PIRACY AND THE NIGERIAN MUSIC INDUSTRY; WHICH WAY?

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I can imagine how tiring it has been for many comrades of the art to keep addressing the intricacies of piracy and lack of structure in our local music terrain. We are almost giving up considering the depth of the damage piracy has inflicted on the industry. Yet we don’t even have two options to flex with, but to keep fighting – better yet reinforce and attack from another angle; perhaps – we could find an equal playground to eventually match up with our opponents’ strength even if we can’t conquer ‘it’ instantaneously.

On Wednesday July 15, I had an opportunity to attend a ‘World Press Conference’ held at Protea Hotel, Ikeja by the coalition of leading organizations in the Nigerian music industry. The forum was held to address the many problems within the ‘Nigerian Music industry’ and a resolute to curb piracy in the industry.

As I stood at a space behind the hall watching, listening and observing activities as it unwrapped, I presume a proper war is about to commence beyond the usual word of mouth.  Stake holders spoke with diverse opinions in quest to establish a way forward for our dilapidated music industry. As much as I will try not to make this a boring distraction for you, I will still yarn my mind.

Reminder: “If we can’t beat them, we join them”. Former PMAN president Charles Oputa (Charley Boy), Oritz Williki, Kennis Music e.t.c. used this method to deal with the Alaba cats in a bid to control the high rate of piracy in the industry in 2005. This move, in my opinion led to a situation where artistes started taking their own intellectual work to the Thieves in return for peanuts. They get a couple of millions and the media will exaggerate further and everybody will smile like everything is okay when we all know that it ain’t.

Mr. Adebambo Adewopo (Director General, Nigeria Intellectual Commission) speaking on piracy in 2007, said– “it is a mixed bag, because we have stakeholders that are very interested, well sensitized and are strategizing with us. We can say the level of sensitization of the stakeholders should be stepped up because all the campaign against piracy is not for government or by government only. There must be some specific rights belonging to them, not the government, not for NCC and her agencies. It belongs to them and therefore, they need to take their own destiny into their own hands. It’s their primary obligation, we create that enabling environment.”

What does the above statement tell you? Well really there are many sides to the coin but first, we should applaud the initiators of the mini-summit for coming out once again to admit that the many problems are still pending and getting worse by the day. Secondly we need to believe that we can get over this situation. It is one thing to identify your problems and it’s another thing to seek solutions.

It is bad enough that the artistes have to carry their destiny in their own hands but it is worse that they have to go hand it over to the Alaba peops. And who is to be blamed? Because the next man will ask you – if the artistes don’t sell and get the little they will be offered, these drainers will dub it from radio and do a compilation with it and smile to the bank on the artiste. I know how many times I saw fake videos of “Gongo Aso” selling at Oshodi and Alaba markets and people were buying like it was hot bean cakes. This is to also say that the general public is also part of the sensitization process because they are the primary consumers. They need to know what’s up.

Present at this forum were representatives of the Performing Musicians in Nigeria (PMAN), the Nigerian Association of recording Industries (NARI), Performing & Mechanical Rights Society Ltd (PMRS), Association of Music Business Professionals (AM.B-Pro), Gramophone Records & Cassette Dealers (AGRECD), Music Label Owners Association of Nigeria (MULOAN), Music Advertisers of Nigeria (MAAN), Audio Video CD Sellers Association of Nigeria (AVCDSAN), and entertainment journalists. No representatives of NCC or Ministry of Arts and Culture were present – not like it would have made a difference if you ask me.

Well, one of the unbinding statements that was made by Chief Tony Okoroji during the session was taking music off radio for 12 hours on a particular day to see what radio will sound like without music and how listeners – including other private sectors and government institutions will feel without music for that long. Well that is by the way.

Another point was raised by Tony Nwakolor, a former banker and C.E.O of Yes Records- he said articulating workable figures to convince the banking sector will go a long way to indulge them. When they see our proposals and how we intend to use or apply the finance, then they will be willing to be a part of it; bearing in mind that the investment will not necessarily yield immediate profit.

I’m sure everybody has an opinion on this topic but the key word is – Actualization. How do we get the ball rolling? Do we sit and keep clapping for the telecommunication companies who come to pay the artistes to sing and promote their own sectors like Mr. Nwakalor rightly pointed out? Are the artistes content with the 20 million they get from Alaba market? Or do practitioners want to retire back to their royalties that will last and extend to their children’s children?

It’s a sad situation but it is not too late. Before I highlight my suggestions, I’ll unveil the proposal and request of the stake holders.

  1. Set up a governing board made up of proven commitment and integrity to design and supervise the activities of the Nigerian Copyright Commission in accordance with the Nigerian Copyright act (as amended) section 31 (1),: Mr. president may need to be reminded that for more than 5 years, the Nigerian copyright Commission only had a board for a few months in 2005.
  1. Direct the Nigerian Copyright Commission to immediately put on hold the process of approval of any new copyright collective management organization pending the immediate convening of a stake holder’s conference on collective management to ensure that the process receives input from the stakeholders that will earn any organization emerging from the process the support of the industry.
  1. Direct the inspector General of Police to serve warning to the traders at Alaba international Market in Lagos which has earned the notoriety of being the world’s biggest hotbed of piracy, that if within a specified period the traders do not clean up the market, the government will shut Alaba Market down.

Now, looking at the above, I’ll also want to add that the Federal government should make room for music stake holders to handle affairs at NCC. We don’t need people that cannot differentiate between Pop and R&B to run things for the music industry.

CD hawkers should be eliminated from the streets by arresting them and prosecuting them. They should also be used to track down the shot callers of the illegal game. By the time one is tried, sent to jail for 15 years and heavily fined, he automatically becomes an ex-convict and you and I know that is not a good title to brag about.

The sound scan system should be patronized with all transparency.

Royalties should be articulated and structured accordingly to favour EVERY participant of a musical work………………………………………….

It’s a long a story and I can only talk a little to avoid digression. Shoot me if you have to, your bullets are welcome.

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