t help but notice the absence of any meaningful debate about the very crux of the music business – The Music (sales). Music sales in Nigeria is at an all time low, and no, it is not in keeping with global trends, because here nobody is even trying to sell the music. The situation here is so terrible, Music sales didn’t make an appearance in Segun Demuren’s Top Three indices for measuring success in the Nigerian Music Industry; he opted for Ringtones, Endorsement, and Performance fees. And you know what’s worse, he’s probably right. So I guess the real question is: how did we get here? Well, for me the first suspect in this case is the Music(the product). I believe the quality of the music, generally, has gotten so bad, the public appear not to see any sense in paying for them. Who can blame the public when even the biggest and most established acts in the industry keep putting out – sometimes ill-conceived, ill-produced, ill-arranged, unmixed and unmastered – singles in a frenzy; feverishly hoping to ‘blow.’ Also, because the focus is on garnering a critical mass of popularity to catapult the artiste into the ‘Endorsement Hall of Fame,’ the singles are released to the public for free! This is an anomaly. I can understand when an underground act puts out free music so as to, at least, be heard and get a foot in the industry. At that level, that is strategy. On the contrary, when established acts do the same, then there’s big reason to worry.
Another reason for the problem, I believe, is the ‘Endorsement curse.’ In recent times Brand Endorsement has become the ultimate emblem of success in the Nigerian Music scene. As a result, you have a horde of artistes jostling for, at least, one of the ‘very limited’ ambassadorial spots in Corporate Nigeria. The situation is so pathetic that most times the endorsement fees are so ridiculous all parties involved are sworn to secrecy. Even the seemingly juicier deals are no more than a lump sum pre-payment for a string of performances for the benefit of the endorsed brand. Is endorsement bad? Hell no! However, any artiste or Record label that ranks endorsement higher than record sales will not be around for long.
In the midst of all of this, I can’t help but wonder what business must be like for Spinlet. My hunch is that business is not good. How can business be good? When the product Spinlet claims to be selling is equally available for free elsewhere. Again how can they break even when the artistes and record labels who own these works treat it like trash. Here’s a scenario I’ve seen play out over and over: An artiste releases an album and Spinlet is all over your TL, urging you to come buy the album, meanwhile the said artiste’s twitter handle appears to have missed the memo, looking the other way all the while, but his/her Instagram page is abuzz with a fresh selfie every ten minutes. Sometimes it’s so appalling, one almost wonders if Spinlet is legit. You know… You want to ask if they(Spinlet and the artiste/Label) ever sat and talked about the album release. Until finally it becomes obvious that some of these artistes have absolutely no respect for their works and neither should anyone else. Then again how can they respect the work? When producers flood their emails with free generic beats, and they in turn fill out the beats with thoughtless ramblings; and with a push of the button, the blogs are on it. It’s all a joke. Little wonder Spinlet hardly ever tells us how many copies of any single or album has been sold at any particular time. My guess: the numbers are so incredulously dismal, it would be an embarrassment to publish such figures(I stand to be corrected).
Meanwhile, these same artistes who appear not to give a damn about album sales still go about making bogus claims about their record sales. For instance, here is a snapshot of Timaya’s Wiki page as I posted it on my twitter page in December 2013. Although it has since undergone some reconstructive surgery. Please go see if you can “spot the difference” now.
So much for wishful thinking you would say.
Also, here’s a snapshot of Omo Baba Olowo’s Twitter profile.
And I ask, multi platinum selling artiste for which work please? On what platform? To whom? In what time frame? Really, peddling such brazen falsehood is an insult on the industry, the general public, and is also quite demeaning for an artiste of Davido’s stature. Who knows, maybe “AYE” would have made platinum; but no, it was for free too.
Record sales will forever remain the corner piece of the Music Business. And I believe the onus rests on the artistes and the record labels(especially the biggest ones) to start to value their works enough to sell it to the public. Artistes should begin to actively convert their many twitter “followers” into loyal fans who regularly show support for the music by buying their works, not unlike football fans. Record label executives should brainstorm innovative ways of getting the public to buy the works they put out enmasse; it can be done. If an artiste with 500, 000 twitter followers cannot get 50,000 of that number to purchase his/her single or album on the day of release, then what is the need (in Orezi’s voice). Also, since people will most likely exchange money for value, it is pertinent to make better music(heads up). As for Spinlet, I think they got their work cut out. If they do the work they are sure to reap great rewards.
For those artistes who’d really fancy the multi-platinum title, you might as well start to put in the needed effort. You’ve gotta earn it.
All disagreements in the comments section please. Thank you.