Friday, July 31, 2009

#AfricaistheFuture (sortof)

While the RIAAssholes CHOP Joels dollar, I'm curious how it relates to changing production in the global south. It brings up a few things. To look at, say, the nigerian music industry or other markets where its nearly impossible to find non bootleg material its just as easy to think 'wow, sweet' as much as 'what a mess, why would we want that?'

Back when I originally started this post in Dec, Le Qoutidien had recently reported that according David Diadhiou, cheif of operations of BSDA (the copyright office of senegal) the year 2002 sold over a million cassetes, but as of july last year they havent passed 92,000. Apparently its affecting everyone, rappers, acoustic artists, mbalax, except for the sales of religious music(!interesting).As Birame Faye snarkily puts it in the article:

personne ne peut se glorifier d’une distribution enviable de cassettes durant cette année ... Cependant, la musique religieuse se vend bien maintenant, constate M. Diadhiou, surtout à l’approche des grands évènements religieux. Apparemment, Doudou Kéné Mbaye et Cie font la pluie et le beau temps.
IE : Nobody can boast enviable distribution of cassettes this year ... However, religious music is currently selling well, states Mr. Diadhiou, especially with the approach of the religious holidays. Apparently, Doudou Kéné Mbaye and Co create the rain and good weather.

The thing is though, that while many of these industies operate in copywrite free zones, labels and media companies may be hurt in some areas, but do not seem to be totally irrelevent. And as much as the RIAA and co. would like us to think that copyright is whats keeping the world from breaking apart, people everywhere are continuing to make awesomness on huge scales. Yes, huges swaths of artists are bypassing labels. Many get popular & create their own - sushiraw, etc. If corporations want to get some ideas on $$$, they should call up the people who are somehow making it in these generally copy-free regions.

Ask dem @ channel O, MTV africa,HYPERTEK Entertainment [naija],storm records / media [naija],Sushiraw Entertainment,ogapadeejays [ken,nam],lynx entertainment [ghana], Bongo records [Tan], bang entretenimento [Moz], ZORBAM PRODUXIONS [gabon], and Colossal Entertainment [naija], who say this about themselves:
Perhaps the label is the first to have succeeded on the national scene on the scale they have after starting with distributing music via the Bluetooth of phones and other electronic media. “I recall, about two years ago when we started moving round the country to promote Asem, Richie and OJ, when Richie said Papa Richie we are so big on the internet” – Richmond Adu-Poku. Till date they may draw a lot more numbers on the net than any other label in Ghana."

When looking at that list, some thoughts. As the middleclass grow in many african cities, at the same time that production methods become cheaper and more accesable, theres a middle ground being met and the result is a better produced, more attractive and assesible product. Theres still a lot of profit to be made in terms of upping production and branding & all that stuff labels/mediamasters do. B/c as Kelefa Sannah says "To obsess over old-fashioned stand-alone geniuses is to forget that lots of the most memorable music is created despite multimillion-dollar deals and spur-of-the-moment collaborations and murky commercial forces. In fact, a lot of great music is created because of those things."

I dont think songs as shared things means direct artist/fan connect. Doesnt it make that murkier, more radio/ tv/ sponsorship/ merch/ nightclub/ touring, etc politique? The messes that music comes out of will never be purely artist/fan or whatever myth we want our music to embody, including post-scarcity futures. And thats OK!


Museke, despite being down frequently, is one of the best sites out there for this sort of info. Maybe even accidentaly. They use the same format on a lot of interviews & one of Museke's stock questions is "What challenges do you face in the music industry (piracy, payola (paying deejays to play music), etc)?" B/c Museke interviews such a wide cast, you get a good cataloge of responses to the piracy question. On the one hand, MANY artists feel piracy really hurts them, others have more nuanced responses: What challenges do you face in the music industry (piracy, payola (paying deejays to play music), etc)?

Toniks: Piracy is the biggest scourge so far.
BLINKY: The music industry is growing and that has to be applauded, but there’s a need for technical expertise particularly with regards to live sound, and sound engineering in the studio, in order to attract a lot more international concerts to Kenya. Distribution is also an area that could be improved, because not many urban artists have access to rural markets - regardless of whether they can or cannot buy the music - theoretically that’s an untapped market.

JIM: Things like piracy are a challenge for any musician in any country, so I take them as a given.
Mokobe: I was born in France so I am used to the life here. Now I have the possibility to travel more often to Africa for shows but also collaborations. It’s a must to have a distributor for your album to come out in Africa so we are working on that. But “Mon Afrique” came out in Mali but it was a tape format as to suit the market.
Lira: Piracy, the decline of CD sales. But most of all I think we don’t sell as much as we can because our CD’s are pricey and if you make it reasonable for every South African to enjoy then the people also think it’s cheap music so it becomes tricky. My music heals as much as it brings joy and I’d like it to reach many people. I believe that’s why we moved over 120 000 digital singles... Which is also due to it’s affordability. Here we often have to do things innovatively because we can’t rely on sales to ensure our existence... But I quite enjoy the process of thinking outside the box and creating new things to sustain my career. I love what I do!
STL: ...About piracy, I think if an artist has the right music and it’s available at the right price then fans will see no need to pirate.
Cindy: I hate it. It’s theft and all the criminals should be jailed.
K-Lyinn: The biggest challenge is piracy and unfortunately I do not see an easy way to change that since it’s not only a problem in Tanzania and even in developed countries, artists are facing the same problem. Another challenge here is that the music industry is very young and there is a lack of proper music schools, managers, promoters, studios with advanced recording equipment and people haven’t really started to invest in the industry which could help us artists promote our music, make better quality records and in the end earn decent living out of music.

And, of course, Kaysha:

Museke: What kind of music do you do?
Kaysha: Candyzouk, afro electro, metisse musique
Museke: How is your label Sushiraw doing and which artistes are under the label?
Kaysha: The label is doing good, we are already in the digital age with loads of remixes and projects will only be online at and itunes and all the other stores...
In the roster, we have Elizio, Abege, Isah, Soumia, Loony Johnson, Thayna, Shana, Kaysha, Mika Mendes and more thru connections with other labels and cross projects and actively looking for artists around the globe.
Museke: Have you had problems distributing your music to various places in the world?
Kaysha: Yeah, lots of problems... It's very hard to meet serious people around the world. Most of the times, a good discussion never go further...
The good thing is that as more and more people enter the digital age, the physical barrier is fading away so when the whole African continent get access to a method of buying your songs either thru iTunes or a store alike or their mobile phones, this wont be a problem anymore...
I sell a lot of songs in the US using the internet... Technology breaks barriers
Museke: What challenges do you face in the Congolese music industry?
Kaysha: I don't face any challenges because I'm not really part of this industry like Fally or Werra would be. I'm part of another industry which is the international afro carribean scene... So this question is irrelevant to me :)
Museke: What is your take on piracy and payola (paying deejays to play your music on the radio)?
Kaysha: Payola will always be there because humans fail by definition and emotion... Piracy is the same thing. Some people will always think that others people hard work should be theirs for free. And with internet, it's like a magical tube where you can get anyone's work for free and no one will punish you since everybody is crying for their right for privacy and liberty when people try to set rules... There is a vast
hypocrisy... In the other hand, the same global piracy is what made me the african icon that I am today because no one bought my songs but since they all have it, I'm touring all over the world... So I can't complain...

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