Nigerian music producers appear to have woken up to the skewed nature of the music business recently, which is just as well as because they had been jonesing!
Production is often the biggest key to a single’s success here, the audience hasn’t shown an apetite for well written, profound pop songs. They just want to dance! Who gives them that? When ‘It’s Young John the wicker produzer‘ comes through the speakers, dancers are already mid-shoki.
So why shouldn’t these guys make more? The suspicion is that there isn’t enough of an understanding of what they’re due and what the practice is in other other well established industries.
By producer, beatsmiths are the ones being referenced as even production work is multi-faceted which may only involve song direction, assembling all contributing performers as well as actual beat crafting. There are two main ways music producers get paid.
This is the most risk averse method and what a lot of producers opt for. The artist pays upfront. Only a few producers can really command big money these days, Cobhams, DJ Coublon (for non MMMG work), Don Jazzy, Young John (for non YBNL work)
Let’s look at Kukere for example – This joint was a continental smash hit. It essentially turned Iyanya into a superstar, able to command, at the very least, one million Nairas per show. Produced by D’Tunes, who was then the in-house MMMG producer, he would have either recieved a one time payment for the song or be paid monthly for his production work in general, depending on the type of contract he had with MMMG at the time.
In essence, everytime a song generates revenue, through sales or licensed use, the performing artist, producer, song writer(s), background singers, instrumentalists etc, will be paid. The revenue from licensed use is collected by a body, i.e. ASCAP , COSoN etc, and disbursed per quarter to the registered interested parties.
Now, this is post production payment, you forgo collecting a fee upfront for a later cut. This is advisable if the artist is big, and the the producer is sure the song is a hit.
The producer who chooses option one can still get get paid but not UNTIL all upfront fees have been recouped. e.g., you have already been paid $10k or so for the beat, your portion of the royalties won’t start trickling in until the label the label has recouped its initial outlay.
The Nigerian industry currently operates almost entrirely on the first model, which leads to another observation – Artists have been expanding their earning streams, from selling caller tunes, licensing the use of their songs for advertising purposes etc and producers are seeing nothing of this income.
Don Jazzy’s work on Lift Off from Kanye West and Jay Z’s collaboration album, Watch The Throne, is credited, which means he’s making money from the sale of the album till today. Everyone named on the credit list below has or will receive payment.
The Copyright Society of Nigeria, COSoN, claims it gathers royalties on behalf of recording artists –
But the above is not fit for purpose, as it is the body ONLY supports the featured act, i.e. ‘the artist’.
What can producers do to change it?
If producers don’t collectively assert their rights, the push to earn royalties for songs won’t work. A) Join COSoN en masse and apply pressure on the body to expand its current remit. B) lobby legislators to ensure the definition of ‘song writer’ is inclusive of the disparate roles that producers play in crafting a song. C) This sounds very drastic but a cut from concert receipts should also be considered. Ordinarily, live perfomances are exempt from royalty agreements between producers and artists, however, the Nigerian music business model is anything but the norm.
As in the earlier example of Kukure – If D’Tunes were able to claim a fixed percentage of the artist’s fee, say 3% (considering he produced the songs that people actually want to hear at an Iyanya concert). So, for every million Naira cheque Iyanya gets, D’Tunes would be guaranteed at least N30k. It’s an insignificant amount to start with but at the rate A-list artists tour, it can quickly add up to a sizeable figure every quarter.
The above proposal will be met with derision by the artists and their support structure, however, considering that there’s no live reproduction of beats at most Nigerian concerts, this strikes one as fair.
Producers and other music professionals need the cooperation of perfoming artists to change the status quo. There’s an urgent need to clean up the song-writing/production credit system we have in place. Believe it or not, voicetagging a beat is NOT evidence that the work in question is yours. A song needs to have proper production and song writing credits in its digital info-tag and in conjunction with the recording artists, album also need to state the ‘government names’ of producers on the credit information. See the below songs from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same album for illustration. Also, send written confirmation of work done by email or text message to the confirmed address/phone number of the artist/record label in question. It will take a while to fix the system, this is quick suggestion to evidence ownership of production work.
Imagine a scenario where Wizkid’s next album, following his increased exposure thanks to that remix, moves at least 30k units overseas or gets really good radio play? He’s got a deal with Disturbing London, so he’ll be fine revenue wise but will producers, song-writers and composers eat from it?
One hopes it gets ironed out, our producers oughta be living well off production. Noah “40” is a multi millionaire, Drake is a multi-millionaire, you see? It’s only fair.