King Sunny Ade

Music made us lose control

Nigerian music lacks a certain originality. Before you sneer, let’s put it in context: the folks in the industry are hardworking and super creative — churning out wildly popular beats, tracks, albums and sold out shows like factories in a local economy that’s struggling to grow and to global markets where audiences are as picky as they are fickle. But there is a prevalence of Jollof music and we’re not letting enough diversity thrive in mainstream culture, so a lot of really cool and original sounds are drowned out by photocopied beats and vocals.

No doubt, the music we have sounds good. It even feels good. And there’s a lot of it. Making a handful of artists and execs super rich and pushing Nigerian culture as key topic of discussion in new corners of the world. According to a report from PwC titled “Entertainment and media outlook: 2015–2019 (South Africa — Nigeria-Kenya).” Nigeria’s entertainment and media market grew by 19.3% in 2014 to reach US$4 billion. By 2019, the market will be more than twice as big, with an estimated total revenue of US$8.1 billion. However there’s just one sound and one feeling. And together they’re not enough to drive our culture or inspire the next generation of music masters.

So what’s the problem?

Why is originality in short supply in our music industry? There are many reasons — too many and too complex to understand. But largely, we know that we need new, more innovative systems that deliberately infuse and encourage the consistent creation of fresh tracks. Systems that encourage artists to experiment with sound, and inspire executives to design business models to sell the results of those experiments.

Systems that not only replicate the Bez’s and Asa’s of our world and blows them up into global commercial successes, but also remixes them with the Wiz kids, Seun Kuti’s and MIs in a mish mash of samples of highlife, afrobeat and funky sounds to give us a new brand of pop star that inspires fresh new feelings of love, joy, moodiness and whatever else the youth will go through tomorrow.

Education: To keep our music industry growing beyond its current rates into a force that drives the African economy, we need to build growth systems in the areas of music education so that talent have a space to learn, be inspired and experiment freely with sound. Money: We need to build better local finance models that mitigate the risk of investing in untested music and maximizes the return through commercialization. Intellectual Property: We need new laws that protect the rights of creators and encourage profitable distribution across existing and emerging media platforms. Sales: We need systems that infuse creativity into the marketing of music allowing it to transcend listening and show experiences into consumer products. We need to invest in music education and the teaching of music history.

These system investments will set our music industry on a trajectory for long term sustainable growth with cultural and monetary impact on billions of people around the world.

But we have to start today. Bring like minded creative and business professionals together from the private and public sectors to plan the next century of Nigerian and African music and then identify key actors who are already leading the charge in what’s new and unimaginable and invest in them with the aim of turning their craft into exportable market value.

Following this piece on the music sector, A W O C I will explore each system specifically to identify points of impact and opportunities for change. If you have any suggestions, ideas, corrections, criticism, questions that you believe will help us in our quest to discover and design value based systems for our nation and continent’s music industry please write to us.

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