Music, Musicians and the Music Industry in Nigeria

by Sam Kargbo

Whereas the agents and managers are busy about the quality of recording and sales of the musician’s music, the musician would need to seek the services of professional or statutory bodies for the publication of the songs he has recorded or has written. The copyright in the songs may inhere in the musician and the label in a predetermined proportion and royalties for the broadcast or public performance of those songs are also shared between the label and the musician in the agreed proportion. The publishing company is assigned the right to administer the copyright and the granting of licenses for all uses of the song and the collection of income from the users of the songs. Most big labels have their publishing companies to administer the copyrights of musicians under their labels. Musicians and music labels are not only supposed to earn incomes from the sale of their records or performances at concerts. Each time a song is broadcast or performed in public, the composer and publisher should receive payment called performing royalty. This money is collected by a collecting society (there is generally one for each country which collects on performances. Similarly, there is a fee payable each time a recording is released (the mechanical royalty) and this is also collected by an authorized society within the country that is different from the collecting society. This income is also divided in the agreed proportion between the composer and the publishing company.

The musician is not left alone in the recording of his songs. The label or the agent see to it that the musician gets the appropriate producer that can adequately complement the efforts he has put in composing the song. Some labels buy or write songs for their musicians in which case the musician only performs the songs. Also down the line are professionals whose business it is to launder the images of musicians. In this category are Press Officers whose business it is to get favourable publicity and commentaries from the media. The media is at the heart of the music industry. The success or careers of musicians as well as the labels are largely dependent on their media image. Some labels employ separate professionals to liaise with the print and electronic media. The favour of radio and television presenters as well as Disc Jockeys is indispensable to both the labels and musicians.

All these professionals are as important as the marketing, distributing or retail companies. But the case is different in Nigeria. The pirate has robbed the industry of all of these professionals. The pirate has hijacked the industry. With little investment he reaps many times more than the legitimate investors in the industry. The Pirate is not interested in the musician or the sweat of the labels. He waits for the finished work, picks up a copy, mass dub and rushes to the market to sell it at a price often below the production cost price. Often he goes to the market before the label and authorized marketer or distributor. With no overhead cost beyond the mass dubbing of the finished work, he bears no other cost. That is why the foreign pirated works sell more and faster in Nigeria. Beyond that the foreign pirated works compete better than the locally produced Compact Discs. Like I have said without the duty to pay royalty to the musicians or the payment to the line professionals and workers that participated in the making and production of the pirated works, the pirate gets the best from all worlds.

The case of the labels and the musicians is different. The pirates do not only deny the musicians and labels legitimate earnings for their works but also force them to sell their works at ridiculous prices. The Pirates also discourage the involvement of professionals that would have lent their expertise to the industry. The sum total of this is that charlatans have taken over the industry and the result is the country’s international musical image is dwindling. The quality of musical works has been adversely affected by the low investment in the industry. The low capital base of the industry has made the country to lag behind other countries in the continent in the quality of music produced by its musicians. The low ratio of Nigerian musical videos aired on MTV Base and Channel O is indicative of the poor quality of musical videos produced in Nigeria. This is indeed a shame considering the pioneering feats of Nigeria in musical video production on the continent.

Another sad effect of the bastardization of the industry by the pirates is that the musicians are no longer the center point of the industry. Labels and concert promoters do not respect musicians any longer. They treat them the same way they treat their dependants. In many occasions, I marvel at how musicians cope with the crudity of some malicious concert or show producers who treat them with disdain and utter disrespect. Instead of the idols they are supposed to be, they now have to grovel at disgusting characters that have no business with the industry. This is not in any absolving the musicians themselves of blame. Most of them have not packaged themselves in a way that would earn them respect. Many of them believe that being a musician begins and ends with the recording and mastering of songs for an album. They never try to raise themselves or their profiles beyond mediocrity. To many of them, being a recorded musician is a license for impunity. They indulge in drugs and some other wanton life. Instead of maintaining the profiles or images of role models, they reduced themselves to objects of spite and scorn.

Many musicians and labels complain about unsatisfactory experiences in the hands of corporate bodies but the truth is that these bodies are overwhelmed as they have had to shoulder the entire burden of organizing meaningful shows and concerts in the country. From my own assessment they deserve commendation and understanding. My hope is that very soon they would only employ the services of good hands to produce their shows. The very few professionals like Edi Lawani should be empowered to stay on. It is also to the profound credit of the corporate bodies that they are able to balance the duty to return profits to their shareholders and their social responsibility. But for them, it is not only the music industry but the entire entertainment industry would have been dead.

The media is also doing it utmost best, but media houses owners should institutionalize policies that are geared towards raising the level of the Nigerian music. More programmes should be dedicated to African and Nigerian made music. It is truly a disservice to this nation for imported music to populate our airwaves at the expense of made in Nigeria music that can be exported and earn foreign exchange for this country. The Government can also encourage them by offering incentives for media house that have a high made in Nigeria content in the music programming. The media also stands to gain from a rejuvenated music industry in Nigeria. There is hardly any other programme that builds up committed audiences than music. Ghana and South Africa for example have demonstrated the profitability of centering their entertainment on local artists and indigenous products. The musicians are better respected and are

reciprocally becoming better and more productive.

