Bring It On Fight To The Finish Fashion Song Unmasking A New Villain In The Fight Against Piracy In Nigeria

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Unmasking A New Villain In The Fight Against Piracy In Nigeria

TIME TO FOCUS ON THE BIGGEST PIRATES IN THE NIGERIAN MUSIC INDUSTRY

I find it really ironic that when we talk about piracy in Nigeria, all we ever talk about are marketers in markets like Alaba and elsewhere. To almost everyone in the Nigerian music industry, entertainment writers and even the government, piracy seems to start and end with the local marketers in the retail markets who copy people’s songs without paying any royalties to the musicians. Nothing could be further from the truth!

As an avid supporter of the industry and a stakeholder who has invested millions in the careers of many artists over the last 2 years, I believe that we have all allowed ourselves to be fed into the red herring and misrepresentation of piracy that probably borne out of ignorance, fear, or plain deception of our leaders in this struggle.

As we can all testify, radio stations are a very big part of our entertainment and music life in Nigeria. With over 300 radio stations blasting music 24 hours a day, I continue to be baffled that we care about royalties from Alaba when the real money should be chasing the radio and TV stations. After all, the law is very clear that royalties MUST be paid to the various copyright holders every time music is played on the air.

Radio stations are, by definition, major consumers of musical works. The programming of most radio stations is over 90% music. The main thing they sell to the public is music. Listeners tune into stations like Rhythm FM Wazobia, Classic FM, Eko FM, Inspiration FM etc mostly to listen to music. Companies and advertising companies also advertise on radio stations because they reach their target market with music. Radio stations will die overnight without music to play for their listeners. For us to understand the critical component of music for radio stations, try to imagine a Rhythm FM, Classic FM, Raypower or Wazobia FM without playing music for just one month. I guarantee you they will ALL be out of business long before then. But what efforts are these stations making to pay the proper royalties to those who use their talents and resources to create this music?

Now the irony of it all is that while these radio stations budget billions of Naira every year for salaries, fuel, transport, repairs, equipment, etc., they barely mention the payment of royalties to the local artistes in their budget allocations. If they did, the artists don’t know about it or haven’t felt it. I think the time has come for us to publicly challenge these radio stations on how much they spend in operating expenses each year and what percentage of that goes to pay for the biggest commodity (i.e. music) they have used to prepare their programming.

For those who may still need some context to understand how big this ignored elephant is, I’ll give the example of a CAR DEALER. The main thing the car dealer sells is cars. Now imagine a car dealer preparing a budget for the year with no budget for buying cars! Or imagine a fashion designer store that prepares a budget for the year without allocating any budget for purchasing fabric. Or better yet, imagine a newspaper company planning a budget without providing for the purchase of newsprint. Yet this is what is going on in the boardrooms of most radio stations across Nigeria. They simply take the music for granted simply because most of our artists are ignorant and desperate for their music to be played.

So the payment of royalties for music played on radio stations remained a huge elephant in the radio room that we have ignored for years in this country and I think it’s about time someone started addressing this giant elephant if we ever shall have equity and justice in this country.

Although the fight against Alaba pirates is certainly a good fight, I believe that a more rewarding war on piracy should be declared against radio stations and music based TV programs in 2011. This fight is a much better fight for artists and management companies because the chances of winning and getting paid are much higher than fighting phantoms and vicious faceless alaba pirates that no one seems to identify. Radio stations, on the other hand, have names and they have identifiable owners. Radio stations are regulated by the government, which can force them to do the right thing. Radio stations are physical entities that can be flagged and boycotted. So why are we leaving the elephant unfed in the radio rooms while we hunt ghosts in Alaba? I believe that resources from the government, artists, lawyers and management companies should be focused on radio stations and music TV programs in 201. We have a better chance of winning that battle!

So I suggest that instead of Chief Tony Okoroji of COSON and Mr. Mayo Ayilaran of MCSN tearing each other apart on the issue of who should collect royalties, they should come together to ensure that our radio stations feed the big elephant in the radio rooms across the country. I also suggest that if the new Nigerian COPYRIGHT COMMISSION wants to write his name in history, he should ‘step into’ the radio rooms across the country with appropriate regulations and demand that the elephant of royalties to Nigerian artistes be fed…. .

Of course, I understand that many of the big names in the music industry are too afraid to confront the radio stations and demand justice due to their reasonable fear that their artists may be blacklisted by these radio stations, but I believe that this fight can depersonalized if the ENTIRE industry joins the fight with a concerted effort using every legal means at our disposal including state machinery, court actions, boycotts, sit-ins and picketing of any station that refused to do the right thing….

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