General

THE MUSIC BUSINESS Series. (Part II): Have we as the stakeholders in the industry played our part enough?

Music is written, produced, sang and distributed by the artists so as to be listened to. However, the part of it blowing up as much is subject to the participation of the rest of the stake holders. You could be wondering who a stake holder is. In every sector are people who directly participate in how it is run, promoted, distributed, since the success or failure of it has an impact on all. In this instance; the stake holders, would first of all be the artists themselves, the producers, and everyone directly or indirectly involved in the music process, not forgetting the media, awarding entities, music labels, and of course the fans. So, I’ll dive right into it; as though in a history/ Christian religious education exam:

Credit where its due; Our artists here have grown a great deal, musically

They have continued to produce good music, improved lyrics, crispier music videos, which is good stuff. What I’d say is still lacking a little bit is with collaborations, we do have few of those, since some may see each other as competition, some are extremely egotistic, always engaged in scandals, whereas others get lost in the fame cloud, and the benefits that come with being in the limelight. It is here where we would find someone focusing more on proving a point of how they are the best, and deserve so and so title, instead of letting the music speak for itself. Also, most our artists here have not yet cultivated the culture of supporting each other big time. Not like am saying it is a must, it is only right if the industry is to grow. For example, when one of our own here has a new project, say an album, few fellow artists come out to spread word about it. unless they featured on it or something, most times it is rare. When they say ‘charity begins at home’, I like to translate it to this, the citizens supporting you, starts with them seeing that you as a lot do root for each other, it inspires us to join in the effort, and spread word about the music, wins, and everything to do with the industry that is everything musical.

Moving on to the policy makers, there is still struggle with implementation of the copyright law, and this has seen many miss out on their loyalties since their music is used anywhere, and by anyone, without making any financial gain or recognition for it.

Us as fans, our contribution to the growth of the industry is a two-sided conversation. Whereas there are those audiences who genuinely support our artists. Most by streaming their music, adding it to their playlists, sharing streaming links and word once them artists release new music. Others buy merchandise such as hoodies/ jumpers, and other apparel that is usually put on the market by the artists. Sheebah’s Hair wigs have done so well, J-Wats Shirts, and A Pass hoodies too do make rounds, when it comes to being favorites to the vast majority. However, like I mentioned, our contribution as fans has been both supportive and destructive. How?? Well, it is common for an artist to make more news and get attention amidst controversy, than when they do something good.  Not like they owe it to us anyway, but just imagine the same energy we use to slam someone for baby mama issues, firing their manager, or any other cat fight we invested in supporting the music. just the music, and leaving their personal lives to them. At the end of the day, artists/ celebrities are only human, just like you and I, only difference is that they are in a position of being easily written off, or being judged since they are in the public eye for most parts of their life. Doesn’t mean, we don’t have to call them out when they do gross stuff, but let us always revert a similar energy when they do good too. Like I said, they are human too at the end of the day.

As fans, we also carry a somewhat form of entitlement; which I do not think is such a good trait, if our industry is to grow. This is in form of showing double standards, for example an artist from another country say Jamaica can sample another’s beat, or instrumental, and get away with it, and we even vibe to their song, but when our very own does it for inspiration or to improve their song’s structuring, all of a sudden we brand them copycats??! Recall when Juliana’s video director recreated Jennifer Lopez’s ‘Ain’t Yo Mama’ video concept for ‘I’m still Here’ and how some Ugandans were all making a big deal of a mere video concept? Also, still about us the audiences, why are we quick to write off artists as though its us who sent them to join music in the first place? Remember when Burna Boy released “Twice as Tall”, and majority of the “elites” online from right here and the rest of the continent were fast to trash it, and say how it was overrated, “not African enough” and all. Yes, I respect that we all are entitled to out opinions, the only issues come with when one attempts to force theirs onto others; in this regard it would be, someone trying to buy another into their school of thought, either persuasively or guilt tripping. Thing is simple, if you do not like the album, or song, then it is okay. Hold your peace and do not listen to it, those who want will. “But Mugi, these musicians owe us good music, we pay for our streaming service subscription, therefore they owe it to us to make music that appeals to us!!!”, one would say, NONE of us sent the artist to join the industry, and they would still make it out there with or without you and I’s support. The industry was here, and will continue to exist, with or without us.

