3 things that could destroy Nigeria’s music industry

Sidenote: I wrote this about 4 years ago. While I can’t help wincing at the headline and writing, it’s amazing how much of my thinking here remains valid.


The quality of Nigerian music is on a steady decline. Don’t be fooled by all the hype and new-found appeal outside our shores. It’s only a fad that will last, at best, a few more years (*wince*, in hindsight), if we don’t do something about our music.

It might not be apparent now, but it will be in the very near future. There’s a reason why the Felas, KSAs and Obes of the past are still relevant. 

May I just add that what I’m about to share is my opinion and while you’re allowed to openly disagree, you’re not expected to resort to name calling, and cursing, to make your point. You will only end up being judged as one of the problems with the industry. Thank you :)

1. THE BUSINESS MODEL

The current business model for the typical Nigerian Artiste is:

  • Record a song every other week, saturate all entertainment blogs with free downloads of your music. Make sure the fans never forget you exist.
  • Later, release your CD, don’t bother marketing it much, sell it cheap, make some spare change
  • Accept to do as many cheap shows as you possibly can, choosing quantity over quality. This is where you will make the bulk of your money.

That’s how it has worked over the past decade. Things are not about to change anytime soon. It the artistes actually made enough money from step 1 and 2, they would actually do less of step 3. They would spend more time preparing for fewer shows. Because let’s face it, they put out mediocre performances. It’s something the fans have come to expect and are no longer bothered about. I’m not a fan of Jay Z but I have to admit he’s one of the most accomplished live performers of his time. Charge more for better quality and the fans would not mind.

2. THE TECHNOLOGY

Quite simply put, auto-tune is killing music, not just in Nigeria but all over the world. But it’s worse here in Nigeria. Even 8 year-olds now use auto-tune before they learn to sing. Even musicians who we know can sing now use auto-tune. A friend once opined that sometimes it’s not the artistes who ask for it, the mixer does it to make their songs sound “more commercial”. While a little auto-tune may be necessary for effect it shouldn’t be overused. Most of these guys just get your hopes raised high that you get disappointed when you see their live performances. It’s annoying.

3. THE FANS

Music should always be about the fans right? Wrong. Steve Jobs, who was regarded as one of the greatest visionaries of our time, had a way of putting it:

“A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

As radical and impractical as that sounds, I have to agree with him in this context.

Nigerian music fans don’t know what they want until you show it to them. You might think they want soulless and unlyrical party-jammers all the time, because you always get positive feedback, but the truth is they don’t know what they really want until you show it to them. The year Asa released her single Jailer, there dozens of party-jammers reigning at that time, how many of them captured the souls of Nigerians better than Jailer?

Another thing is that the fans are sentimental. If an artistes releases a song that hits today, the fans are sold and every other song he releases from then on is a “jam”. That’s before he gets on their wrong books, either because he broke up with their favourite celebrity, or she’s a haughty actress. But as long as you’re in their good books, if you keep releasing the same crap that the other guys release, it will always be a jam.

And die-hard fans don’t let other fans voice their opinions. How dare you say anything negative about Wizkid’s music? Even if you’re being objective, you’re tagged as a hater. I don’t understand how anyone who doesn’t know an artiste personally could possibly be beefing him? Sigh

I’m not exactly against people creating the kind of music they want to create. My only problem is that there’s never a market for variety. In the US for example, there’s a market for every kind of music; lyrical and unlyrical; soulless and mindless, uplifting and mentally degrading. But back home, you either sing like everyone else is singing or die a broke wannabe. Now that’s wrong, very wrong