Payola as an albatross of Nigerian talented up-coming artistes
By Anita Eboigbe, Nigeria News Agency
Every upcoming artiste craves the day an audience will sing his lyrics word-for-word while he is performing at an event.
At that moment, his ego swells, his heart is full and he can feel his hard work leading him to stardom.
He feels his talent is clear for all to see and all the sleepless nights at the studio should be enough to make his dreams come through.
However, as he is making efforts to break into the Nigerian music industry, there are fundamental issues he has to grapple with.
For instance, a survey among 50 upcoming artistes across the country indicates that intellectual property theft and Payola — the practice of bribing someone in return for the unofficial promotion of a product in the media — are among challenges that hinder artistes’ growth.
Payola involves payment or other inducement for the broadcast of recordings on commercial radio or television as part of the normal day’s broadcast without announcing such payment or inducement for airplay.
The artistes across genres and at varying levels of industry entry express such as this, including frustrations, pains and lack of funds seen as threats to a promising music career.
Unarguably, money is needed for studio sessions, productions, sound engineering and shooting a music video and artistes will gladly pay although he might go about looking for the cheapest alternatives.
But the issue comes when the song is done; how does the intended audience get to see it and what does it take? Most of the artistes’ an answer is — Payola.
However, 66 per cent (33) of the artistes admit to actually indulging in the act of providing financial or other forms of inducements for a broadcast station to play song.
GadChukwuemeke, a fast-rising afro-fusion singer says payola has eaten deep into the industry so much so that only few artistes can get their big breaks without it to the extent that most Nigerian artists are into internet fraud.
“Payola is the biggest problem for starters. Do you realise that in spite of what these radio stations claim, they can’t play your song until you pay very huge amounts?
“There is a subtle effort to ensure that the big names remain big and the small ones never come out.
“Online internet scam has been the main factor behind the breakout of random people on this scene in recent times. Fraudsters wield influence because they have money, more than some record labels,’’ he observes.
Also, Afropop singer Anthony Obi observes after piecing together money for a song recording and music video, he cannot get radio and television stations’ airplay because he refuses to give money as bribe to the people in charge.
“My greatest challenge has been to get airplay for my song. A few years ago, my song was not played on a popular radio station because I did not give them the funds they requested,’’ he says.
Most of the artistes share similar opinions, explaining that artistes not only pay for their songs to be aired, they also pay to perform at shows to build their career portfolios.
Afrobeats singer Jacob Onyii says, “I have suffered several harassments as an upcoming music artiste but denial of performance slots even after I had paid to perform really got to me.
“I have also been denied airplay even after I paid which is common for rising artistes in Nigeria to do to sail through.
“However, some artistes have rich record labels, godfathers or fraudulent means of income to sail through the process’’.
Another singer, Alex Otamere observes inducement in any form does not even guarantee artistes’ performance at shows in some cases.
“Some, if not most of these artistes have no real income from their music because they pay to perform on big stages,’’ he observes.
Some entertainers believe that while Payola may be a good career strategy for some artistes, it is dragging the careers of others.
Afrobeats singer, Ramsey Obaga explains that he and some of his colleagues have been dropped from performing at events last minutes because other artistes had paid for their slot.
“Sometimes, after being invited for a show, I might eventually not even perform at the end because there are those who buy themselves time for performance on stage; even if what they have is not up to standard.
“This might lead the artiste to look for a godfather within the industry if a record label is not forthcoming.
“The issue gets complicated by the unstable record label structure in Nigeria which is mostly a structured godfather situation,’’ he explains.
Because of this trend, some of the artistes say they may consider getting godfathers to take their careers to a higher level.
Afrobeats singer, Toluhi Adeniji says he needs a sponsor as he cannot afford to waste his money.
To him, having an ‘industry guy’ who will also be willing to help you get the best productions and airplay makes it all worth it.
Irrespective of the desire of artistes to get sponsors, such sponsors have more than financial roles to fulfil.
They should have enough webs in the industry to help speed up productions and prevent producers, sound engineers and video directors from taking advantage of the artistes.
Damilara Olutope, an alternative singer, says she has been frustrated on many occasions by video directors, producers and some established artistes during collaborations, even when she pays in full for the services they ought to render.
Similarly, Felix Jumbo, an Afropop singer says: “these people frustrate you before they deliver the work you have paid for, especially the bigwigs in the industry.
“As an upcoming artiste, you want a blown person in your song at any capacity but they end you messing you up.
“We were discussing about a very popular sound engineer. He has mixed and mastered some of the biggest songs in Nigeria in the past few years.
“Yet, all of us had at least two other budding artistes whose songs he mixed and made worse than they were before they were given to him’’.
In spite of the complaints, the artistes still maintaining that Payola is the most challenging hurdle they have to go through.
For them, it means the world might never get to hear their songs through mainstream means until they give bribe.
Media personality, Emma Ugolee, alleges that some record label heads go as far as handing out designer bags, foreign currency and other huge perks to keep artistes on the song rotation.
Also, Five Star music was accused of giving cars to media personalities in 2018 to keep their songs on air.
Entertainment enthusiasts then note that this development can be discouraging for talented upcoming music artistes that don’t have funds and network.
They suggest that since so many artistes are found online YouTube, Facebook and Instagram and none of them is challenged on using the platforms, artistes can take the long road, learn from Teni the entertainer and forge their own paths.(Features)
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