You have seen the pictures on Instagram those classic images where a Nigerian artist stands on stage and the entire hall is filled with revelers who are caught in various poses, most of it mid-scream. The captions are usually alike “Thank you Houston, we killed it.” Or “London came through for me. I love you guys.”
All of them simply tell the story of how a Nigerian artist has carried the art created in a dingy studio in Lagos, to a huge venue, and had supporters in a foreign country appreciate the art enough to pay money, clear their schedules and come out to witness it live. It is the stuff that gets people on Instagram drooling, and the fan praising such artist.
But truly, who are the people attending these concerts and spinning these records? What demography do they fall under, and what communities do they belong to?
Bizzle Osikoya, the Nigerian music entrepreneur and social media influencer, shared a truth that rarely ever comes out in public. He shared a video of Cardi B talking about her keys to success, with the commentary:
Of course, it got people triggered. The reaction was swift, instant. This was a rare moment of truth from a member of the industry support structure, who has worked, managed and ensured that musicians have moved closer to the spotlight.
. Tiwa is preaching for more support for musicians and insinuating that payola, (the practice of paying media houses for airplay and features on their platforms), as a key limiter of Nigerian musicians from crossing over into other markets.
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The truth here is, for much of the shouts about “Afrobeats to the world!’ and the ‘spotlight’ being on Nigerian artists, much of the progress we have made have been in African diaspora communities. The same way we dominate the continent right here at home, we are doing the same to Africans who have created their small continents in these cities. They consume local content, chase the art with the same passion of local fans, and are willing to see their favourite artists live.
When our artists play these venues, it’s mostly the same as playing in Eko Hotel, only this time, they have to fly down there, where the Nigerians, Ghanaians and Liberians have accents, and visas. They are serving Africa, whether in Lagos or New York or Paris. The crowd remains the same, and the communities unchanging.
According to the Atlanta-based journo, Wizkid, at the height of his promotional moves with Drake and other artists, didn’t crack the local black African-American community. He’s still regarded as an underground artist. Much of the wave and noise about him are from African communities who are embracing his music.
Bizzle isn’t dividing Nigerian artists. He spoke the truth. And much of the time, the truth in the Nigerian music industry, is suppressed and discredited.
The point here is for artists from Nigeria seeking to make their music penetrate new markets to find new ways to work harder than the guys over there. Think about it, there are upcoming artists that are local to these countries. Why would the fans embrace a guy from Africa, when they haven’t done that to them?
That means the barrier to entry for African artist is very high. The aim here is for them to first conquer their home country and continent before having designs on foreign lands. Check out Maleek Berry, a Londoner, who recorded and made his music in London. Guess where he targeted his marketing? Nigeria.
After finding success here, he is exporting that back to his base in the UK and beyond. Perhaps, with more work, and some compromise on his music, he can make some waves.
This isn’t to say artists shouldn’t aspire for more, or chase glory in strange lands. Tiwa Savage herself had to leave the US, where she attended a great music school and wrote records for other acts, back to Nigeria before she could find prominence. She couldn’t crack that market. And while she has a management deal with Roc Nation, it hasn’t translated to mainstream success in that market.
The goal for musicians to make their home secure, and only by doing that, can they have a fan base to rely on for propagation of their music. I am hopeful that, someday, an African artist would become a global pop star in the real sense of the word.