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The Music Industry Is Dead (Part I: Record Labels)

Digital cometh not, but for to kill, and to kill and to kill! And, recently it’s paid a visit to the Nigerian Music Industry, and I can assure you, it’s been a massacre. Many companies, artists, genres, platforms, careers, investments, have been killed, so far. It’s not stopping, anytime soon.

If you’re maybe 19 now, you can probably take a trip back to ten years ago, you were just a kid, and your big brother – or whoever – would play records that were hot then.

That was the Era we knew Yahooze, and most of we tech-savvy Gen Z guys haven’t even created our first Facebook accounts.

Everything was organic (for lack of a better word). And nobody really understood how the industry worked, or even an idea of how much the big artists could be raking in. All we knew was, your track is probably on a DJ Mixtape, or you’ve made it big with Radio or TV appearances, for you to blow up.

Marketing strategy was the thing, and as long as your album hits the hands of Alaba Pirates, your music was gonna hit thousands of households. Will probably sell for N150 (a dollar then?), or even less.

Shows were another thing, but record companies legit made money from the music their artists made. Trybes, Kennis, Mo’hits, Chocolate City (in the early days), and ID Cabasa’s empire, in a way, all benefited from the new industry.

Eldee, who kick started the Alaba – deal, sold many records, 2Face, joining Kennis around ’04, sold millions. 9ice made his classic album, “Gongo Aso,” D’banj, too. Banky W, who had returned to start his company, Empire Mates, was also doing fine. M.I would go on to sell several thousands of “Talk About It” in 2008. Every artist that had a label to invest then could make hits, and sell out. That was long before browsing phones circulated !

And then, the Wizkid’s and Olamide’s came from nowhere (we did know where they are from, by the way). They didn’t come alone, they came with Spotify, SoundCloud, iTunes, Amazon, a whole new digital era for the industry that once depended on CD pirates in Alaba to “eat”.

Not to mention local platforms and forums, Notjustok, Tooxclusive, Waploaded, 9jabaze, who didn’t mind posting full albums, for downloads. Thanks to all those platforms, anything Wizkid dropped was a hit, but doesn’t necessarily mean “more money.” That was the beginning of disaster.

Record Labels are in the business for the money, the money the new media is ripping them off. They were still the holy grails, every artist wanted to be signed on the next available one. But they were losing the money. Very fast. Millions, wasting. The producers kept charging, and a standard session could cost anything from 500k to 5million. In 2015, Killertunes wouldn’t take 100k to make a beat for me.

Music videos can cost from 4million to 20million, depending on how many girls you want the artist to kiss. Millions being wasted on a track so it will become a hit, and the artist will become a star, and start playing shows.

The business model became a joke, a gamble. No returns whatsoever on the music, the platforms kept posting it all free. If the artists isn’t big enough, you could end up paying Naija Loaded to post it, FREE. That isn’t an investment, that is craziness. But, yeah, that craziness is what the Internet brought to us all.

Labels pay for videos, YouTube ain’t enough, so they pay for TV promotions, too. There’s no standard system for investment returns. Unlike the US, where streaming has taken a new turn and the Industry Association are bent on making those platforms cough out revenues for the companies handling the music. Still record labels, over there are complaining, Spotify ain’t paying them well. We are not complaining, but nobody is paying us at all. The once rich labels are running out of money, hence, business. They’re dying.

Think of how many artists have left their labels, versus how many got signed into one in the past four years, do the ratio. Top artists like Lil Kesh, Adekunle, Harrysong, Kizz Daniel (I could write a whole new article on him), Chidinma, L.A.X, Chinko Ekun, recently Reekado Banks, Ycee and Tekno have all left their Record Labels.

Two things may happen, either the labels became too small in terms of finances to meet the needs of these growing artists, and the artists left. Or? The artists thought they could make “all these money” themselves and pocket it all. The latter is more likely, because almost all of them started new imprints once they exited their cages. We’re still yet to see any of them launch another artist’s career.

The arrival of Sound Cloud artists, and international deals have also constituted to the death of record companies, in Nigeria. Any big artist who is feeding off music, has a big fanbase abroad and often plays gig outside the country.

But any hope that record labels can still milk out money from this industry? The chances are slim. Record Labels died, that’s the beginning of the end of the “music industry.” Don’t you ever listen to those stats that say we can make $50m by 20-whatever. Ignore them, the industry is dead!!!


Hypeman | Entrepreneur | Social Influencer | Award Winning Blogger 🎖 ☎: +2349031677059

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