By Minister Sam (Music Journalist, Critic and Pop Culture Enthusiast)
“Oh my goodness! What has Skales done again?” These were literally the only words my mouth could settle for when I saw the 26-year-old singer trending on popular social media site, Twitter, last night. Oh wait! It is for something good this time around. The Baseline record act just dropped his sophomore album, “The Never Say Never Guy”, and everyone went into a frenzy. Skales is back again! (Yay turn up!).
Hold on for one second. Something is wrong somewhere. Skales is unhappy. Bloggers are uploading the full album for free download. He tweeted: “This is totally wrong …this is my hard work…. u don’t post it up for free and u tink say e go better for you (sic) ??” Skales is right. He has every reason to be upset. He works in an industry that has no definite structure. Where copyright laws are obsolete, and the enforcers of it, lackadaisical. Music piracy is at an all-time high, with digital music piracy fighting for a space at the top with the notorious Alaba International Market. And it seems to be winning.
The only reasonable explanation for this is that we, the audience, are constantly supporting this corrupt and evil system. Often times, we are too greedy and stingy to buy songs from these artistes, who spent countless hours perfecting their craft just to entertain us. They even spend their hard-earned money on studio time, branding, and publicizing these records, only for us to rush to our favourite blogs to download them for free. ‘Awoof’ go kill you!
Loss to copyright piracy alone apart from other forms of infringement amount to more than N100 billion annually (100 billion for the akant iyo!). In a recent survey carried out, it was found out that hundreds of thousands of songs are being downloaded everyday, and only a minute 7% is being downloaded legally. With over 2,000 blogs pirating music daily, pressure is mounted on our artistes to look for alternative sources of revenue such as endorsement deals, and live performance fees. Less sources of revenue means less income. Less income means less motivation. Less motivation means poor quality of music. Summarily, piracy is f**king up the system!
Unfortunately, blogs, offline music distributors and the audience are not the only set of people guilty for this sacrilege. Even the artistes themselves, and influential industry players are culpable! Artistes have refused to regularly make use of the online music stores such as iTunes, Deezer, Amazon, MTN Music Plus etc, available to sell their music, instead opting to release it free on music blogs. This practice stunts the growth of the “music purchasing culture of Nigerian fans”. As a result of being regularly exposed to free music, they begin to feel a certain sense of entitlement, so much that they perceive the idea of buying albums as wasteful. Rather, why not just wait for some hours after Skales drops his album, so I can download every song on it for free? How ironic.
On the other hand, I understand the fear of these artistes. Losing your core fans and listeners to iTunes links is one of the most shameful ways to become irrelevant. But imagine if every buzzing artiste in the country chooses to make their music available only for sale. Fans would be forced to buy these contents in the long run. Government should also put conceited efforts into eradicating this social epidemic. Talk about learning the hard way!
Let’s be honest (in Olamide’s voice), everyone is guilty of music piracy in Nigeria. We are just too biased to admit it.