Ladybrille® Blogazine


Monday, April 21, 2008

Africa's Music Industry Issues

All music and no business is simply not our forte at Musicians like fashion designers et al "gotta eat!" Therefore, we are not only interested in enjoying and grooving to their songs, we also want to know how the musicians we cherish, some of whom we have been featuring all month long, in our April Africa Music Issue, can get paid what is owed them for their work product.

In this two part interview, with the help of music industry insider, Wale Ewedemi, we shed light on the business of music in Africa. Part I covers the current state of Africa’s music industry and its intellectual property rights [IP]. Part II explores technology, distribution, advocacy, infrastructure, music authenticity and social media.
Briefly, Wale Ewedemi commonly known as BIG W has over [twelve] years experience in radio. A graduate of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Ewedemi has practiced journalism, both radio and print, in Ghana and Nigeria. He recently resigned as General Manager of the very popular 96.9 Cool FM Station, in the state of Abuja which is the capital of Nigeria, to pursue his newly formed company, M54 Entertainment. While at 96.9 Cool FM, and in the last four years of his radio career, Ewedemi discovered over a hundred [100] music talents, while presenting the most popular radio show on the station “Good Morning Nigeria.” In addition, Ewedemi has served as a judge for numerous national music talent searches including: the MTV Base Search for a music presenter in Nigeria, the Rhythm Council [which has discovered the biggest artists in Nigeria] and for three years, he has also served as Chief Judge for “The Broadcaster.”

Last year, Ewedemi did what most said was “impossible.” He produced the first ever Nigerian International Music Summit in Abuja [the capital of Nigeria] under the umbrella of another of his newly formed organization-- the Music Industry Association of Nigeria [MIAN]. For his work, he received numerous awards including a United Nations recognized “Youth Peace Ambassador.” Ewedemi strongly believes African musicians need to be equipped to make good music with proper training, exposure, mentorship and a sense of belonging. Since its inception, MIAN has actively enlisted the help of experts across the globe and intercontinentally for seminars and workshops to empower its mostly musician member base. Ewedemi was recently awarded the 2008 British Council International Young Music Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He will represent Nigeria at the global event where an international winner will be chosen.

STATE OF AFRICA’S MUSIC INDUSTRY Wale, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Let's get right into it. What is the current state of Africa's music industry? Ewedemi: Africa needs to be looked at contextually. I mean let’s look at industries and professions generally in Africa; that will give you an idea of the music industry that has not reached any considerable appreciation levels within African governments. The music industry in Africa is filled with talents and new vibes yet, it is under funded and under utilized. Like all industries, they are not protected. The pirates own the record labels, they sign you up and still pirate your work, depending on how profitable you get.

There are no independent companies to determine sales by the marketing companies. You rely on their handwritten books. No royalties are paid by TV and radio stations for your works . . . intellectual property rights are constantly flawed; and while a government organization is in place to curb this, you wonder what they are doing? On the radio station point, since you also worked in radio for so long, can you tell us whether your newly formed Music Industry Association plans to address the use of copyrighted works of artists' without pay?
Ewedemi: That is major on our agenda. The Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria has taken the “collecting societies” to court for lack of proper documentation to claim funds from them. They are playing legal cards and stalling for as long as they can. The Music Industry Association intends to get the national assembly to look at this situation critically and get the case out of court to an arbitration panel. In the meantime, we might need to ban the stations from playing our songs till they start paying.

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS What is the current compensation scheme for artists, record labels and music publishers in Nigeria/Africa? How much cut/royalty fees do they get?
Ewedemi:[Currently], in Nigeria [for example], nobody pays royalties. [Major] artists get signed on as brand ambassadors sometimes and they get paid for that, but royalties, none at all. That is tough! Out of curiosity, does Nigeria have retail outlets like Tower Records in America?
Ewedemi: [Yes.] The biggest we have is Nu Metro, a South African franchise in Nigeria. They are not effective because pirates sell the CDs at 35% off the shelf price, so everybody buys on the streets. Speaking of the rampant piracy, do you agree with the position by many that if an artist makes good music, the people will buy rather than pirate so that piracy is [the] result of artists not delivering on what is promised. i.e. only one good song in the whole album?
Ewedemi: That has changed. Our artists [referring to Nigerian artists] are fantastic now. Artists like Asa, 9ice, 2Face, P-Square, Rugged man, Ty Bello e.t.c. You actually buy the album and feel good about the songs. In the past, people just looked for excuses not to make them face the actual problems. Now that the industry has developed, the problems are getting worse. The pirates fixed the prices, at the expense of the artists and the labels, and because they own the distribution chain we are stuck. Record labels are becoming obsolete because an artist can go directly to the marketer and get a contract for himself. Why share it with a record label? So the labels have to discover fresh artists and get them to sign killing contracts, 20 -30years. 20-30 years? Wow! Wale, we talk a lot about intellectual property rights but it usually comes through the lens and framework of Western laws and industries.How does Africa create music IP rights specific to its needs, [to deal with issues like a 20-30 year contract]?
Ewedemi: Where we are now, the radio and TV stations do not even pay royalties much less dj’s e.t.c. Music is universal. The Western laws actually guide us here. Within the Western framework, the current reality and structure of IP laws is that record labels and music publishers make the big monies. How do you respond to those who say advocating for copyright laws benefits everyone but the artist?
Ewedemi: I believe in structure. I believe in planning. Without the big wigs, with the big names, the creative economy will be docile. So they are needed maybe the laws have to be regularly overhauled to make everybody happy.



Anonymous said...

Yeah I really Feel U on this

Anonymous said...

Makes some sence to me though... Fire Burn D'Wicked.....

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