For the government, the most singular responsibility is to get the pirates off the industry and make music business profitable. It is unacceptable and truly irresponsible for the Government to abandon the music industry to the elements. Incentives should be given with a view to attracting foreign capital; and scientific and technological know-how in the industry. The industry requires a lot of funding and attention from specialists. It is a highly competitive industry and the cultural colonization by fanciful and youth oriented cultures from the West puts the Nigerian music in a disadvantage position. Like any other made in Nigeria product, the Government would need to subsidize its production by whatever means to enable it compete in the global market. Like the movie industry, the music industry is capable of employing or making busy millions of youths that are roaming the streets. If the Government can invest so much in petroleum that is determinable, there is every sense in it investing in music and the entertainment industry as a whole. If the government is expending so much energy in foisting made in Nigeria products on Nigerians it makes better reasoning for it to encourage the music industry.

The elite that occupy influential positions in the society and economy also need some orientation that is favourable to the music industry. They should know that the same efforts that they putting in wining public and international appeal for the products and services are equally needed by the music industry. Beyond moralizing, the elite have crucial roles to play in turning around the fortunes of the music industry. If they buy and play made in Nigeria music at home, there is every tendency for their children and wards to listen and identify with it. It is heretical to say that all made in Nigeria music is not good. There are bundle of talents and music in the country that one cannot be ashamed to play and listened to anywhere under the sun.

One message I want to pass to all and sundry is that an award wining musician is a pride to the nation. The day a made in Nigeria music wins a Grammy would be the day the big labels would start forcing their way into the industry. If one imagines what the winning of the gold medal by the Eaglets did to Nigerian football and invariably economy, then one can conjecture about the possibilities that a Grammy can do for Nigeria. The good news is that Nigeria has thousands of Grammy potentials, what is denying them their prizes is the lack of opportunity. That is why I am praying that we all should rise up to the occasion and avail them with the opportunity. Truly, the Nigerian music industry is in desperate need of a leg up.

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Teco Benson, MFR September 23, 2023 - 4:27 pm

This is deep, rich and prophetic. These are truly living words. And to think that this is written since 2006 is another puzzle entirely because it is more relevant today than any time in history with the issues coming out of Mohbad’s sudden controversial transition.

Thanks Barr Sam Kargbo, SAN for this great contribution. You have remained an asset to the entire entertainment industry.

Oseyomon Ighodaloh December 10, 2010 - 9:38 pm

I will say kragbo has killed it, wow! what an eye opening article. This message needs to be spread all over the continent of Africa, especially to the governments. I am an up and coming label executive based in port harcourt, rivers state of Nigeria and the info i got here is really eye opening and inspiring. keep up the good work. Thanks so much.

Huldah Simire April 2, 2009 - 12:14 am

Hi, I am writing my fina dissertation and its abouth the cahllenges and barriers to success that the musicians in Nigerian face. This article helped me get some of the information that i need. please if you have any other articles that have anything about the music industry in Nigeria, I would really appreciate it. thank you very much

Jonathan Foster February 11, 2009 - 11:03 am


I truly enjoyed your writing. It would seem you have great insite to the music industries in nigeria.

My name is Jonathan David Foster of Inatranc Mgt. in the USA. I am looking for representation for my artist (PrincessPat Mukoro) Who at one time was A well known up and comming artiste in Nigeria. Her nigerian release Super Eagles for ever never got the proper promotion because she left nigeria after its release.

In my opion she is one of the most talented and versatile artists in the world. Waiting for that one big break!!! If you have the time please take alook at her my space page and listen to her music. My Phone # 917 202-6958.

I would love to hear from you to discuss her oppertunities.

Thank You

Jonathan david Foster

phemous February 17, 2008 - 7:04 am

i love it ,men thanks you for your encouragement

Femi December 10, 2007 - 1:22 pm

Hi Mr.Sam Kargbo,That's a good one.I 'd like to meet you.You talk everything i got on my mind regarding our music industry.But i want to put this forward that the same it happening in other countries across Africa.Let me introduce myself.My name is Femi Lawal,the C.E.O-Mega Points International,Africa First Independent A&R/Promotion company.An International Talent Scouting & Music Promotion Service company which aim is Connecting African Unsigned Artists and Independent Musicians to International Record Companies,to Radio DJs and The Global Music Industry At large.

But it seems that, most of the unsigned artists across africa don't even have the idea what A&R mean and what their work is.

Another thing is that unsigned musicians from outside Nigeria are even expose than our own unsigned artists which ought not to be.We have been recieving and reviewing lots of demos from unsigned artists from across Africa but the fact can't be deny.Nigeria have talents,we have lots of unsigned talents here in Nigeria.

But because most of these musicians are not expose they are losing out and missing lots of opportunities.

I will like to meet with you to discuss how we can work together to change out music industry.

check out our

my number is 08024088184,07031292337.

for quick response mail me via my yahoo id.i am always on that through my

Todd March 24, 2006 - 6:05 pm

I take issue with one area of the article. That is, the author states that Nigerian music is "good." The fact of the matter is, Nigerian music is much better than good. It is truly "GREAT" without exageration. Which other country can compare with the raw talent of Young Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Fela, Femi, etc. Music that permeates the soul and cannot be ignored. God bless (I'm not even religious) Nigerian (and for that matter–all of African)music. For without it, this Neo-Conservative Bush-World would be even more unbearable.

Reply March 15, 2006 - 8:37 am

This good. Would love to read it again.

Anonymous March 11, 2006 - 11:37 am

Can somebody please draw the attention of the President to this.It is ubbelievable that government can be so casual about this industry.

Jimoh Saeed



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