REST IN PEACE
Kevin Luciano-Gabriel has made a lot of enemies these past months. He has hurt and has been hurt. He has stepped on many toes and, I guess, many have stepped on his. The Questionmark CEO may not be the best dude around the corner. But we need to give him some credit for giving hitherto unknown talents like Asa, Silver Saddih, T-Base and ruFfman a chance to air their voice. We need to give Obi Asika some credit too. And Solomon Arueya and Carl Racchah and Alec Godwin. Following in the paths of Keke and D-one, these gentlemen, and many more, have sadled themselves with the responsibility of creating an industry out of the chaos that exists right now. Since the collapse of major second generation labels : Ivory, Sony, Sol, Ultima, Felin and others, Kennis, Storm, Questionnmark, Westside, orangootan, Alec’s music and few others have kept the fire burning- pumping in more time, money and energy than they can ever recoup. It’ll be unfair to say these are the best guys for the job, for they continue to make mistakes, they continue to learn on the job. But they possess the most important requirement: guts. Which businessman will invest his money in an ‘industry’ where all the requisite structures are comatose? Tell me, how do you run a proper label or record company in a system where there are no qualified A&R executives, no professional talent scouts and mangers, no distribution network, no units monitoring system…? But thanks to sheer guts and unquenchable passion, labels of today have created such buzz and activity that it’ll be easy to sit back on our chair, wine glass-in-hand, cigarette-in-mouth, and be deceiving ourselves that we have arrived. No folks, we haven’t! Disaster is in the offing, and no one is weeping. No one is losing sleep. Label owners are crying everyday, unhappy with the unit price of CDs. They’re pumping in so much, yet getting back little. They can’t monitor their sales, they can’t monitor their artistes. They can’t even tackle piracy.
And to make matters worse, artistes are walking away from their contracts, straight into the waiting embrace of Alaba marketers. Why stay with a label for three years without getting a dime, when they can ‘go to bed’ with a marketer and get paid in full?So labels are closing up. Many are in court with their acts. The guys who can help enthrone a proper industry have suddenly become an endangered species! As we continue to fold our arms and allow marketers become overnight music moguls, we may as well begin printing the obituaries of the remaining labels around. Unlike the music marketers association of Nigeria (MMAN, largely responsible for distributing fuji music nationwide) the guys in alaba are not trained to distribute music. They’re mostly pirates-turned-legitimate marketers. They are not stakeholders, and they do not have the interest of the industry at hand. Thye’re simply traders who, if care is not taken, will eventually reduce the music industry to what they turned nollywood into. So, very soon, if we’re not careful, the association of marketers in Alaba can decide to ban Psquare for two years. They may soon start dictating to artistes what kind of songs to sing, who to feature, et cetera.
That’s why I like Mo’ Hits’ current initiative. Don Jazzy and the rest of the guys have sealed a deal with UAC foods to distribute their new album CV, nationwide. A very risky venture, if you ask me, ‘cos the pirate-marketers would be too glad to flood the market with counterfeits. But if it will take a couple of twenty-something year-olds to begin to attempt to break the silly monopoly of those crooks in Alaba, then so be it. What remains is for other existing labels to take the bold step; for PMAN to wake up from her slumber and face today’s responsibilities; for record companies to work with financial institutions, as we all set out to enthrone a multi-billion naira industry that can take the world hostage. Let the marketers go back to their electronics and electrical appliances, let them start selling spare parts again. We’ll all patronize them. And let them be replaced by a distribution network that works. A transparent chain that can be monitored. A system that’ll work hand-in-hand with record labels, not cause disaffection between them and their artistes…See, we’ll still print those obituaries anyway. But this time around, it won’t be ‘rest in peace, oh record label’. Instead, it’ll read: ‘we regret to announce the timely death of Messrs Alaba Marketers, who were murdered en masse, after a prolonged battle with Messrs Record Label… 2000-2008. Survived by: pirates, mass duplicating machines and a host of street hawkers.I don’t know how it’ll take. But it has to happen. It’s the triumph of light over dark; good over evil. If it doesn’t? Too bad. Then we’re all in for a hell of a ride…!