“MUSIC PUBLISHERS ARE NOT RECOGNIZED IN NIGERIAN LAW”..????????

The Nigerian music business is a fascinating beast. A huge domestic market to exploit, an increasingly affluent diaspora market to tap further into, and almost unlimited music content being churned out on a daily basis to satisfy the market’s appetite.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian music business (like all Nigerian industries) tends toward monopoly and cabalism. The major players are very few and are connected by their mutual successes in this very difficult terrain.

This phenomenon is not necessarily unique to the Nigerian music game given that all the major music markets around the world are also dominated by a few key players heavily connected within the ecosystem of the big three majors.

However, a big difference with our own ‘elite' industry participants is a deep lack of understanding of how the business actually works. This includes the laws that govern our industry in Nigeria, the role of different players in various levels of the value chain, and even something as integral to the business as what music publishing is and the role of a music publisher.

This latter point is buttressed by some comments from some of our industry leaders at the recently held inaugural edition of the Music Week Africa summit. Although unable to attend the event, I was reliably informed that a panelist confidently stated that “..music publishers are not recognized in Nigerian law..

Such a statement, being a monumental gaff on such a basic and foundational principle on which any music industry is built, buttresses my point. The MWA event was billed as an event for industry “experts” and recognized practitioners, particularly in respect of the business and legal side of music.

There is no need to state the laws, cases, international treaties or commonly accepted global industry practices here because they are in the public domain and available for anyone to access should they require to do so. (Hint: everyone that attended MWA)

I shall simply encapsulate the ridiculousness of the statement by stating that if music publishers are not recognized in Nigerian law then, logically by extension, neither are music labels. (Argue amongst yourselves)

The point i am attempting to make is that for such a statement to be made at such an event, and without any correction from any of the other participants, is disappointing and extremely worrisome.

As it stands, our industry (like the country as a whole) has pockets of success stories here and there, and the new money that corporate brands began pumping into the industry through endorsement deals has indeed greatly benefitted some artistes/labels.

But no music industry can survive or grow when the primary sources of income for participants is only performance fees and endorsement monies. These income streams ONLY benefit a tiny percentage of industry players and, more importantly, it does nothing to reward the actual creators of Nigerian music. *(Note: the endorsement windfalls are also likely to decrease given tightening budgets and lack of real returns for the endorsing brands and companies from already expended funds in prior endorsements)*

If we don’t recognize the rights of those that create the songs our artistes and their labels make their collective $51m dollars from, then those creators will not be compensated. And if they’re not compensated they won’t be able to create more revenue generating/catalyzing assets (ie music). And if they don’t create more music, I wonder what other assets the artistes and their labels will have to exploit?!

I shall end the rant here for now, but rest assured there will be plenty more discussions (and more importantly action taken) on this issue.

Lumi Mustapha, Esq.

Written by

Telecoms/Media/Technology - Lawyer; Business Analyst; Tax Consultant; and above all, proud husband and father

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