You don’t need a prophet or soothsayer to tell you that Nigeria’s music industry is very lucrative. The industry has made millionaires out of several ‘studio rats’, and there are millions of others out there waiting to get their own break “The bad news is that not all dreams come true. Forget that saying of the sky being wide enough for all birds to fly, the Nigerian music industry is a dog-eat-dog world.
It is very savage, demanding, bitchy, unforgiving and unappreciative. Folks really go hell to breathe easy. This is more so because there is an inherent lack of structure which makes it difficult for record labels to thrive. “EME’s DJ Xclusive put it most succinctly with his post on Instagram during the week when he wrote, ‘No matter how talented you are, it’s hard for most people to understand how hard it is to make it in music. The pains, the hard sacrifices, the let-downs are endless…You can’t give up on you!’ “In this piece, we’ll get you acquainted with some of the desperate things Nigerian artistes have to do to get to the pinnacle of their careers…
Does the above make any sense to you? If you’re from a ‘developed country’ reading this, it wouldn’t, but we in ‘Naija’ know better.“Nigerian artistes actually pay bootleggers to proliferate their works, just to make them popular.“They do this by way of Alaba Mix, where the DJ includes their songs in a mix of selected trending club bangers. The Alaba ‘mixtapes’ are usually played at parties, street corners, bus stops, and places with high concentration of people.“However, this only pertains to the rookies in the industry; or those out of relevance. The established acts who are toasts of the town don’t need to do this. Their own songs are rather used to ‘sell’ the others. Another angle to this is the fact that even established artistes sell the rights to their CD sales to these Alaba kingpins, who pay them a certain sum of money, and pocket the rest of the profit.
It is a fact that there is no artiste in this country that has never performed at an event for free. In fact, it is the order of the day, especially in the early part of their careers.“Even the biggest shows in the land are guilty in this regard of not paying upcoming artistes for their services. However, it is a win-win situation because the artistes also gain a lot from this arrangement. They aren’t paid in physical cash, but they get mileage, brand awareness, and opportunity to interface with their fans, which invariably translate to much more than cash.
“ There are several power-brokers behind the scenes, who are the big names that everyone knows. They are usually big-time show promoters who organise popular and successful annual sold-out concerts. These fat cats also run consultancy services, where they help entertainers secure juicy brand endorsement deals. They can turn you to a star at the tap of a finger. They wine and dine with high-ranking government functionaries, business executives with the fat cheques, and they have a large following of hungry youths. It is these power brokers that artistes always do all sorts to win their attention so they can call them for free shows and help them secure endorsement deals.“Nowadays, every artiste knows better than to depend on album sales. The major part of their money comes from shows, concerts, endorsements etc, so anybody who can make it happen for them will be courted ferociously. Even though the power brokers are also in it to make money, as it is not charity, they have been a ‘blessing’ to the industry.
One way Nigerian artistes make their way to the top of the music industry is by attaching like leeches to already established acts.“It is common to see artistes working as Personal Assistants (PA), Secretary, Manager, etc. for other stars.“That way, they’re always with the superstar whenever he meets the power brokers and people that matter in the game. They use this opportunity to network and establish their own careers.“Examples of people that have this as part of their story are Terry G, who was formerly a back-up singer for Faze, and Ubi Franklin, who is the co-owner of MMMG Record label, was PA to Julius Agwu“
In the music industry food chain, OAPs and DJs occupy prime positions. They are more like gatekeepers, who have the power to keep intruders at bay. These OAPs and DJs often have their own legion of fans too who hold whatever they say sacrosanct. They can do so much for an artiste’s career just by talking about him or her on their shows, or playing a particular artiste’s songs on air.
This is another puzzling and desperate act perpetrated by Nigerian artistes on their race to the top. In an ideal situation, a record label is supposed to pay artistes a hefty amount of money, and even give them material possessions like cars and houses for signing to them. However, the extreme opposite is what happens at times in Nigeria. Artistes now pay big record labels to be attached to them and enjoy the benefits that come with being associated with their name. Meanwhile, the record label would put out press releases that it has signed the artiste for a mind-blowing fee with other benefits. In reality, the artiste would have to pay for his own studio time, videos, and other costs of pushing his career.
In their desperate attempt to embrace the klieg lights and paparazzi, artistes sometimes become boy-toys to wealthy society women. They hawk their manhood and youth to these fun-loving socialites who, as a form of reward, ply them with dollars, pounds, and other exotic currencies, which they, in turn, use in lubricating the machinery of their careers.
Whenever a new shining star emerges on the scene, it is not unusual to hear side-talks on the streets of how the artiste must have dined with the devil to get to where he is. The truth is that several artistes sell their souls to the devil in the course of trying to find their way to the top. They often have to take blood oaths, and visit shrines to pledge allegiance to strange gods. Many of the artistes become successful this way, but the repercussions are usually very grave, as some of them lose their lives on the cusp of fame. Those who don’t die, live with heavy conscience, and are usually tormented for the rest of their days.