FU.M.I.NG (FUTURE OF MUSIC IN NIGERIA)
I met ‘Tunde Kuboye for the first time last December. I had gone to his home on the invitation of his kids Tamilore and Tunmida. After hearing and learning so much about the great music performer and enthusiast from afar, it was a DIFFERENT experience shaking hands with him, exchanging banters with him, and learning from his feet. I left the Kuboyes’ home inspired and refreshed.
I’ve met baba Kuboye twice again these past weeks, and I am yet to change my mind. Absolutely humble, full of knowledge and frank, I have since become a fan; while still ‘studying’ to become a ‘devotee’ of ‘Kuboyeism’. A lot of this generation of musicians have A LOT to learn from him. But that’s not the point of this piece.
What I’ve found very interesting, is that unlike many of his colleagues who stay on the outside and criticise the music industry and its actors, Tunde Kuboye is actually stepping in, joining the industry’s leaders to enthrone initiatives that could provide a direction for a wandering ‘industry’. It is that direction that I’m interested in talking about. The direction to the future of music in .
On Monday April 7, industry stakeholders spent the first work day of the week meeting inside the conference room of the British council in . The agenda? ‘The way forward for the industry’; ‘how to tackle piracy’; ‘how to create a distribution network’; ‘how to lead the industry by the hand, straight into the international music scene’.
As expected, the attendance was poor. In a country with scores of grade A acts, not one was present. In fact, I saw only two artistes at the venue: Inferno and M.I. Only one record label was represented. Only one music marketer deemed it fit to come. Apart of the chairman of NARI, Toni Kan (of Visafone) and a couple of talent managers, it was a room filled with journalists, cameramen and folks from Chocolate city, the conveners.
Okay, the level of discourse was high and interesting. The passion tangible and the analyses on point. But, with major industry stakeholders absent at such parley, even if a resolution was reached, even if a WAY FORWARD was agreed on, wouldn’t it amount to attempting to shave a person’s head in their absence? Oh, so you know it’s impossible too!
Past attempts like this have not yielded any better results anyway. From Dele Olukoju’s ‘let’s face the music’ talkshop to the recent vigorous attempts by the music businessmen forum to create a blueprint for the industry, and form a pressure group to can influence government policies and guard the interest s of practitioners. MBF meetings have recorded very impressive turn outs, but nothing tangible is yet to be achieved.
In my opinion, it appears as if the people making the money now – the artistes, the marketers and a few labels – don’t see any need to fret. They’re comfortable with state of things; after all it’s in their favour.
They forget that according to the law of diminishing returns, ‘when a fixed factor is working in conjunction with a variable factor, there is continuous initial increase in output. Until it reaches a peak and everything begins to hurry and crash downwards (okay I confess I memorised this when I was in junior secondary school. That’s nearing TWO decades now – I hope the law hasn’t changed!)
What we need to tell ourselves is this: we stand at an advantage to erect needed structures now; to organise the system and harness all its potentials. PMAN has failed, so let a coalition of talents, businessmen, analysts, managers, lawyers etc come together to do what PMAN has failed to do since it was founded over two decades ago. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit. It doesn’t matter whose initiative it is.
What should matter is that there should be a level playing field. Investors must be sure there’s a system that can help them recoup their investment. Labels and record companies must be in control of distribution, not pirate-marketers. Government policy on Piracy must change. The collecting societies must stop fighting themselves and start fighting a common enemy: users of musical works who see no reason why they should ‘pay-per-play’.
I can go on and on. But let me not bore you. The good thing however, is what the British Council is doing with the international young music entrepreneur of the year awards (IYMEY). The global winner for 2007 is a Nigerian; Audu Maikori. And his company, working with the British Council, is hosting ’s first pavilion at Calling, a key event in the global music calendar. I see a lot of practitioners jostling to be part of the delegates to calling already. I hope it’s not just because we want to go to and see the queen.
I see Calling 2008 as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the brains behind the music system in to get together, six hours away from home, with no distractions or ‘busy schedule’, to rub minds candidly; put sentiments and ego and grudges and selfish interests aside; and hopefully return home to give us a blueprint that the government, the media and other stakeholders would find impeccable.
We may keep dreaming about 9ice headlining a gig at Madison Square; about 2face and Asa winning the Grammies; about , or Interscope opening shop in (or at least partnering with domestic labels); about having mega record companies and studios and becoming the biggest music industry in . We may keep dreaming. And it is not wrong to dream. But first, we need to take time off our slumber, to put the house in shape. It is only when there is organisation and structure and ethics and a fool-proof blueprint subscribed to by all practitioners that there can be an industry.
And it is only when there is an industry that corporate Nigeria will take us serious. It is only when there is an industry that the government will listen to us. It is only when there is an industry that the global music players will look this way again.
It is only when there is an industry that labels, managers, songwriters, producers and other key professionals can be ‘bank-sure’ that they are not squandering their lives, while hoping to get their rewards in heaven…