The growth of Music Publishing in Nigeria, By Akinyemi Ayinoluwa

This untapped sector of the music industry need to exploited for its own good.

The Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, week is upon us- May 19 to 23- and I am burdened with the task of penning my thoughts, to express what opportunities abound if COSON gets it right eventually and what fortune awaits early-comers who take a decisive step in unlocking the countless potential embedded in Nigeria’s budding music industry – particularly Music Publishing.

Will music publishing prospers in a regime where collection of royalties from performance of musical works in public is still at its infancy? Hereunder, is an attempt to satisfactorily address this protracted issue.

Historically, Nigeria is peopled by diverse ethnic groups; the population is currently estimated at 160 million. Nigeria occupies a very strategic position in Africa for its population, military might, natural resources including human, creativity and economy. Geographically, Nigeria is viewed as the trigger in the gun-shaped map of Africa. A popular saying goes thus: when Nigeria sneezes, Africa gets cold.

Anthropologists report that culturally, the Nigerian people have a communal system of social interaction/integration. This is easily deduced from the various ethnic groups’ scheme of governance, division of labor, means of production, native ceremonies, child education, festivals, carnivals etc. In all of these, music remains a constant dominant cultural variable – a medium for amusement, entertainment, spiritual upliftment, story-telling, education, praise singing etc.

Despite the incursion of the West via slave trade and colonization, modernity has not robbed the Nigerian people of merry-making and the enjoyment of their music. In the face of hardship, it is safe to say that music as a tool of cultural and social engineering still occupies its pride of place. While the DNA of the music might have been impacted by western influences (cultural transmutation) via the media, there is no doubt that Nigerian music (sound) still retains its uniqueness and today, courts global acclaim and acknowledgement; same can be said of music from other African countries.

After Nigeria’s independence, her economy has been riddled with incessant instability, owing largely to the political and leadership inadequacies the country and its people are plagued with. This instability, amongst the other besetting evils, abruptly occasioned the withdrawal of international record companies that were dominant stakeholders in the Nigerian music scene prior to the early 1990s. Upon return to democratic rule in 1999, there was an invigoration of liberalism which permitted the renaissance in the music Industry – wherein private individuals navigated their way into building the  Nigerian music industry as it is today.

Perhaps the biggest winners, were the early comers. The likes of Kenny Ogungbe (Kennis Music), Obi Asika (Storm Records), Howie T, etc, warmed their way into the hearts of corporate and public Nigeria. As owners of robust contents, they helped get  messages across, build brand equity, garnered visibility and leveraged on the fandom on the Nigerian music landscape via concerts, street shows, music festivals, reality shows, endorsements, activations, campus tours and road shows. These trends were bank-rolled by the seemingly bottomless ‘marketing might’ of the tobacco, beverage, advertising, telecommunications, and banking sectors of corporate Nigeria.

However, Music Publishing as a sub-set of the Phonograph and Recording Industry remains largely unexploited in Nigeria while it remains the highest-money-spinning-sector in the industry globally, with reports (majorly in the United States of America and the United Kingdom) indicating that it is a billion dollar industry which continues to grow despite the revolution occasioned by the internet (digitalization). Music Publishing is at the back seat in Nigeria, surprisingly so, because very few Industry practitioners are enlightened on the monetary importance of songwriting and publishing. It is safe to assert that it is practically non-existent or its impact is yet to cause any ripple effect. Yet, music is being exploited at an all-time high (albeit illegally) on radio stations, television, in marketing campaigns and also in the public space such a clubs, weddings, hotels, stadiums etc. Billions of dollars are lost in revenue that could accrue as royalties paid for public performance of music by all the above named entities and events.

Interestingly, Nigerian laws recognize the Intellectual Property rights inherent in musical works and literary works, as is the case globally. These works constitute half the components of a song, the other being sound recording. The composition/songwriting contains the music notes and the lyrics (actual word). The law also recognizes the efficacy of Collecting Societies, otherwise called CMOs, in administering the regime of Royalty collection.

However, there has been a bickering and attendant judicial skirmish over who is the sole collector in Nigeria. Currently, the Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSON, seems to be the sole recognised of such bodies which is an anomaly, in my opinion as there should be more bodies to administer royalty collection. In all honesty, it is doubtful if a sole collecting society can effectively subdue the difficulties experienced in the administration of royalty collection and the publishing industry in Nigeria.

One fact worthy of commendation is this – the Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON) has in the last three years recorded giant strides in royalty collection and in the sensitisation of the public. There are reports of collaboration with other collecting societies within and outside Africa. Its mantra “Let The Music Pay” has helped illuminate the minds of ignorant entities or adamant music users. To forestall an overwhelming of the COSON, it is needful that more hands are on the plough  to help cultivate a neglected could-be green pasture.

The opportunities inherent in the Nigerian music landscape are enormous. Publishers would easily reap benefits/returns from the enormous explosion in number of record labels springing up, as there is a large pool of Nigerian repertoire/catalogues to be exploited globally: licensing of songs to the ever-growing number of telecommunication companies in Nigeria, mechanical royalties that could be earned in this new digital world, performance royalties from public use of the music and synchronization of music on television and in commercials and movies.

Today, most music business enthusiasts and analysts are unaware of any major music publishing company in Nigeria or any systemic operations by any company delivering identical services. From my standpoint as a music industry enthusiast, I hold the view that while COSON continues its crusade for a better copyright administration regime, other players (music publishers) can be the new early comers. With a thriving collecting society like COSON, this neglected sub-sector will blossom.


Akinyemi Ayinoluwa is a Lagos based Media and Entertainment Attorney. Follow at@akinyemilaw


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