The Impact of Afrobeats World Dominance on the Nigerian Society

-O. Adejo

Afrobeats’ global popularity has surpassed the expectations of Nigerian music fans. Nobody would have believed it a decade ago if someone had predicted that Nigerian music would become so popular across the globe. However, it continues to grow. Despite the fact that the music is more popular than ever, this is not the first time Nigerian artists have found success on a global scale. Earlier in the 1970s, major labels were present in the country. Ebenezer Obey was signed to Virgin Records, while King Sunny Ade was signed to Island Records. Majek Fashek was also signed to Interscope Records, and Fela turned down Motown records on several occasions. Unfortunately, the lack of structure in the Nigerian system drove the major labels out of the country.

Because Nigeria lacked the necessary institutions, labels such as Kennis Music, Storm Records, and others had to find ways to thrive in Nigeria, but they lacked the funds to compete on the global stage. One major port of call was the Alaba International Market, where these guys struck a deal by selling their records to a distributor in the market, who then produced the CD and sold it to DJs and music stores across the country. Piracy was prevalent in this system, which favoured distributors over artists because some albums performed well, but there was no proper system in place to track the metrics of what was going on in the music business at the time. Payola, in which artists pay radio stations to be heard, was also a serious issue at the time, with several gatekeepers blocking access to many artists. It still exists to some extent today, but not at the level that it did a decade ago. As a result, most artists had to rely on show money, brand endorsements, and cross-country touring to make ends meet. This system enabled them to meet other lifestyle obligations.

Things began to look up when D’banj’s Oliver Twist charted at No. 9 on the UK singles chart and No. 2 on the UK R&B chart in 2012, making it the first Afrobeats song to do so. Years later, Wizkid was featured on Drake’s “One Dance,” which charted for 10 non-consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. “One Dance” is now one of the most streamed songs of all time, with over two billion Spotify streams. Artists began to sign major record deals again with Wizkid signing with RCA Records and Davido signing with Sony Music Worldwide.

However, there were a few blunders along the way. Davido’s “Son of Mercy” EP, which was supposed to launch him into mainstream America, and Wizkid’s “Sounds from the Other Side” were criticised by Nigerians. The afrobeats sound that propelled them to that level was replaced by a more American sound. Fortunately, lessons were learned early on, and both artists made appropriate adjustments moving forward. Burna Boy’s song “Ye,” as well as his subsequent deal with Atlantic Records, also helped to pave the way and bring Nigerian music to the attention of a wider audience. When Coachella came that year, and Burna Boy’s name was written in small fonts, he didn’t take it lightly. He declared himself the African Giant and demanded that the rest of the world respect him.

Some major factors aided Afrobeats’ global success, including Nigerians who migrated to various parts of the world and brought the music with them, thereby spreading the afrobeats message to new audiences. Social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, with their various dance challenges, also aided in the discovery of new Nigerian sounds. Furthermore, international collaborations and international radio in places like the UK and the US all played a significant role in the genre’s growth.

The streaming era transformed the music industry, shifting from physical sales to internet sales and listenership. People can now listen to any music they want from anywhere in the world for a monthly subscription fee. This also aided artists’ discovery and popularity. For example, Burna Boy’s “Ye” gained popularity after rapper Kanye West released an album of the same name. The Alaba pipeline was drastically reduced as people sought distribution and proper placement of their songs on major playlists of various streaming platforms. This has resulted in more opportunities for Nigerian creatives in the music industry.

Music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Boomplay, and Audiomack all have visible offices and representatives in Nigeria, and some of these offices are led by Nigerians. Furthermore, major record labels such as Universal Music, Def Jam Music, and Sony Music have established offices in the country. Larry Gaga was recently appointed as Def Jam Africa’s Vice President of A&R, while Sony Music Publishing named renowned music manager Godwin Tom as Managing Director. In addition, some established record labels have formed alliances with major labels in order to increase exposure for their artists. Olamide’s YBNL imprint signed a distribution deal with Empire Records while Chocolate City Music partnered with Warner Music.

There are still many challenges because properly structured record labels in the country are too few. As a result, the institutional aspect of the business has not been effectively addressed, and issues such as publishing and proper paperwork require additional attention. Additionally, artists’ attitudes within the industry must change, particularly with regard to shows and concerts. Artists continue to arrive late for their performances, the sound is still poor, and they continue to mime songs instead of performing live. Some artists have taken this attitude beyond the borders of Nigeria to other countries. For instance, Kizz Daniel’s failure to perform in Tanzania, as well as numerous complaints about performances at the recently concluded Afronation in Portugal.

Afrobeats artists must recognise that they are currently in the spotlight, and the entire world is watching. The way they present themselves to the world is very important. We do not own the music created by some of our most popular artists. They are signed to international record labels, but their masters are not necessarily theirs. The machinery that propels them, on the other hand, positions them to win big. It is no longer unusual to see an international collaboration, charting songs, or BET award winners from Nigeria recognised on the global stage. All of these things took time to prepare for the journey. Afrobeats has come a long way, but the genre still has room for improvement.

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