Losing $2m in Nigeria’s music industry

Jason 'Igwe' Njoku
Apr 30, 2019 · 2 min read
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Black Summer on Netflix. S1 E8 12:00 mins

I looked up from my screen. Someone was screaming at one of my employees. Literally screaming at the top of his lungs in our open plan office. I stood up, called them in and asked what the issue was? Who the fuck did they think they were to walk in my office and speak to my employee like that? I ushered them into my office. I wasn’t angry, I was annoyed. I settled him (and his manager) down. What was the problem? At the time, we had 300 or so people in that building. Three of them worked on what was then known as “Iroking”. Long story short. He wanted access to his YouTube channel to verify the amount of money we said he was making. At the time we sent out screenshots + reports, rather than giving them direct access. Dude had <10,000 views on his videos — which he didn’t dispute. So the amount we were talking about was literally <$500. Ridiculous. But this was the example of the abuse we would endure whilst losing millions of dollars in the music business in Nigeria. I have had A-list artists literally come into the office and straight out call me a fraud and a liar. As if they had the evidence in the file and were about to expose me to the world. I have had your parents’ favourite artists sue Iroking for N200m over a revenue share dispute for sums <$5,000. The social media reason was that my organisation was arrogant and they were going to “show me”. The real reason was that they had wanted to sit down and meet with me for six months, but I was in London nursing my deeply sick wife through our last months of a terrible pregnancy, so I literally wasn’t around.

In the same year, IROKO started incubating ROK. We started a little music distribution company called Iroking. The ambition was to replicate what Spotify had started to do in Europe, but more importantly what the Saavn folks were attempting to build in India. We met Saavn at a Tiger Global internet conference in 2011 and immediately understood (at least we thought) that perhaps IROKO had a unique skill set to try this opportunity across Africa. And for Nigerian music. Alas whereas ROK has thrived into arguably one of the most valuable independent media companies in Africa, Iroking died a slow cancerous terminal death. But back then I was full of optimism.

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