THE TRUTH ABOUT MTV

Alex, GM MTV Networks Africa

Alex, GM MTV Networks Africa

 

When MTV debuted on the African continent in 2005, the promise from the network’s officials was clear: with its 100th channel, and expansion into Africa, the aim was not just to do business, but to expose African talents to the rest of the world. It was song to our ears.

 

Artistes and music industry heavyweights scrambled to be at the February 22, 2005 launch in Abuja. Tell an average Nigerian act that you would expose him internationally, and he’ll gladly give you his birthright.

 

But it didn’t take too long to realise that MTV was not interested in breaking African music into Europe or America. That wasn’t the brief the executors of MTV base Africa got from their bosses. What base has done since inception is to play urbane African music to young, impressionable Africans, while it continues to feed them with an overdose of music from America and Europe. They’re not showing Nigerian videos on MTV Europe or MTV America. Yet they’re promoting videos from these regions to us in Africa; continuing the neo-colonialism that Femi Kuti calls second slavery.

 

Apparently, the network follows the same ethics for its famous music awards. For the three years they had a category for Best African act at the MTV Europe music awards, the African prize was presented before the main ceremony, and the category is exempted in later broadcasts in Europe and America. That’s why, despite having had heavy rotation on MTV base since 2005, and having won the first ever MTV EMA best African act, 2face Idibia is still struggling to find his way into mainstream international music circles.

 

Don’t be fooled. MTV is not the vehicle we need to sell trado-modern African music to the rest of the world. MTV is not the vehicle that’ll expose our talents to Asia, America, Europe or the Carribean. American music, ideas, lifestyle and culture are taking over the world. And, just like CNN, MTV is one of the evangelists propagating the gospel. As I write, fresh videos (called ‘Spanking New on MTV) from Joe, Wyclef and others are playing on my MTV. But, will a music lover somewhere in America ever get to say if, say a new video drops from Psquare or Pasuma today? Of course not!

 

MTV base’s business starts and ends in Africa. They’re getting so much attention and patronage that very soon, they’ll be asking their strategists why it took them so long to come over here. And truth be told, they’ve helped our artistes and their directors to up the quality of videos. They’ve brought in fresh ideas and caused homegrown networks like Soundcity and Nigezie to sit up. Even Channel O is tightening its loins, not willing to lose out in the battle.

 

But MTV can and should do better. And infact, I am inclined to believe the want to do better. They’ve already set up an award dedicated to Africa, and they’ve put up a series -Advance Warning- expected to help upcomers find the limelight.

However all that will come to naught if base and the guys at MTV Networks Africa do not find a way to get music videos from Africa on MTV channels all over the world. Doing an award, or advance warning or paying artistes royalties are OK. But they can be compared to foreign governments and the UN giving aids to Africa.

What most countries on the continent need is investment, not aid. And right now, what our industry needs is structure and investment. Only proper exposure to the global community can ensure that.

Only adequate exposure to the global community can help our ideas, lifestyle, and music influence America and Europe. Right now, that’s about the only way we can create true global music stars that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Jay Z, Alicia Keys or Madonna. It’s only that kind of buzz, matched with efforts by industry practitioners to put the industry in shape, that can attract major labels, major markets, and help tell the modern African story in the right perspective.

 

So, while I join others to congratulate MTV on the advance warning initiative, and while I am glad for the likes of Terry Tha Rapman, OD, Terry G, Durella and many others who are finally getting their voices heard, I insist that the major task MTV should face, is that of exposing these talents, and many more, to the world out there. The world outside Africa. If it won’t do that, then it should stop feeding us with an overdose of videos from outside Africa.

 

If not, then we might as well begin to consider MTV’s coming to Africa a rip off; an attempt at exporting American music to an inquisitive, populous continent strictly for business reasons. Only time will tell…

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11 Responses to “THE TRUTH ABOUT MTV”

  1. The great one,

    I totally agree with you about the ‘True’ purpose of MTV…..I was also there at one of their press conferences (The MTV on STV comes to mind) and truly it didn’t smell right…..
    I think MTV has done alot of good in the industry and def do plan to do more but as always I think we should remeber that MTV is a business so they are running it as a business without any remorse……

    I dont want to imagine the kind of money MTV makes from Sponsorship alone in Nigeria talkless of Africa and this is without even showing africa to the world…..
    I think evetually Africa will be shown to the world….these are just the testin periods to see how the responses (money wise are)…..I hope they will anyway….

    Please keep writing cos I absolutely enjoy readin everyone of your articles……

  2. Word up! MTV base Europe is crap. There was a time around last year, that they started showing a musical programme on African artistes. Would you believe the programme was only for 30 minutes, on mondays only and late at night at 1.00 am, when majority of young people are asleep?
    I so thank God for AIT & NTA here. If not for those two channels, i wouldn’t even know know wetin dey go on for my papaland, not to talk less of the new artistes/songs making wave. I barely even watch MTV anymore sef.

  3. Kunle,

    Let’s face it, MTV is an ‘AMERICAN BUSINESS’ – I ‘d like us to take those two words seperately and as a phrase- 1. They ‘inadvertently ‘ propagate American music, ideals and culture wherever they are. All around the world and 2. they are a business so must make profit.
    We love American music- even in the UK, MTV plays more American music than music from local British acts, MTV Asia does the same.