The ‘we made you card’ that fans play also goes as far as almost feeling like they have parts and every right to dictate how an artist celebrates mainstream recognition and success. Remember the ‘Parte after parte’ season, when the online community turned on him saying how his song ‘wasn’t that nice, or much of a good song, and that it was a hit by accident’.  The most recent being how South Africa was bashing Master KG for celebrating ‘Jerusalema’ being endorsed by audiences across the borders, including stars such as the legendary Janet Jackson. It’s either we support or shut up. Everyone is entitled to how they celebrate their wins; and what may seem so little to you is a huge deal to someone else. So, brethren and sistren, it is not fair how instead of building our very own, we are the very first to throw shade at the artists at the slightest chance that presents itself. The entitlement does not stop there, it also extends to the musicians’ private lives. Fans are more concerned about anha, who is this person dating, when are they marrying, what kind of car do they drive, why is so and so single, when are they wedding, and other aspects of being too nosy. I’ll say this once more, musicians don’t owe us sh*t! For, if it weren’t for music, we wouldn’t know them in the first place, right? Therefore, let us only focus on that bit of them, and let them be.

The last bit where we fail our artists is the unnecessary comparison of how our industry’s stars to those in the West. Of course, the people from Nigeria’s loyalty to their musicians, is solid, plus the bond between their government, fans and the artists themselves already creates firm landing for their music to take off, and also get international recognition. So, clearly, expecting our industry that is still evolving the more and comparing it with others that had a foundation hence the recognition and fast spread of their culture is really demoralizing, lets do better!

Then there’s the unsung heroes holding the industry down – the disc jockeys (DJs). These do play at hangouts, events, radio and television stations, whereas others relay online mixes via platforms like Mixcloud etc. Known for their humongous influence on crowd’s music consumption since our minds are easily hooked onto the songs they occasionally play. Meaning that the more a jockey frequents a track, the more likely we as fans/ revelers are to get accustomed to listening to it too; before you know it, it is on our playlists, and the rest becomes history. However, there is a silent struggle between the artists, and deejays, on grounds of who needs the other more, since artists expect that when they release a song, it is the DJ to look for it, and on this other end, the deejay also expects that this musician is the one supposed to look from them and share their music with them. So, there’s that too. In the end, it becomes tough for the DJ to support where he/ she can because of the ego of both; – them, and the artist. As the silent brawl is happening, chances are high the jockey is to rotate more foreign songs on their decks since it is readily available.

This brings me to the fourth and final stakeholder; the media. Media traverses from radio to television stations, social media, blogs and PR.

Well, to be quite honest, radios and television stations have played an immense job when it comes to putting the music out there to the public. There are programs on both mediums that are dedicated to Ugandan music; case example is NXT Radio’s ‘NXT Zikiza’ (a show where two Ugandan artists are guest hosted in studio each week’, FACE TV, a whole Tv dedicated to playing strictly Ugandan music. other forms of support have bee in terms of having our very own local artists headline events organized by these stations. Crossing over to social media, online shows such as the Club Beatz at Home, and TAG TV presents by Talent Africa have equally given a platform for our musical novices an already established artists to shine, and grow. On the not so good , side of the role of the media, some stations, okay maybe presenters have made it a trend to host personalities who are engaged in online controversies instead of giving the platform for budding artists, who could then use this platform to get word out there about their music. Also, the shows that do celebrity gossip as a niche, if not spreading fake news, choose to focus only on the negative elements of the happenings in a singer’s life; i.e. when a singer is involved in baby mama/ daddy issues, bar fights, or having a bitter exchange episodes with another, that is when they come in and broadcast it in details, but when an artist/ public figure is on the right side of society; say they made a collaboration that is going places, they birdbox such content!  Some presenters even choose to ask humiliating questions when interviewing some of these artists; with the pretext of after all, they’ll need us when they have new music, and have to play it, and also will need us for exclusives.

Another category of the media, are bloggers. As bloggers/ web content writers and owners, our primary role is basically to inform our readers about what their favorite stars have been up to, share news regarding whatso ever is going on in celeb-vile, which we have done well. However, just like radio/ stations we have registered a few downsides. Like we all would understand all of us who blog play a game of numbers, and want to hit our targets in terms of getting lots of views/ reads and shares, but at the expense of what? Some share the most controversial stories there is, fake news/ slanderous tales. I do not wish to sound like am dictating what kind of content we share on our platforms, my humble request is that, we always invest similar energy when it comes to positive journalism; giving equal coverage to the good deeds of our artists; at the end of the day, we are all human- and so are they, with pasts, and stories;- capable of being imperfect. Therefore, they (artists) are entitled to their lifestyles, the point of respecting that, and only focusing on only the positive is up to us, as communications channels.

Let us also adopt the habit of sharing the music/ song, or album streaming links of the particular artists/ music creators when we write about their release, so we would assist them raise some streaming revenue, from views and downloads, as opposed to us downloading the songs and re-uploading them.

In the next chapter, we discuss, record labels, types of record deals, and what it means to be an independent artist, plus the pros and cons of each.

And the one after this, we go deep into how as an artist you can make your music available on digital streaming platforms. Stay locked.