Looking for the elusive money in African music

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Why are only a few musicians living off their work? How can they earn more from their skills? Should governments create a fund for them?

Investment, collaboration and going digital were some of the answers at the just concluded second Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF2021), particularly during discussions at the Creative Africa Nexus (Canex) Summit and Live Theatre Programme.

Organised by the African Export-Import Bank in collaboration with the African Union and the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat, IATF2021 was held at the Durban International Convention Centre, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, from November 15 to 21.

The fair was attended by policy makers, prominent investors, financiers, and thought leaders who discussed challenges including piracy and lack of finance, cross-border collaborations and investment opportunities in their respective clusters in the cultural and creative industries.

Under the topic Afrobeat – What’s next for Africa music, panelists, including Oscar “Oskido” Mdlongwa, the founder of Kalawa Jazmee (South Africa), explored why Afrobeat, predominantly from West Africa, is successful and how that success can be shared across the continent.

Oskido, who was among musicians, producers, distributors at top brands at the gathering of creatives, said there is need for management.

“We need to have basic knowledge. We lack proper managers to handle artists in terms of training and registering intellectual property. We don’t only need booking agents, but we have to build and invest in proper music ecosystems and value chains, and education.”

He noted that music had shifted to digital platforms.

“It’s not about printing CDs anymore. It’s not even about getting airplay on radio. One’s music must be marketed and sold online. Streaming services and social media are the new lucrative vehicles. The music business has evolved and up-and-coming artists and old players must be educated about the new technologies.”

Ade Awofisayo, head of music for YouTube in sub-Saharan Africa, called for education in how to use digital platforms. He said that if Africans do not use the platforms and leverage their earning potential, their creativity will be repackaged and monetised by third parties.

Chief executive of ContentConnect Africa (South Africa) Antos Stella concurred, urging collaboration among musicians to establish an African-grown streaming service that defines African standards and sets African benchmarks for monetising digital platforms. Such an approach would see more artists being exposed and earning better livelihoods.

“African artists are aspiring to become global stars on YouTube, but the pay cheques are not coming to them because of the limitations of digital payment solutions,” she said.

Her sentiments elicited a response from yet another panelist, Audu Maikori, founder of Chocolate City Entertainment, Nigeria, who said that Africans should think “local first, global later” as a strategy to empower the music industry.

Bold capital investment is required to create a local streaming service as that would benefit struggling artists.

Sipho Dlamini, chief executive of Universal Music Group sub-Saharan Africa (South Africa), called for payment gateways for users on streaming platforms that make African music and culture accessible to Africans. Such gateways would help break down the barriers that limit the ability of Africans to download and stream each other’s music.

“Many African musicians don’t have YouTube channels, and other parties are making money off the ignorant artists. We need quicker payment avenues. African governments should ease the artists’ visa restrictions, and make it easier to transact in different countries and currencies. It becomes difficult to pay artists and transfer money from different countries as a result of bureaucracy,” Dlamini said.

The seven-day fair provided a platform to promote trade under the AfCFTA. It brought together continental and global buyers and sellers to support intra-African trade and the economic integration of the continent.

The two-day Canex Summit, from November 19 to 20, showcased top African talent in conversations with policy leaders, government representatives, global and African creative brands and companies, and financiers.

Canex culminated in a music concert featuring Mr Eazi (Nigeria), Dajila (Tunisia) and Gordon Williams (US), Sauti Sol (Kenya), Salatiel (Cameroon), and Oskido featuring Candy (South Africa).

SOURCE: Nii Otu Dadeban Ankrah

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