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How can the Nigerian music industry properly utilize its current spotlight?

The attention Nigeria enjoys now can be further exploited in a number of ways, with long, medium and short term benefits to be gained.

As you enter into streets of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, you are ushered into a hot melting pot of the country’s rich sounds. From Highlife to Ogene, Afrobeat to Fuji, Apala to Juju, everything is present here. Some you find in its pure states, ringing the air from roadside music shops, and local street celebrations. But many you find fused into what has become our pop music. There’s Highlife in Adekunle Gold’s ‘Pickup’, Ogene in Zoro’s meta song, Afrobeat in Olamide’s ‘Konkobility’, and a strong eastern influence in Phyno’s ‘Fada fada’.

These sounds which has taken decades to grow and evolve into the current pop that we are served by the creators of the content have grown tremendously, becoming big business.

According to a report by Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), the music industry’s revenue from music sales was $56 million in 2015 and is forecast to grow to $88 million in 2019. It said the country’s entertainment and media industry had an estimated total revenue of $4.8 billion in 2015 and is likely to grow to some $8.1 billion in 2019, making it “the fastest-expanding major market globally”. As in many Nigerian cities, music is inescapable in Lagos, whose 21 million inhabitants can hear popular songs in the form of mobile phone ringtones or blaring out of speakers on the private transit buses, known as danfos,that are ubiquitous.

2016 has been a special case. Nigeria is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in decades, with the economy contracting by 0.4 percent in the first quarter and a recession seemingly imminent. The Nigerian arts, entertainment and recreation sector bucked the downward trend in the wider economy, growing in real terms by 8.41 percent year-on-year in the first three months of 2016, according to National Bureau of Statistics figures.

But not only have we grown in statistics, we are currently enjoying the spotlight of international music. The creative section of the industry are undergoing a growth, the global music consumers become more aware of Nigeria’s sounds and the novelty of consuming it. Wizkid’s ‘One Dance’ collaboration with Drake and Kyla, topped the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for 10 weeks, and transformed him into a desired player in the international community. Davido’s African dominance has been rewarded by a chance to break replicate it on a wider scale, with Sony Music Entertainment throwing in money and the resources to make that a reality. His debut EP will be out in September. Seyi Shay is playing the UK leagues with Universal Island Records handling her distribution. Ayo Jay, another Nigerian is on Sony’s books too, releasing his work in the US via their flagship record label, RCA Records, home to Usher, Alicia Keys and more.

For the international stars, the infusion of African sounds, drums and elements is going mainstream, and more collaboration is being done with Nigerians. Drake’s writing on “Views” album has been rumored to have more Nigerian influences than he lets on. Young Thug has three recorded songs with everyone. Swizz Beatz has a song with MC Galaxy, and has recorded with Wizkid. Alicia Keys’ ‘In common’ hit song, will sit comfortable on any African playlist. Jidenna, the man once vilified for his description of the Nigerian societal dangers, has brought his music closer home, dancing the shoki, speaking the Nigerian Pidgin English, and appropriating the drum kicks on ‘Little Bit More’. Previously, prior to this explosion, he was content to have his dressing bear testament of his origins. Now, he embraces it, and makes his art a fusion of both worlds.

Another strand of these are the companies coming in for business in the country. Tiwa Savage is currently in high spirits after drying off the ink on an international management contract with Jay Z’s ROC Nation. The Hip-hop mogul still has more designs on the industry, as his emissaries still visit the country for discovery of more talent. It is interesting what his final game is as it continues to unfold.

How can the industry benefit from this exposure and global spotlight?

Collaboration is a huge avenue for growth. Wizkid and Davido are locked on to this. But they are a very negligent part of what the bigger picture could be. The country boasts of thousands of musicians, who possess unique qualities, and could further showcase other facets of the industry. Imagine an M.I Abaga and Kendrick Lamar collaboration, or a Phyno-Future single.

The attention Nigeria enjoys now can be further exploited by events. One Africa Music Fest, a concert which held at the Barclays Centre, New York, on July 22, 2016, brought on a snippet of what the country has. More of these can be encouraged and supported for profit and growth. There’s a financial killing to be made from the event industry, and Nigerians should sit squarely in the center, reveling and raking in the cash.

Another way to properly grow our music, is to infuse traditional western sounds, into our genres and subgenres. Afro-Trap, a combination of Hip-hop kicks and African delivery has been on the rise. Kach’s ‘Odana’, is a great example, but Terry Apala’s ‘Champagne shower’ is a perfect song that exemplifies the sonic marriage. He has Apala and Trap on a single. Yemi Alade’s recently released ‘I want you’ has been described as a phenomenal fusion of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) and Afro-Caribbean music. By these infusion, we serve the Nigerian sounds in a more palatable way, by appealing to the traditional sounds of the foreign market, while also introducing ours to them too.

In the end, all the players in the Nigerian music industry have to make a concerted push to make this spotlight permanent. Only then can we truly benefit from this in the long-term.

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