    I think MTV operates on this brief- American interest first, then business interest ………….. oh then local content (they probably see it as corporate social responsibility which is in line with what you said earlier- giving aid). But then again, why not anyways when our music is so heavily influenced by American music.. Not a dig at naija artiste or Naija music lovers but the world over there is an apparent ‘americanisation’ of local music. or whatelse do you call banghra music and people like the Punjabi MC.

    I think dissing MTV is like a case of ‘what have the Roman’s ever done for us’ but if we want to propagate our own music ,views ,culture and ideals, if we want a kid on the street of NY to know about Psuare’s new album, we need to look inwards and enpower our own people, our own media (might take time but we need to start from somewhere) because asking MTV to change is like asking CNN to see Africa from an African perspective……………. me think

  4. Did Youssou N’dour need MTV to break into Europe and America? No! Do our Artists sing songs with real African flavour? No! All I see is copycat and a copycat ain’t the real deal so sorry if American doesn’t want another Usher, especially a very bad one at that. Do they wanna see another Nelly look alike video with big cars and scantily clad bimbos strutting their stuff. No! Femi and Seun Kuti headlines at the Barbican and they make the middle page in the Metro because they bring Africa to these people. The girls, the songs, the beats, that is Africa. Not some over sampled instrumental that they are already fed up of. ASA brings something fresh, something different and she too gets the recognition she needs for making real music.

    MTV at the end of the day is a corporation out there to make money. We ought to have read the small prints and read in between the lines before selling our souls to them. Again we prove to them why they dubbed us the dark continent.

  5. One thing that is forgotten here is that MTV has only recently arrived here. The market here is like no other in the world and the music industry here is not supported by major labels like in most other territories. Expecting immediate changes is unrealistic. MTV is a business and has to make a profit, but it also has to develop it’s business market. Expecting to break artists into a US market which has considerably higher production values and marketability is also asking a lot.

    What MTV is here to do is to develop the market to help realise what it is capable of. the market in the US is what it is because of MTV, but it has taken years. In Africa the need for grass roots development is the key. Raise the standard and develop their own marketable international sound. Copying the US sound won’t work here just as it hasn’t in most other countries. You can sell a lower quality of sand to a man in the desert. African music is respected by many around the world, but it’s more the cultural sound than your PSquare’s or Jozi’s.

    Most of all though, MTV is one channel for the whole continent and until they can be more direct and local, no-one will ever be happy.

  6. yemi osuntogun Says:

    The idea that is MTV’s job to market African music is ridiculous. That is the job of the record label and distributors. MTV does not market America’s music to Africans. they give the market place what it wants. They are business people. If the audience does not want American and European ( by European you mean English. they are not marketing that Spanish, German, Dutch, Swedish group) they will take it off completely. They don’t care. Nobody is paying them to stuff it down our throats. American and the Brits dominate the world. It’s as simple as that. In South America, Germany, France, Holland, Asia, Mtv operates the same policy. Local product mixed in with largely American and a few English singing acts. The job of marketing American music lies with the record labels and the RIAA and other music associations, not Mtv. Mtv just plays what they amrket or what’s hot as defined by these unions. Overseas, it follows the same way. America has the talent and budget. Why does anyone care about the foreign markets? It’s all about money. Instead of whining of the foreign market, why you write about the piracy and lack of royalty payments, plus the low disposal income available to the populace that keeps the artists from making big money.

  7. tola adekanbi Says:

    they are jokers man….why did i say that? 1.look at there so called mama…i dont need to talk much on that.2.mtv has failed to put the likes of tuface,dbanj where they really belong..correct me if am wrong have they broken into european/american market.3.with the so called advanced warning,i wonder who they are warning when most nigerians dont know about the show and our best artists keep loosing to rookies go to mtvbase.com/advancewarning and see their pathetic results..i.e w4 loosing to gi joe,terry the rap man loosing to soty,g.t the guitarman loosin to big weez,zdon loosin to slk,mi loosing to kenzos this is serious misrepresentation and i feel mtv base could have told us that what they need is a computer guru who could sit infront of the computer and vote all day.most of the guys that lost have most skills,most fan base while most of those tht won are the complete opposite.

  8. Slick da Tycoon Says:

    Well i agree to d fact that Mtv aren’t helping us,had it been i knew all of i wouldn’t hve been watching Mtv,now i knw betta.Yes in d case of us we Africans to do music whetha hiphop,r&b,rap,pop etc in line with what is present,dat’s why i like 9ice he’s African,and Ruggedman too.When we start 2 see ourselves lik dis,Africa will definitely outshine the rest of d world.Dat’s why as an artiste that i’m,i make sure i did put african flavour to distinguish 4rm d lik’s of T I,Jay Z.I REP. AFRICA.I LUV AFRICA.JUST WATCH OUT 4 MY ALBUM COMIN OUT SOON TITLED ST.SLICK’S DAY(JUNE 6).

  9. We need to raise the bar and give them something to talk about.it takes a mighty lot to get the attention of the american audience.it can be done but u need a special soul to do the kind of music that probably can win a grammy.it takes unshakable belief and u will have to sacrifice bigtime,burn bridges and music will drive u to near insanity but if u survive it and u come out oozing the spirit of music.then nothing can stop u.

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